Monday, March 31, 2003

Out on a jolly

The Hersh story. Here’s a good quote about the Iraqis, marred by the fact that it’s from an anonymous “senior Administration official”: “They’re not scared. Ain’t it something? They’re not scared.”

Iraq has begun using shock and awe...oops, pardon me...terror tactics. The family of the first suicide bomber is given $34,000. I believe we pay $6,000 for a dead soldier. A lifetime discount at Exxon would also be appropriate.

I should have given more of the quote from the British soldier fired on by a US plane (if only so I could use it in a subject line). He called the pilot a cowboy “out on a jolly.” Given the use of amphetamines in the Air Force, he may be more right than he knows.

Still, the British are having some fun. They’re currently engaged in Operation James, named after James Bond. Don’t know what the Iraqis think about their positions being designated as “Pussy” and “Galore.”

Ari Fleischer fan club. Be afraid, be very afraid.

The US is starting talking about non-uniformed Iraqi fighters as “unlawful combatants,” to be sent to Guantanamo. The International Red Cross and indeed the British say that all such people are to be treated as POWs, but the US is not doing so. Here we go again.

Colin Powell repeats Rummy’s threats against Syria and Iran. And guess what diplomatic place our chief diplomat chose in which to make that announcement: AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby. He did, however, also say that settlements were a bad idea, and that Israel shouldn’t humiliate occupied Palestinians quite so much. They hissed him.

The firing by NBC of Peter Arnett for un-American activities has gotten rather more publicity than the expulsion of Geraldo Rivera from Iraq for being generally obnoxious and giving away the position of troops. Also in war reporter news, the correspondent for Swaziland’s state radio turns out to have faked his broadcasts; he never actually left Swaziland.

This is perhaps cuter than it needs to be.

Compare and contrast the following. First, from the 1st story in the British news section of the Guardian: “Senior British military officers on the ground are making it clear they are dismayed by the failure of US troops to try to fight the battle for hearts and minds. They also made plain they are appalled by reports over the weekend that US marines killed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, as they seized bridges outside Nassiriya in southern Iraq.”

Next, the 1st story in the US news section of the WashPost: “Girding against Iraqi attackers who have blurred the line between what's military and what's civilian, U.S. commanders have instructed troops to assume the worst and employ a range of tougher tactics aimed at weeding out and hunting down Iraqi militia, defense officials said yesterday.” The next paragraph says that civilians with their hands in their pockets are to be shouted at (that is how American tourists communicate in foreign countries, by speaking, in English, very loudly), and then shot. Says someone at the Pentagon “Everyone is now seen as a combatant until proven otherwise.” Thus the 7 women and children shot dead in a car today. Remember when we didn’t have anything against the Iraqi people? Someone else (loads of unattributed quotes) says that we’ll win hearts and minds by winning the war. This is roughly what officials said about the rest of the world, that once we won they will say they supported us all along. Forget about the sheer cynicism; what world do they live in where everyone likes a winner?

Incidentally, that car they shot up was told to stop by a “Psychological Operations loudspeaker team,” of all things. Must be strict Freudians.

Back in the Guardian article, General Sir Mike Jackson (who used to go by Michael Jackson and for some reason has changed it), says “We have a very considerable hearts and minds challenge. We are not interested in gratuitous violence.” Oh yeah, he is so not an American.

Unable to find Saddam Hussein, American officials have taken to taunting him to appear in public so that we can shoot 50 or 60 more cruise missiles at his head.

Along similar lines, Kim Jong Il hasn’t been seen, or his location mentioned in the N Korean media, in 7 weeks. North Korea thinks it’s going to be attacked, has even been trying to provoke it (my guess is that they think another Korean war is a done deal, and were trying to ensure it happened at the same time the US was fighting another war), and a NK that feels threatened is a very dangerous thing indeed.

So if this war is being fought by a “coalition,” how is it that the post-conquest Iraqi government will consist of 23 departments, headed by 23 Americans? Colin Powell has said that this will happen with the “full understanding” of the international community. And how do we impart full understanding to foreigners? As I said earlier, by speaking very loudly in English to them, and shooting them.

This proconsulate will be advised by Iraqis, including such darlings of the Pentagon’s right-wing as Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, who hasn’t lived in Iraq since 1956 and has been convicted of fraud in the collapse of a bank in Jordan (he fled before the trial).

A list of American atrocities.

Several British soldiers have refused to fight any more. Only one American conscientious objector, whose name is, um, Funk.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Goodness has nothing to do with it

I alluded to the Texas sodomy law case in my last. Thing is: the state of Texas was prepared to send somebody into the Supreme Court to argue in favor of the law.

And have you seen the stories about the public school in Arkansas harassing a gay 8th-grader, phoning his parents to tell them he’s gay, teachers (science teachers yet) and vice principals and so forth reciting bible verses at him and making him recite them out loud, etc etc. There must be much more detail on the Arkansas ACLU website.

As you gloat while reading the leaked stories blaming Rumsfeld, don’t forget that the leaks are part of the never-ending fight by the generals to free themselves of pesky civilian control. One theory, which I’m agnostic on, is that Rumsfeld wanted to prove that this sort of war was cheap and could be fought with relatively few troops in order to 1) get to do it a lot more times, 2) be able to do more than one at the same time (as in Rummy’s threats against Syria and Iran, which really upset the British, as it undermines their claim about what this war is about). The Sy Hersh (terrorist journalist at large) New Yorker story will no doubt shed light on this, whenever it shows up online. I’ll provide a link at that time, of course. Rumsfeld: “Oh goodness, we’ve never had a timetable.” Well heavens to fucking Betsy.

There’s a cute AP story about 2 soldiers who got stuck in the Iraqi desert... for a week. Their vehicle broke down and a staff sgt told them someone would be back for them. Oops.

And the Monday British papers are full of reports from really pissed off British soldiers after an American pilot tried to kill them (well, did kill one). The word “cowboy” was used.

Here’s a surprise: reports of the capture of an Iraqi general were false.

This story says that despite all the talk about how Saddam Hussein is evil because he gassed his own people, evidently the US has made absolutely no preparations for protecting anyone except American soldiers if he uses chemical/bio weapons in this war. Here’s a paragraph: “Kurds have been able to watch television reports on how pets in Israel and Kuwait are being fitted with masks and suits, while the pleas of their leaders to the US for protective clothing and detection equipment have been ignored.” So gassed Kurds only matter in propaganda, not in the real world.

After the body of the former Serb president turned up, Slobo Milosevic’s wife has rather suddenly gone on “vacation” in Russia.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Striking a blow

Even knowing what Fox News is like, this is a bit OTT.

Dissenter of the week: Blair’s first foreign minister Robin Cook: "I have already had my fill of this bloody and unjust war. I want our troops home and I want them home before more of them are killed."

Co-dissenter of the week.

With the US contemptibly trying to blame the bombing of the Baghdad market on the Iraqis, an unembedded reporter on the ground goes and finds a piece of the missile’s fuselage, and gives its serial number. And, hey! it’s not in Arabic.

Also, we just bombed Saudi Arabia. Oops. And possibly Kuwait a couple of days ago, and Iran a week ago. Smart bombs.

Independent headline that gets it just slightly... wrong: “Supreme Court to strike a blow for Texan gays.”

Just in case anyone on this list is looking for a job right about now, here’s a good one: inseminating a pissed-off white rhino. But at least it doesn’t involve dealing with the general public. Oh, and pedantic note to the Observer: its “bated breath,” not “baited breath.” If you don’t click the link, here’s information you can use: rhinos fuck for an hour, elephants for 40 seconds.

One casualty of the war: a whole bunch of movies that needed to be shot in countries that now hate us even more. Including Mad Max IV. Darn.

Friday, March 28, 2003

I have nothing more to add to that

15 war stories the media got wrong.

Note that all 15 were about how well the war was going. In other words, the problem is journalists’ lack of scepticism towards the lies being told them by the military. As I write, there is a story that Iraqi militias--or death squads as the Pentagon likes to call them--are firing on civilians trying to flee Basra. The Guardian points out that there were also British troops in the vicinity, who may have been the actual target. (Later), and in the Saturday paper, gives much greater detail on how the false stories got spread. One reason the coverage is so surreal is that the mistakes aren’t admitted. When I went to bed Wednesday, a gigantic column of Iraqi tanks was streaming south to attack; I spent most of Thursday trying to figure out why no one was saying what had happened. Now I know: there were 3 vehicles. Read both articles.

Just (Fri. morning) saw Rumsfeld berate a reporter who dared ask him why the US is reporting 28 dead but only 14 wounded, which is not a credible proportion.

When that general said that the enemy he’s fighting in Iraq is different than the one they war-gamed against, I didn’t realize (and the media didn’t enlighten me) that he meant a $250 million exercise involving thousands of troops. In fact, I know I mentioned those particular games at the time (last summer), because a retired general running one of the teams quit in the middle and leaked to the Army Times that the results were rigged.

Tony Blair made some enemies this week. He announced that Iraqis executed two captured British soldiers, without offering any proof. The army, it turns out, told the families of the soldiers something else, and one family feels the whole thing is a horrible stain on their honor, I guess for being captured rather than dying in battle. I also keep seeing stories about the Bush-Blair press conference yesterday, where Blair was articulate and actually addressed the questions, and Spurious George’s best answer was “I have nothing more to add to that.” Quote from a Guardian editorial: “George Bush, who at Camp David this week seemed to be asleep while standing up, insists a relentless America will prevail "no matter how long it takes". Down in Tampa, that sounds like leadership. But it is actually an amazing admission that the US military behemoth no longer entirely controls the timetable or pace of a war begun at a moment and in a place of its own particular choosing.”

Meanwhile, British deaths are nearly as high as American, in case you hadn’t noticed, (as any Frenchman can tell you, most Americans think the US won WW II single-handed, although Russia inflicted 3/4 of German casualties). How helpful those 23 deaths are is open to doubt, given that all but 4 were accidents or friendly fire (today, an American plane shot up some Brits on patrol).

Oh dear, Sharon’s coalition may break apart unless they resume prosecuting shops that open on the sabbath. Evidently a government fell in 1976 when a ceremony for the delivery of fighter jets went a bit long. Hey, wait a damn minute! What about the Sabbath inspectors? When do they work, if not on the sabbath?

Not much has been heard from one of the most vociferous of COW countries just a couple of weeks ago, Spain. Possibly because polls now show opposition to the war topping 90%. And those are the government’s own polls. I’m less sure about Italy, whose government just broke its promise that Americans wouldn’t be using Italy as a launching pad for offensive operations. Wouldn’t it be nice if this war provoked a shift back from the right in Europe? Chirac, yeah ok a slimy rightist, but opposed to the war, is also getting a 90% approval rating for his Iraq policy.

The body of a former president of Serbia, missing since August 2000, has been found, and I have absolutely no recollection of this. Ivan Stambolic. Don’t even remember the name.

Milosevic ordered it, of course.

The UN votes to resume oil-for-food. I was still right on this one.

Rumsfeld told the Senate that the US has no responsibility for reconstruction in Iraq.

Reuters just said that the US is halting operations for 4-6 days. If that isn’t an admission of a massive miscalculation (or misunderestimation in Bush-speak), I don’t know what is.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

However long it takes

Iraqis are being called terrorists for practices such as threatening soldiers who don’t fight with execution. Presumably nobody’s looked at the US military code lately, although we haven’t actually executed a soldier for cowardice since Priv. Eddie Slovik in WWII (played by anti-war activist Martin Sheen in the tv movie). Also, Texas executed a mentally ill person yesterday, so again, let’s not be pretending too much moral superiority.

The Independent’s Robert Fisk on the Baghdad market bombing.

Funny how all those Republicans are planning to press a liberal agenda on Iraq. Bush’s $75b slush fund includes provisions for universal health care in Iraq, to Sen. Hillary’s bemusement (Actually the universal health care will be administered by some lucky American corporation, lowest bid or no bid, so Iraq is about to be introduced to the horrors of managed care). Pat Robertson came out in favor of the separation of church and state--in Iraq. Where R’s have been berating D’s like Daschle for daring to dissent mildly in time of war, Iraqis are being downright encouraged to do so. And of course they are encouraging Iraqis to engage in dancing, a practice John Ashcroft considers Satanic when engaged in by Americans.

That, sadly, was my last joke on the theme of dancing in the street. I thought I’d have more ideas, but too much viewing of CNN has reduced my brains to mush.

A drum-beat is emerging from the administration that the oil-for-food program needs to be restarted. Some, like France, object to this as legitimizing the Anglo-American condominium over Iraq. Actually, it’s worse than that, since it entails using the resources of Iraq without regard to the government of Iraq, which is theft even if used for humanitarian purposes: it is not our right to distribute Iraq’s wealth, nor the UN’s, but in practice any UN workers would have to be accompanied by US troops and be under their control and not go anywhere the US didn’t want them to be. And this at a time when we are conducting a siege (Basra) and may wind up conducting another one (Baghdad); denying food, water, electricity, etc to some people while feeding others is to use food as a weapon, like the Zimbabwean government does.

Richard Perle’s official government job was in theory unpaid and advisory only, so let’s not crow too much over his resignation. The Prince of Darkness can continue to fulfill the same function without the honorary title. (Later): oh, for fuck’s sake, he isn’t even leaving the board, he’s just stopped being the chairman of it.

Because of some superstition, all triplets born in North Korea are removed from their parents to state institutions.

Rumsfeld says the announcement that US forces are to be doubled is certainly no indication of anything not going to plan.

Still, the single worst answer I’ve heard was from Dubya this morning, and I don’t know that I can convey why to anyone who didn’t actually see it. He was asked at the press conference (three questions, if that counts as a press conference)(I just looked it up at the White House website--they call it a press availability) with Blair how long the war would last, months or days, and he said, several times, “However long it takes.” The thing is, he was asked a serious question and gave a piece of rhetoric in response, as if it were a real answer. My problem with it is that he doesn’t think he evaded the question (which is what the reporter doubtless expected), he thinks he answered it. No, I really can’t convey it. Actually it reminds me of when a 6-year old asked him what the White House was like, and he told her, with a smirk on his face as if he was saying something clever, that it was white. And then never actually answered her question.

A couple of quotes: The Iraqi people understand what this crisis is about. Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberators' - Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defence Secretary, March 11. `I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators' - Vice-President Dick Cheney

In diplomacy/kindergarten news, the US ambassador to Canada threatened that country for not joining our little war, the British foreign secretary pissed off Israel by noting that the Arabs get pissed off when UN resolutions against Iraq but not Israel are enforced by the West, the US ambassador to the UN huffed off in the middle of an Iraqi speech....

Israel is to suspend the work of its religious police in enforcing the Sabbath (at the expense of all the rest of the country’s labor laws).

Maybe those of you who follow sports are familiar with this, but it was new to me: laser eye surgery to increase vision to 20/10, twice as good as perfect. Golfers like Tiger Woods have this done, but so increasingly do military pilots, Navy Seals and the like (it also greatly improves night vision).

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Would it bounce or would it explode?

Memo to Iraq:

There may be trouble ahead,
But while there's moonlight and music and love and
Let's face the music and dance [in the streets].

Before the fiddlers have fled,
Before they ask us to pay the bill [$74.7 billion], and while we still have the chance,
Let's face the music and dance [in the streets]...

From a cute Guardian story about tv coverage of the war: “From New York, in the tone of a woman returning a faulty pair of shoes, one correspondent said, "We'd been led to believe that a lot of officials were desperate to get rid of Saddam." At the very least, she seemed to want an apology.” The author suggests that when this is over someone should set up a 24-hour war channel; who needs a war, as ratings show “that viewers can be satisfied with quantities of faintly unsavoury debate among men who describe weapons as "stunning", interspersed with contributions from dishevelled reporters shouting in front of either a) the command HQ prefabs in Qatar; b) a nameless, gritty landscape with plumes of smoke in the distant background or c) a landscape, ditto, without plumes of smoke.”

From the Daily Telegraph: Austria bowed to international pressure yesterday and stripped an alleged Nazi euthanasia doctor and child killer of the country's highest award for "services to science and the arts.” The research that got him the award (in 1975) was done on body parts from children.

Zimbabwe’s government is taking advantage of the distraction of war to launch a wave of arrests and repression against the opposition. Zim is rapidly becoming a full-scale fascist state, complete with indoctrination camps for teachers.

Here’s a story you wouldn’t see in most countries: Drug dealers in Copenhagen's hippy colony, Christiana, went on strike yesterday to protest against proposals to bulldoze the alternative "free city".

Some idiot in Haaretz says that the American bombing of the Baghdad market (a story that disappeared from the war coverage really really quickly) should make the US more sympathetic about the Jenin Massacre.

Tide turning

Footage I would kill to see. Can anyone help?: If the White House is still furious with the BBC for showing 90 seconds of President Bush’s preparations for last Wednesday’s address, then let’s hope they don’t find out what Portuguese TV did. It showed a full 15 minutes of the President’s rehearsal. A presenter gave a sniggering commentary as Bush repeated the same lines of his speech over and over again.

The British Press Association has a story that “Tide May Be Turning Against Saddam.” Too bad he’s in a desert, then.

It’s bad enough when the Americans can’t tell the difference between a British Tornado and a missile (especially when Iraq’s air force isn’t flying), but the crew of one British Challenger II tank fire a shell at another Challenger II tank. Even my cat knows better than to attack a mirror.

America’s best and brightest.

Bush’s new executive order delaying the declassification of old materials was, the NY Times points out, announced in a way intended to sneak under the war radar. What else is? Dunno, except for the release of some of the Guantanamo prisoners, including a teenager whose arrest they’ve known was a mistake for a year. One of the others say he was only interrogated twice in 14 months. All 18 were dumped in Kabul, most hundreds of miles from home, without any money. Still, they’re lucky they weren’t locked up the rest of their lives: precisely because there is no impartial system of fact-finding associated with these detentions, they depend for what little legitimacy they have on a belief that the government never makes mistakes. Consequently, it’s not in the government’s interests to admit its mistakes, and the Bushies are more disinclined than most to accede even to the possibility that they’re capable of screwing up. Can’t wait to see how they handle Iraqi generals, if they ever succeed in capturing one.

The US finally bombed Iraqi tv, as so many have demanded. I know that the Pentagon has gotten used to thinking of the media as a sub-branch of the military, but under the Geneva Conventions, it is illegal to attack civilian targets. The British defense minister claims that Iraqi tv stations are part of the command and control structure. Nonsense. Amnesty International has correctly identified this as a war crime.

Sy Hersh on just how bad that forgery about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger.
He thinks the forger was MI6. Given that it was truly an egregiously bad forgery (one signature was of someone who hadn’t been in the office attributed to him for 11 years), and that it was mentioned in the State of the Union Address and many other places, while the retraction has been a blip, this constitutes either a lie or deep incompetence on the part of the CIA. It requires investigation. Oh, and how’s that committee investigating the 9/11 intelligence failure going? Picked out all the furniture yet?

Halliburton gets a billion-dollar no-bid contract in Iraq. Don’t they even care how this looks? Cheney still gets a pay check from Halliburton.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

That's what it's all about

Message to the Iraqi people: OK, one more time. You put your right foot in. You put your right foot out. You put your right foot in. You shake it all about. You do the Hokey-Pokey. You turn yourself around. [This is joke #534 on the theme of dancing in the streets. And yes I intend to pound this theme into the ground, and dance (535) on its grave.]

Ah, the American attention span. If a war lasts more than a week, they start looking for someone to blame. But it’s nice to see the analysis--for example, here ,
saying that the problem is that Secretary of War Rummy planned the war on the assumption that the Iraqis would welcome an American occupation. I’ve been making fun of this assumption for weeks, but it’s finally dawning on commentators that there are consequences to such arrogance. So too few troops were sent, pursuing the wrong strategy, and in the absence of the ability to get into hand to hand fighting, they muddled into a siege of Basra that will kill civilians.

Scalia said that the US Constitution only sets minimums for civil rights, and that most of what we consider to be our rights are merely optional extras that can be removed at any time at the will of the government. He didn’t use those exact words, but pretty close, actually.

Bush this morning demanded that his request for supplemental war funding of I believe $74 billion not be loaded with items not related to the war. Of course he’s included a bribe to Israel in that 74.

Icky war pictures.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Morris dancing? Break dancing? Not even a nice minuet?

This is the Apache helicopter the Iraqis are claiming was shot down by an elderly farmer with a rifle. It wasn’t, of course.

Somebody talk to whoever writes the news crawls for CNN about their use of metaphor. When they said that the US blasted Al Jazeera for showing that footage, I wasn’t quite sure what had happened. 2 minutes later, they had Michael Moore blasting Bush in his Oscar speech for a film about the American gun culture, which is an irony Moore would appreciate, an infinitely subtler irony than his speech contained, I’m afraid.

If you watch the Academy Awards on tape, you can cut it down to its essential 12½ minutes. Actually, Steve Martin was pretty good again. I notice they took no risk of having a lot of black people win again: the best actress category was mostly inhabited by albinos (Nicole Kidman, Renée Zelwegger, Julianne Moore). Fortunately Denzel stood behind Nicole as she accepted, or you wouldn’t have been able to see her at all, which would have been no bad thing.

You like me, you really like me: speaking of acceptance speeches, Saddam gives another one. Did I mention that the US government keeps one of his old mistresses on the payroll specifically to distinguish between Saddam and his doubles?

Much of the fighting yesterday was in towns the Pentagon had already declared liberated, against Iraqi units it had already declared had surrendered. Oh, and led by a dictator the US claimed to have killed last week.

Say, whatever happened to the Iraqi government(s) in exile?

In the continuing battle against the evil French, Montana’s state pension fund is selling off its French shares. An article in the Guardian asks whatever happened to vilifying the Germans, and notes that the Bushies stopped attacking Germany--you’ll remember Rummy lumping them in with Libya and Cuba--after a visit to DC at the end of February by the opposition leader, who told them to knock it off because they were just making Schröder more popular.

George Monbiot suggests that the US POWs being subjected to vicious and inhumane photography by the Iraqis are just lucky they’re not prisoners of the Americans, reminding us not only of Guantanamo, but what happened to POWs in Afghanistan.

A cute Israeli story: we know they aren’t distributing gas masks to Palestinians, but there’s also a problem with foreign workers, most of whose employers retain their passports, which you have to show to get (buy; they’re not free) a gas mask. So the employers are extorting them, and so far 240,000, 80% of the foreign workers, are unprotected.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Flowers or guns?

As I write, Tony Blair is on the BBC accusing Saddam of crimes against petroleum.

And there’s an awful lot of bitching about showing American POWs on tv. Which has certainly intimidated CNN et al from showing them, so I’m not sure what the big deal is, especially since I saw Iraqi POWs on tv just yesterday. Maybe American soldiers all believe that cameras steal their souls. Whatever, I don’t think a country experiencing massive bombardment is really going to worry about such princess-and-the-pea sensibilities. This is also a country that still has Iranian POWs held since the 1980s (and vice versa), so maybe being asked some sarcastic questions (“Did Iraqis greet you with flowers or guns?”) isn’t the worst that could happen, is all I’m sayin’. At least they don’t have Joan Rivers shouting Who are you wearing? at them.

That said, I want to see the goddammed footage that the rest of the world can see, and which US generals and Rumsfeld and Tony Blair and everyone else bitched about endlessly. *That* made it news. Someone at CBS said that they have to be careful not to be used for propaganda purposes. A little late for that, bucko. Have you yet seen anything that resembled news come from one of the “embedded” (up Rumsfeld’s ass) reporters, anything that illuminated the situation in any way at all? And someone at ABC that footage of the dead soldiers isn’t newsworthy. There may be other perfectly legitimate reasons not to show it, but that isn’t one of them (actually, I could give the dead ones a miss myself). Al Jazeera’s website is curiously unavailable.

As I understand it, the provision of the Geneva Conventions is something about being protected from insults. Being put on tv? Americans will do anything to get on tv. How could it be more insulting than Survivor?

The US has managed to take down a British Tornado, because an aeroplane looks so much like a Scud missile. Actually, I read months ago that the British hadn’t done enough to prevent friendly fire incidents, i.e., to properly identify themselves electronically to the Americans. MPs were saying this would be a problem. So this was foreseeable, and foreseen.

The US has also evidently killed ITV correspondent Terry Lloyd, tanks opening fire on him. It was a mistake. They were actually trying to kill surrendering Iraqi soldiers instead.

Still no dancing in the streets. Maybe seen through those green night-vision thingies. Line dancing to please their new Texan overlords, and lap dancing for the soldiers.

It’s Day 4 (Day 5, surely, but CNN says Day 4, so it must be true) and when Rumsfeld spoke today, once again suggesting to Iraqi soldiers that they might want to be good little boys and surrender, I saw a certain annoyance at their failure to do so, and the idea beginning to penetrate, oh so slowly, that maybe they don’t actually see us as liberators. Because the Bushies have actually fallen for their own rhetoric, as the very best con artists so often do, which is why Rummy could keep talking about Iraqis surrendering as acting with “honor” and why they assumed (as in Bush’s botched ultimatum Monday, as I previously discussed) that all Iraqis see Saddam exactly as they do, and would invite American occupiers in the minute he left. I’m worried that Iraqis will at some point validate this delusion by actually dancing in the streets, not because this is a re-run of the liberation of Paris but because 1) the bombing has stopped, 2) after many years of sanctions someone may actually feed them, 3) they’ve had years of experience sucking up to dangerous well-armed rulers and know what is expected of them.

Watched a bit of the Basil Fawlty Oscars (don’t mention the war), but once you’ve seen Jennifer Lopez’s nipples, the evening’s pretty much done, isn’t it?

Saturday, March 22, 2003

How green was my war

For more censorship, here’s a site which complains that Google wouldn’t show its ad (anti-war bumper stickers) unless it censored not only the ad, but its actual website.

Maybe we’ll be hearing a little less about the unprecedented precision of US weapons, since we just bombed a village in Iran, which is a whole country away from the right one. Oops.

I’ve read that the media have taken to referring to those who oppose Bush’s war policy as “dissenters” rather than, say, critics. Can’t say I’ve noticed myself, but let’s be on the lookout.

It’s also surprisingly hard to get a list of who voted against the House’s pro-war resolution, although I know ½ of the 11 represent the Bay Area. The R’s wrote the resolution so that no one could support the troops without also expressing “unequivocal support” for Bush’s “firm leadership,” manly good looks and beautiful singing voice. It also insists that this war is part of the war on terrorism. The R’s just couldn’t help themselves, could they? OK, got the list now. The no’s are also mostly black.

Turkey is sending in troops, despite the US telling them not to. In public at least. Germany has threatened to pull its planes currently defending Turkey, but no one else has suggested any serious consequences.

I want a new codicil to the Geneva convention: all camera crews are to be deprived of night-vision equipment. I’m tired of all our wars being sickly green.

I was promised dancing in the streets. Where’s the dancing?

Late this year is the 100th anniversary of the flight of the Kitty Hawk. NASA engineers have been trying to get a replica of the plane to work, and come to the conclusion that the Wright brothers should by rights have broken their fool necks. Of course, what do NASA engineers know about getting something to fly?

A bit of a geography lesson for Richard Perle, who earlier this week called the UN the “chatterbox on the Hudson.” It’s on the East River, doofus.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Honor, my ass

Long piece by Chalmers Johnson on Daniel Ellsberg’s new memoirs. It is most interesting for its discussion of the constant lying about Vietnam, and how the mere possession of secret information breeds arrogance in policymakers. Also note that even anti-war people like Sens. Fulbright and McGovern were unwilling to make the Pentagon Papers public.

A detail I’d missed in the stories of massive sexual harassment at the Air Force Academy: the investigation is being conducted by the Pentagon’s inspector general Joseph Schmitz, who must know all about it given his siblings. His father was John Schmitz, the Orange County congresscritter who literally thought that Reagan was a communist and who fathered a couple of kids out of wedlock as well as, in wedlock, Mary Kay Letourneau, the teacher who got pregnant twice by her 6th-grade student, to the joy of late night talk show hosts everywhere.

In Britain, the closure of certain local schools has put distinctive regional accents at risk. One group has just received a £25,000 grant to help it preserve the Georgie (Newcastle) accent. In sign language.

The news accounts of the war are full of reports about how wonderfully precise American weapons are. Of course we have never heard this before, and we certainly won’t get reports later of hospitals and schools being bombed.

Saw Rummy’s press conference. He keeps talking to Iraqis, like he thinks there are Iraqi soldiers on active duty watching CNN. He also must have used the word “honor” five times in telling them to surrender. He is so incapable of seeing things from any perspective other than his own that he doesn’t get that even anti-Saddam Iraqis (who I really think are a smaller percentage of the population than everyone assumes; tyrants are often quite popular, and he gave his country stature as someone who successfully stood up to the Americans and survived) don’t want to be bombed and occupied by the US military.

The Brits sent over a representative (the hapless Clare Short) to try to dissuade the US from running an occupation regime all by themselves, with their private contractors, shutting out the UN and, by the by, the British. She failed.

Back home, business as usual, only more so. Massive tax cuts pass Congress, and new plans to encourage car manufacturers to make larger cars.

From a New Statesman competition, rewritten lines that destroy the meaning of the original:

If you can’t stand the heat, don’t sit so near the fire.

I have a dream--but heck, it’s just a dream, probably never happen.

It is a far, far better thing that I do than I did last Tuesday.

A rose is a rose is a rose is a daffodil.

Put out the light, and then put out the cat.

Man is born free and everywhere he is in chain stores.

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. WLTM petite blonde with own income and GSOH.

I think, therefore I am in the minority.

I Hate the French Vanilla

Speaking of Saddam’s doubles.

A good piece on US propaganda about Iraq, suggests that the use of the term “weapons of mass destruction” is intended to confuse doltish Americans into believing that Iraq has nukes, when we’re actually just talking about chemical weapons.

Bush had to send a letter to Congress justifying the war. Here’s a bit of it:
acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

Note that the word “including” doesn’t actually make the disproved assertion that Iraq has anything to do with Al Qaida. In fact, I defy anyone to read that sentence and tell me what Bush is accusing Iraq of. (This was pointed out by a blog,, which I hadn’t seen before, but which looks worth keeping an eye on).

I forgot to mention. There had been plans for Bush to speak to the European Parliament, but they were called off when the Europeans refused to meet his demand to guarantee a standing ovation. I swear I’m not making that up.

If you were looking for the Conservative answer to Ben and Jerry’s, Flavors include I Hate the French Vanilla, Smaller GovernMINT. Sheesh.

Bush on tv Wed. night said the missiles had been launched “on my orders.” Britain has suddenly realized just how junior a partner they are.

Saletan comments on Rummy’s press conference, which was mostly addressed to Iraqi officers:
Rumsfeld advises Iraqi leaders to "act to save themselves." He says this war will be scarier than anything they've seen. He invites Iraqi officers to "ask themselves whether they want to die fighting for a doomed regime." He has a long list of dos and don'ts. "Do not follow orders to destroy dams or flood villages," he says. "Do not follow orders to destroy your country's oil." Next he'll issue injunctions against mixing fabrics and eating animals with cloven hooves.

By pure coincidence, just two days after Canada decides not to send any troops to Dubya Dubya II, the Air Force decides not to try the amphetamine-addled pilots who bombed Canadian troops in Afghanistan last year. They chalk it up to the fog of war--evidently the pilots were distracted trying to find shapes in the fog--“Dude, I see an elephant.”

Monica Lewinsky is to host a dating show on tv.

If you can stomach it, here’s an op-ed piece by Richard Perle called “Thank God for the Death of the UN.”

Turkey has decided not to allow US troops to use their country as a staging post, although they were offered nearly $100,000 per soldier ($6b for 62,000). They do, however, decide to send their own troops into Iraq. But only for humanitarian purposes. The Turks being well known for their humanitarianism.

A list of all Czechs who cooperated with the communist gov’s secret police (1 in 130) has been posted to the web.

Here’s a frightening thought: half of all dentists in Italy are imposters.

From the WaPo: “The State Department's top lawyer said yesterday that legal authority from the U.N. Security Council exists for war against Iraq, even though the Bush administration failed to win explicit council approval for the use of force.” In other words, they approved it, they just don’t know they approved it, and didn’t know it at the time.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Bush the careless underestimated your values

Colonel James Naughton of US Army Materiel Command said Iraqi complaints about depleted uranium shells had no medical basis. “They want it to go away because we kicked the crap out of them, OK?,” he told a Pentagon briefing.

No, they want it go away because their crap now glows in the dark.

The British refuse to rule out using cluster bombs in Iraq, but they won’t be using landmines. Saint Di won that one.

Evidently Clear Channel, which owns pretty much every radio station that isn’t NPR--and I’m told that there are in fact many such stations, who knew--has been sponsoring pro-war rallies.

In my last, I commented that the Bushies had changed the meaning of Bush’s televised ultimatum twice in under 24 hours. Here’s the amazing part: almost no one noticed. FAIR has, pointing out that headlines like the NY Times’s “War Imminent as Hussein Rejects Ultimatum”, the Post’s "President Tells Hussein to Leave Iraq Within 48 Hours or Face Invasion”, etc. are wrong, since Iraq will actually be invaded and occupied even if Hussein (or one of his doubles) leaves. But a deadline was so dramatic, wasn’t it, so macho? MSNBC even has a little clock, on the screen all the time, the seconds ticking away. Actually, it didn’t have seconds yesterday, just hours and minutes, before the Daily Show sarcastically suggested it add them, and maybe the theme music from Mission Impossible, to ramp up the drama. Today, it added the seconds.

The military launched a couple of dozen million-dollar missiles in an attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein. A lot more expensive than the CIA’s old exploding cigars, but equally effective. Then Bush came on tv. William Saletan at Slate notes that he was obviously speaking from the White House, not in an “undisclosed location,” so he wasn’t particularly worried about retaliation, which might lead one to wonder how much of a threat Iraq ever actually was. It’s a bit of a mismatch, like putting Mike Tyson in a boxing ring with Pee Wee Herman, or Adam Sandler in a movie with Jack Nicholson (that one’s real; I saw a billboard today). Hell, Saddam kept talking about swords. To paraphrase Sean Connery in The Unwatchables, trust an Iraqi to bring a sword to a cruise missile fight.

Saddam goes on tv and says “Bush the careless underestimated your values.” Shouldn’t that be “misunderestimated?”

Here’s something I didn’t know, or possibly forgot: some Algerian Muslimist types in the mid-1990s were thwarted in an attempt to hijack an airplane and fly it into the Eiffel Tower. Guess the CIA doesn’t read Le Monde or they might have taken that as some sort of warning.

Wire taps have been found at European Council hq. No proof yet of who put them there, but 3 guesses.

For the sake of a short war, one can only hope that the US has been lying to the UN inspectors all this time, or who knows what we’ll be bombing. Says one inspector, “None of their hot tips were ever confirmed. I don't know about a single decontamination truck that didn't turn out to be a fire engine or a water truck.”

I gather Ollie North, “reporting” for Fox “News,” accidentally gave away the planned start time for the war. He’s also rumor-mongering about the French.

The list of the countries allegedly helping us in our crusade has puzzled some people. Even Colombia has no idea what help Colombia is supposed to be giving. And Eritrea? A Guardian reporter called up the various embassies.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

That depends on what the meaning of "48 hours" is

US ambassador to the UN John Negroponte, back when Resolution 1441 was passed: “There's no 'automaticity' and this is a two-stage process, and in that regard we have met the principal concerns that have been expressed for the resolution. Whatever violation there is, or is judged to exist, will be dealt with in the council, and the council will have an opportunity to consider the matter before any other action is taken.”

So they lied. They always lie. Or just change the rules so many times even they don’t know that they are. After giving a 48-hour ultimatum, they still had time in the next 24 hours to change the rules again. Twice. 1) We might invade in less than 48 hours if Hussein refuses to leave (here’s Ari Fleischer on that: “Saddam Hussein has to figure out what this means.” So Ari doesn’t know either). 2) We’ll invade even if he does leave. The latter flabbergasts me, it really does. I can’t figure out if they literally changed the policy after putting the figurehead-in-chief on tv in prime time to announce a different policy, or if they meant to say that troops were going in no matter what, and just phrased it in such a way that no one in the world knew that’s what they meant. And I don’t know which of those options would show greater incompetence.

My theory: I think what happened is that they’ve got a preconception that is so clear to them they didn’t think it needed to be said out loud, which is that the Iraqi military is only there to defend Hussein, not the country, and that Iraqis would be so happy to be “liberated” that if Hussein was around, there would be literally not a single hand raised against an American occupying army. Well good luck with that.

Still haven’t found out which insurance company pulled the rug out from the inspectors. I suppose we can’t blame them, a private company isn’t designed to act in the public interest. Which makes you wonder about all those companies lining up to provide services to the Iraqis. The US is going to be contracting out the Iraqi school and health systems to the lowest bidder.

Here’s a cute piece on various ways Iraq will be made more like the US (Hussein winning by 100% v. Florida; right hand cut off for theft v. 50 years in California for stealing videos, etc). My favorite: 6. Saddam has been universally seen firing his gun indiscriminately and menacingly. Under the second amendment, this right would be extended to everyone.

Moo: Colin Powell issues his list of 30 COW countries, and what an odd coalition it is. Even one of the biggest allies, Spain, is unwilling to send the much-feared Spanish army into fight, but basically any country willing to say that it might offer a paperclip at some point during the war gets on the list. Hey, the Philippines gave us overflight rights, isn’t that helpful? No, really, I’m asking, is it?

The US gave permission to Turkey to invade Iraq, by the way.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Legs of responsibility

Incredibly smug comment of the hour by Dubya: "The U.N. will definitely need to have a role [in running post-conquest Iraq]. That way, it can begin to get its legs of responsibility back." Although actually he plans to screw NGOs and just parcel the job out to American corporations.

Since writing that, I’ve seen The Smirking One’s address to the nation, and I wish to point out another piece of smugness he’s been doing, and which is spreading. The traditional obnoxious ending of such addresses, “God bless America,” or “May god bless the American people” has been expanded to “May God continue to bless America,” because of course we are god’s faves. Actually, my computer’s dictionary says “bless” comes from Old English, “perhaps originally in the sense of mark or consecrate with blood,” which is pretty fucking appropriate.

Of course blood isn’t Chimp Boy’s liquid of choice. In the part of the address aimed at the Iraqi people, he warns them not to use WMDs, but only after telling them not to harm one drop of our precious, precious oil. He can no longer even be bothered to pretend that oil isn’t his first priority. He also said “It is not too late for the Iraqi military to act with honor. Do not fight for a dying regime that is not worth your own life.” That’s not honor, that’s self-interest. William Saletan at Slate notes that Bush is demanding courage and resolve from the American people, and the complete opposite from Iraqis.

Speaking of self-interest, since there was never a Security Council vote, do whichever countries we bribed to vote for us still get those bribes?

The CBC says that GeeDubya has given up on diplomacy, the Bushies are saying rather that diplomacy has failed. My computer’s dictionary defines diplomacy as “skill and tact in dealing with people,” so I’d ask when diplomacy was ever actually employed.

Robin Cook, who was my choice to lead the Labour Party in ‘92, despite the garden gnome look, resigned the British government today, taking a shot at Bush that was really a shot at his favorite lapdog (one British anti-war chant: “Blair is a poodle, Bush is a noodle”). He said that if the hanging chads had gone the other way, we wouldn’t be at the brink of war. What he is implying is that His Tonyness would have toadied up to the policy of whoever happened to be president. Cook is given a standing ovation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen clapping in the House of Commons before. Here’s his statement.

The supreme court of our other ally Spain has voted to ban the Basque separatist party.

George Monbiot says that international aid is being shifted from every other country in the world to Iraq, to ensure that the US isn’t embarrassed by the entire country starving to death between the time we invade it and the time the camera crews leave. For example, the UN has received 2.5% of the money it requested to deal with the severe drought in Eritrea, 1.2% to deal with the effects of the civil war in Liberia, etc etc. Afghan puppet Karzai was in the US begging for money this month, and was promised a whopping $50 million, but the US insisted that $35m. of that be spent on a 5-star hotel in Kabul.

For all your pimp hat needs.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

La too-qaa-wim

Bill Frist, evidently the first doctor in Congress in many decades, just keeps showing us why we don’t elect more of them. Just keeps rubbing everyone’s nose in it. Now, being a heart surgeon doesn’t really qualify you to give informed opinions on abortion, which he considers to be bad medicine. What, you may ask, is good medicine? His WashPost opinion piece Sunday is headlined “When War is the Best Medicine.” So take two, and call him in the morning.

The Israeli army says it was an accident that one of its bulldozers ran over an American activist trying to stop it destroying a Palestinian house. And then reversed, and ran over her again. By accident.

Bush was holidaying in the Azores this weekend, in a conference labeled as designed to find a path to peace. The only people invited were those who supported the war, which certainly makes agreement a lot easier to reach. The Times notes, “Behind the leaders hung an impressive row of flags, but each national flag was represented three times, somehow reinforcing the smallness of the coalition against Saddam.” Azores is Portuguese for “hawk.”

The US military has been warning that the Iraqis may use “suicide prisoners,” that is send people to surrender with explosives strapped to their body. Oh yeah, this war is gonna be humane. Also, in case you need it, the phonetic Arabic for “do not resist” is "la too-qaa-wim."

In a referendum, 64.3% of Liechtensteiners vote their prince near-absolute powers.

The Raelians, that weird sect that claims to have cloned humans, has been getting lots of requests from Israelis and Palestinians to clone children killed in the Intifada.

The UN inspectors stop most of their work, and lose most of their helicopters, because their insurance company (which none of the stories name) pulls out. Just in case you were wondering who’s really in charge in this world. Now if we could just get State Farm of Baghdad to pull its policies on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and this whole thing would be over.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

In repression news, the Spanish courts let the government ban a Basque newspaper, the Turkish government is banning 2 Kurdish parties, and Germany is trying to ban the largest neo-Nazi party, but it turns out that most of the members who testified against it were actually agents provocateurs working for the intelligence services, while the press have discovered that the gov has been deliberately under-reporting the number killed in neo-Nazi violence, 99 since reunification (not 39, the gov figure). Also, Santa Cruz Public Library, followed by others, has put out signs warning that the FBI can get patrons’ records.

Speaking of Nazis, CBS is making a mini-series based on Hitler’s early life. But they’ve decided that Hitler--Adolf Hitler, mind you--isn’t that interesting, so they’re going to spice it up a bit. Ian Kershaw, whose biography of Hitler they were supposed to be basing this on (which I’ve read), has walked off and demanded his name be removed.

Someone at the State Dept has leaked a report trashing Bush’s hilarious “domino theory” idea that “regime change” in Iraq will create a cascade of democracy throughout the region. The problem is that what State is essentially saying is that these towel-heads aren’t up to the task of democracy, that it isn’t suited to them, and best stick with the authoritarian regimes we know and love. It’s hard to know which is more dangerous, Bush’s optimism, or State’s pessimism.

One of the countries Bush needs to get a Security Council vote from is Cameroon. The big news in that country is that the government is threatening to arrest people who drink their own urine. For medicinal purposes. And note to Chris: it’s supposed to restore hair too.

Fresh off its victory on victims of medical malpractice, the bastards, the Bushies are now trying to make it easier to deny coverage to Medicare patients by, for example, replacing judges as the persons who hear complaints about denials to employees of the DHHS. Astonishingly, they don’t need to go to Congress to do this.

The Observer today runs the silliest op-ed piece ever, someone saying that while Martin Sheen may oppose the war, Jeb Bartlett wouldn’t.

From AP: Procter & Gamble has agreed to include a disclaimer in a Metamucil commercial featuring Old Faithful to mollify the National Park Service. The commercial shows what looks like a Yellowstone National Park ranger pouring a glass of Metamucil, a laxative, into the geyser to help it stay regular. It will now say, "Dramatization — Please Obey Park Service Rules."

Israel has answered Bush’s “road map” with the environment-friendly response that it won’t be taking any road trips soon. Specifically, it refuses to dismantle even the illegal settlement outposts or freeze settlements, and that any movement from the first stage will be “conditioned upon the complete cessation of violence and terrorism, full disarmament of terrorist organizations, their capabilities and infrastructure, the complete collection of illegal weapons and the emergence of a new and different [Palestinian] leadership.” The road map as leaked to the NY Times was hilariously vague, although I did like the false equivalencies, such as the Palestinian leaders are supposed to urge the end of violence against Israelis, while the Israeli government is supposed to urge the end of violence against Palestinians. The falseness of the equivalency, of course, lies in the fact that most of the Israeli violence is committed by agents of the government. By the way, the shooting of 2 Israeli guards by Israeli troops, one killed by a missile shot from a helicopter while he was fleeing, shows, if more proof was needed, that the IDF shoots first and asks questions later, if then.

Friday, March 14, 2003

I commented about the administration watching its language with Security Council nations it has tried to overthrow. Bush’s comment about bringing the resolution to a vote no matter what the whip count is reminds me: he might also avoid talking about whips around nations like Guinea that we used to import our slaves from.

Headline of the day: Man Gets Prison for Pogo Stick Murder. The story, naturally, isn’t quite as funny.

Runner-up, from the Guardian: Tories Say Touch Typing Will Help Fight Crime. Turns out to mean that the police would get more actual work done if they typed their reports faster, which is sensible. Once again, it would have been better to stop after reading the headline.

The Oscar people are scared shitless that someone will use the platform to denounce the war. So they’ve resorted to that time-honored remedy, the blacklist. That may work for presenters, but what about winners, especially if Michael Moore wins one?

The Italian Supreme Court rules that interference by an “overbearing and intrusive mother-in-law” is grounds for divorce. The wife got the house and kid, and the husband moved back in with, you guessed it, his mama.

Somebody has decided to create an opera based on the BBC Newsnight program. Next up: Stephen Sondheim’s “McNeil-Lehrer,” with Mandy Patinkin as Jim Lehrer.

The new Lithuanian president, Rolandas Paksas, is being advised by an astrologer and mystic healer (she wraps people in toilet paper), who has been screening candidates for office. The Catholic Church is not pleased. The phrase “pact with the devil” has been used.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

The news from Condoleeza

Congresscritter Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla), has introduced a bill to allow families of World War II dead to go to France and dig them up. She complains that the Frogs have forgotten that if we hadn’t helped them, they’d be speaking German now. Evidently compound nouns are a fate worse than death. The French could, of course, respond that if they hadn’t helped us during the Revolutionary War, we’d have a president who speaks English.

Incidentally, for those of you who have suggested that I lobby to change the excessively French name of my town, I’ve finally come up with an alternative: Condoleeza.

Longish piece on Bush admin secrecy, media complicity, and the likely restrictions on coverage of Dubya Dubya III.

And here’s another piece on the supine press. It has a phrase I like, calling Bush’s use of 9/11 to somehow justify war on Iraq as bait-and-switch.

Most of the American press has been lauding Serbia’s assassinated PM as the savior of his country, which should automatically make you suspicious. Here’s another view, perhaps going too far in the other direction, which says that Djindjic was a Quisling who worked for the US, sold off his country’s assets, and would have been cheerfully assassinated by pretty much any Serb. The story has a greater significance, since it suggests what happens when the US imposes “regime change.”

I’m told the French have taken to calling Rumsfeld Dr. Follamour (Dr. Strangelove). You won’t be surprised if I start doing the same.

Thankfully, the anti-abortion ideologues wrote their bill against “partial-birth” abortions in such a way that it will be struck down by the courts, unless of course Bush gets to appoint someone to the Supreme Court.


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

This is scripted

I had a joke in mind I forgot to insert in my last, about the House cafeteria changing french fries to freedom fries, which is that if it’s anything like the cafeteria food at Santa Cruz, they’d have served their purpose better by keeping the name. Remember Saga’s Swiss Steak? Swedish meatballs? At the time I said Switzerland wouldn’t keep its neutrality long if it inflicted that food on the rest of the world.

The idiots on the DC Circuit Court say that Guantanamo detainees have no legal rights whatsoever, including access to the courts. Evidently they’re supposed to appeal to the Cuban courts. What I want to know is how if the judicial branch has no authority over these people, the executive branch can.

On the growing belief that Pakistan staged a fake arrest of retroactive-mastermind Khalid Mohammed, see this.

Read a piece complaining that in the staged Bush press conference the reporters playacted their parts, waving their hands even though Bush was clearly calling people from a written list, not even looking up, so the reporters were just giving credence to the masquerade of this being an unscripted event. Indeed, it has been noted elsewhere that many news sources’ transcript of the event have Bush saying “This is unscripted...” at a point where he actually said “This is scripted”.

Speaking of scripted events, the US is getting ready to set up France for the “failure” of the UN (to do what the US wants). The word you will hear most frequently applied to Jacques Chirac is “bully,” and not in the Teddy Roosevelt sense. Well, if the US can castigate Iraq for not obeying the UN and invading other countries and having weapons and so forth, I guess it can call France a bully. Although it might want to refrain from doing so in the Security Council, where so many of the swing voters (Angola, Mexico, Chile, etc) are countries whose governments the US has overthrown or tried to overthrow (in Angola’s case, the 25-year old civil war was started by the CIA when it was headed by Bush the Elder, which the US may have forgotten about but I can assure you Angola has not)(another country on the Security Council whose elected government Bush overthrew: the United States)(Mexican prez Vicente Fox fakes a back operation so he doesn’t have to make a decision publicly).

Yesterday on the Daily Show, they said that there was a debate in the Bush admin over how many hoops to make Saddam jump through, Powell opting for 2, Rummy for 3, but they all agreed the hoops would be flaming. Today, Britain introduces 6 new “conditions” to impose on Iraq, including that Saddam go on tv and read, in Arabic, a statement Britain will write for him to the effect that he has been a very bad boy, has hidden weapons, and will never ever do so again. As if any leader would just go on tv and robotically read something written by...well, yes, ok, but George did go off-script when he said “This is scripted.” The conditions also include surrendering weapons that Iraq may not actually have, like mobile chemical/biological weapons facilities, and drones (did you see the fearsome drone on tv today? it was actually made of balsa wood).

Speaking of things made of balsa wood, Tony Blair isn’t looking too good lately, not helped by the accidental groin-kicking given him by Secretary of War Rumsfeld yesterday. Blair, who will never be called boyish again, is probably sacrificing his political career to Bush’s war, only to have Rumsfeld casually say that it wasn’t really necessary. Still, at the end of his career, Tony finally finds something he has a conviction about, and it turns out to be killing people. Guardian columnist Simon Hoggart asks,
Wouldn't you be spooked if he turned up at your door, just as you were sitting down to tea, all smart in his suit and tie, briefcase full of leaflets? "Hello, I'm here to tell you the good news about going to war with Saddam Hussein."

"Sorry, we're all Jehovah's Witnesses in this house."
Ah, Hollywood. Sigourney Weaver has evidently staged an elaborate wedding for her dog, an Italian greyhound. With a pre-nuptial agreement.

An AP story says that Italian schoolchildren will have to be multilingual. Evidently, talking with their hands doesn’t count. They will be learning English from the 1st grade.

The Serb PM is assassinated. Fortunately, assassinations in the Balkans never have significant consequences. The government immediately blames organized crime, which is possible, but there is no evidence for it, so they’re clearly going the cover-up route. It may have been related to his efforts to capture Bosnian Serb Ratko Mladic, a bit of left-over business from about 20 wars ago.

Wisconsin is moving towards not releasing election results until the polls close in the West. They should be encouraged, and everyone else follow.

Molly Ivins, in the current column, says exactly what I said yesterday about the NY Times perhaps needing to focus in its coverage on those areas where the American people show huge ignorance in the polls.

The Rolling Stones are going to China. Which has asked them not to play any songs with s-e-x in them.

Republicans are trying to turn Rep. Moran into the new Trent Lott for his semi-anti-Semitic remarks about Jews and American foreign policy. At the same time, the FBI is “investigating” the fake evidence the US cited linking Iraq to attempted uranium purchases in Niger. They say it may be the work of some foreign nation that wants to instigate a war between the US and Iraq. Of course, they mean to imply Israel.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Whatever it is...

I lose: the day I predicted for the start of the war, March 10, has come and gone (Chris said Feb. 28).

Faced with complaints from the states about being short-changed by the federal budget, the Bush admin has decided to stop publishing the report on how much each state gets from each federal program.

At the bottom of the WashPost story on that are a pair of quotes: Ari Fleischer: "He denied he had these weapons, and then he destroys things he says he never had." And Hans Blix 3 months before saying that Iraq declared those very missiles. Colin Powell pulled the same crap about the drone planes, saying that Iraq hadn’t declared them when it had.

In a NY Times poll, 45% say that Saddam was personally involved Fin 9/11. If you’re noticing a theme developing, it would be Don’t Confuse Me With the Facts. The paper observes that the 45% figure is virtually unchanged from one month ago. Hey, here’s an idea: when a poll reveals an area of vast and significant ignorance, why don’t you run a story or two on the subject?

FAIR points out that 9 days later, the Times has still failed to report on the story of the US spying on the UN, although unproven assertions that Iraqi diplomats are acting as spies in 60 countries got some play. Maybe one of the reasons for the mutual incomprehension between the US and the rest of the world is that stories that are front-page news elsewhere aren’t even picked up by the paper of record.

There’s a Salon piece on the crappy logic underlying this war. Something occurred to me while reading it this part of it:
“By framing the entire crisis in terms of Palestinian terrorism, rather than Israeli occupation and Palestinian terrorism, Bush has subtly equated the Palestinians with al-Qaida. In Bush's view, as in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's, the Palestinians have no history, no grievances, no claims of any kind on the world's conscience: Their acts of violence are completely evil, exactly like those of al-Qaida. All Arabs, it seems, must pay the price of 9/11.”
What occurred to me is just how willfully ignorant Bush is. He literally acts as if the very few facts he knows about any given situation are the only ones there are.

Incidentally, largely unreported here, the Bush “road map” for Israeli-Palestinian peace, put off for the Israeli elections, and then for the many weeks it took Sharon to cobble together a coalition, has now been postponed until after the Iraq War.

The French also have their minds mind up. Jacques Chirac says, "Whatever happens, France will vote 'no'." I knew the French were big on Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen, but Groucho?
I don't know what they have to say,
it makes no difference anyway
whatever it is, I'm against it!
No matter what it is
or who commenced it,
I'm against it!

Your proposition may be good,
but let's have one thing understood
whatever it is, I'm against it!
And even when you've changed it
or condensed it, I'm against it!

Conversely, though, the Bushies, faced with a possible loss in the Security Council, Monday were saying that they were flexible about the content of the resolution, which means, presumably, that those countries they coerced or bribed into promising their vote were signing a blank check. Whatever it was, they’d be for it.

The House of Representatives cafeteria now serves “freedom fries” and “freedom toast.” The French Embassy had no comment, except to point out that french fries come from Belgium.

Monday, March 10, 2003

My relationship to sheep is a bit ambivalent now

The world’s richest nations have given the UN refugee agency 1/4 of what it asked for to deal with the crisis that Gulf War II will cause. I have the sneaking suspicion at least some of this is deliberate, as one of the areas which will be flooded is the northern Iraq Kurdish-run region; this would be one way of over-stressing their resources and forcing the Kurdish government into collapse in advance of its reabsorption by the central Iraqi government. If you follow.

The pope says that Scotland is no longer a Christian country.

Seymour Hersh on Richard Perle’s venture-capital company. Evidently after 9/11 he set this thing up to invest in defense industries, seeing no conflict of interest with his day job in the Pentagon, pushing for wars that would benefit the company. Indeed, defense contractor Boeing found it prudent to invest heavily. Evidently he’s done this before, advising the army in 1983 to give a contract to an Israeli firm that had paid him $50,000 two years before. Another featured player in the article: Adnan Khashoggi of Iran-Contra fame, who helped Perle try to blackmail the Saudis into investing in the company. Asked about the article on CNN, Perle said "Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist."

Speaking of Reagan’s evil-doers, Fox News hired Ollie North to follow his old Marine division into Baghdad. He’s already given up, saying "I'm too old for all this. I'm going back to Kuwait City for a shower and a decent night's sleep."

Li Peng, the Butcher of Tiananmen Square, retires.

Here’s a headline--“Net Closing Around Bin Laden”--that must rival “Time Running Out for Saddam” as the most frequently rerun headline of our time. Pakistani intelligence officials say they are “just hours” behind bin Laden, but don’t say whether that’s by car or by airplane.

N Korea says that the $500 million secret payment it took in exchange for coming to a summit with the South was not a bribe but an expression of brotherly love. I’m suddenly sorry I’m an only child.

George Monbiot’s latest column. He says that the argument that it took 9/11 for the US to start caring what sort of regimes there were in the Middle East is false, since Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Elliott Abrams, etc were demanding the US overthrow Saddam in 1998. Monbiot says that while the overthrow of the Taliban may or may not have improved the lives of Afghans, and the overthrow of Saddam ditto in Iraq, the real worry is the change in the US, which is now feeling empowered to reshape the world.

An interesting interview with the Israeli military refusenik who is Netanyahu’s nephew. While international human rights conventions forced Israel to set up tribunals to assess conscientious objectors, it stocked them with military officers who have never recognized the existence of pacifism.

The Pentagon has hired an art director (just off a Michael Douglas film) to create the set for Pentagon daily briefings during the war. The set’s budget is $200,000. Don’t know if that includes the salary of this guy, who also designed the set for Good Morning America and works with magician David Blaine.

In Norway, a heavy metal band named Mayhem was carving up a dead sheep on stage when the head went flying off and hit a concert-goer, Per Kristian Hagen. He said later: "My relationship to sheep is a bit ambivalent now. I like them, but not when they come flying through the air. I have a headache now." Police detective Carl-Petter Leganger said an investigation has started, but "nothing suggests this was a conscious act".

No kidding.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Journalism delayed

Just received my first feminist Nigerian scam. I’ll pass the whole thing on to anyone who’s interested, but the idea is that this woman’s husband died just as he was setting up a $30 million business deal, and now his wicked family members are trying to cheat her and her daughter out of it because they’re women, who can’t inherit in Nigeria (simply not true).

Utterly repellant website of the week.

You may have heard about Benjamin Netanyahu’s nephew, who will go on trial this week for refusing Israeli military service as a conscientious objector. Naturally, they will come down hard on him. Actually, it’s pretty easy to get out of military service (45% of Israeli men do), and it’s not just for religious loons anymore. The military encouraged this kid to get a psychiatric exemption (as 10% do), or serve in a military hospital, but he refuses to go the hypocritical route. He was examined by the army’s...wait for it...Conscience Committee, which looked at his previous record of refusal to engage in military areas of his school curriculum and came to two conclusions. First, his record of opposition to the army showed he had the character of a warrior and was clearly not a pacifist. Second, the best place for someone like him who refused to submit to authority and discipline was the army.

Next week, Liechtenstein will vote on the prince’s demands for a return to absolute monarchy. Isn’t that quaint?

The Observer, which last Sunday broke the story about the US spying on UN Security Council members, asks why it was big news throughout the world, but ignored by the American media. Well, they asked the NY Times, which 4 days later still hadn’t published anything at all, because the government wouldn’t confirm or comment on it. The Observer commentator commentates, “Journalism delayed is journalism denied.” The Post gave it 514 words, the LA Times rather more, both emphasizing that this sort of thing happens all the time, so that’s all right then.

Britain, along with every other racist European country, which is all of them, wants to deter Johnny Foreigner coming there and claiming political asylum. The latest plan is to send them to Siberia, well ok, Albania, which is arguably worse. The poorest country in Europe has agreed to be the site of detention centers on behalf of other European countries, how many is as yet unknown. The Telegraph notes the travel advisory issued by the Foreign Office on Albania, which says everybody there owns guns, driving there is dangerous, and for god’s sake don’t go to an Albanian dentist.

The US says that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is finally talking. How did they get such an ardent hater of the US to talk, if he really is? Here’s a hint: Pakistanis authorities have been holding on to his 7-year old and 9-year old sons since September, and just transferred them to American custody, where they are being interrogated. That came from the Daily Telegraph, and nowhere else, although it contains quotes from US officials confirming it. The Sunday WashPost has a story on Mohammed which only mentions that his sons were nabbed in paragraph 143, without mentioning their ages or current whereabouts. A long piece in the NY Times about techniques of questioning prisoners fails to mention threatening their children.

Incidentally, did you know he went to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Jesse Jackson’s old school?

A British Department of Education ad for a literacy campaign says "One in five British employees have poor literacy and numeracy skills."

The death toll in the Thai drug crackdown is now...oops, the government has stopped releasing that number.

The UN monitors of the Iraq-Kuwait border, the ones who just reported American incursions, have all been removed.

Maureen Dowd summarizes Bush’s press conference: “Message: I scare.”

Apart from the lack of underpants, it was a conventional operation

2 Hughes Aircraft divisions, neither still owned by Hughes, plead guilty to giving China data rocket & satellite data, and pay a fine. No actual human is held responsible in any way, certainly are not facing trials for treason and possible execution, although the Rosenbergs were certainly electrocuted for less. If only they’d known enough to work for a multinational corporation.

Good piece on the Bush press conference. I’d have to ask what the hell are the “Al Qaeda-type organizations” Iraq is supposed to be funding. (I’d have to ask because none of the reporters did, although the format and Bush’s filibustering/rambling responses prevented there being all that many questions asked to begin with. Joe Conason in Salon points out that no such accusation was made in, say, the last State Dept report on international terrorism.) Bush refused a couple of times to say whether the war would be a failure if it didn’t end in the capture or “accidental” death of Saddam Hussein--like with your father, the reporters were too polite to add. One minor innovation in rhetoric is the new Bush line that if Iraq were disarming, it would be obvious. How that would be obvious, I don’t know, although he did say that inspectors “could have showed up [sic] at a parking lot and he could have brought his weapons and destroyed them.” Yes, that’s how you destroy biological warfare agents. In a parking lot. Hitting them with hammers, maybe. Moron.

Bush’s answers to questions on N Korea don’t seem to have gotten much attention--indeed, those parts of the press conf don’t even appear in the transcript in the print edition of the NY Times. Oddly, he said that North Korean nukes are a “regional issue.” I’m not even sure what that means, but even if it were true, and even if N Korea didn’t have missiles that could reach, well, me here on the West Coast, don’t we have defense pacts with some of those countries in the region? Also, he described the region as including China, Japan and Russia, which is less a region than it is half the world.

He also has what may be a new line on opposition to his policies: asked why “so many people around the world take a different view of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses than you and your allies” he said “I recognize there are people who don’t like war.” And then says that he doesn’t like war either, which was surprisingly not followed by the reporters bursting into laughter. What he’s doing with this line is pretending that real intellectual disagreement is just based on knee-jerk pacifism, and can therefore be dismissed.

Yesterday’s press conference was followed by today’s conference by the arms inspectors. Most interesting was the complete refutation of there being any Iraqi nuclear program, of there being any connection between aluminum tubes, magnets, etc to such a program, and of the claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger. The latter is the most interesting: the evidence cited by British intelligence is forged. Badly.

Not much attention is being given to the sudden appearance of holes in the fence between Kuwait and Iraq, and the foray by US Marines into the neutral zone, which will not only piss off the Romulans, I mean Iraqis, but makes Kuwait a legitimate target and, by the by, is a violation of the cease-fire accords.

A Texas judge gives a gay divorce. This has proven a bit of a problem, since Vermont will let anyone get a gay marriage, but only residents (1 year+) can get divorces there.

The Pentagon refuses to comment on the cases of two prisoners beaten to death, possibly during interrogations, possibly not, at a US military base in Afghanistan.

The DOD’s budget proposals (so why do I have to read this in a British paper and there’s nothing in the Post or NY Times?) include a single line asking to be allowed to develop mini-nuclear weapons. Which, bad enough in themselves, would need to be tested, breaking yet another international treaty.

Dick Cheney sends a letter (on official Office of the VP stationary, yet) threatening a satire site,, which has a moderately humorous (don’t bother, really) parody of his wife.

The US is claiming that Iraq is buying up uniforms like those worn by American soldiers (while refusing to offer any proof). So remember, any soldiers in American uniforms committing atrocities are bound to be Iraqis. Really.

Britain’s Education Secretary’s 16-year old son was suspended from his school for swearing at a member of staff who confiscated his football.

Jörg Haider, the gay neo-fascist in Austria, has started a campaign for independence for Carinthia.

We never hear anymore about the passengers of Flight 93, the one on 9/11 that went down in Pennsylvania, and isn’t that interesting? The only instance of civilians (admittedly doomed civilians) fighting back against terrorists, but it’s been allowed to fade into the background. What should be powerful symbolism is never invoked--when was the last time Shrub mentioned them? I assume it’s for the same reason he refuses to ask for any sacrifices: he doesn’t really want the citizenry participating actively, but rather wants them to view security and safety as one more commodity to be purchased and consumed passively.

Follow-up: I mentioned (2/4/03) that the feds asked a district court judge to dismiss a case by a whistle-blower who was wrongly fired by TRW for pointing out that they were faking Star Wars tests, arguing that this would endanger national security. The case has been dismissed.

From the Daily Telegraph:
Worldwide: Police accused of using witchcraft to catch fugitive
By Margaret Wilson in Lusaka

Claims that the Zambian police removed their underpants in order to search more effectively for a fugitive are the latest bizarre revelation in a row about the role of witchcraft in the capture of Zambia's most wanted man.

Katele Kalumba, former foreign minister, vanished three months ago after his arrest was ordered on charges of plundering the nation's resources. Despite the best efforts of a large team of police and reported sightings from as far as Belgium, he was living undetected in a tent on his farm in north-western Zambia.

Police say witchcraft lay at the heart of his elusiveness and they displayed an assortment of "magical objects" found in his tent when they finally caught up with him.

Black arts, and the fear of them, bubble just below the surface of life in Zambia. Police have been accused of resorting to the services of a witchdoctor to find their man.

Mr Kalumba, 50, disappeared when Zambia's national task force investigating corruption demanded he answer questions relating to the disappearance of £12.5 million for military equipment, as well as other sums.

Police say he used two witchdoctors to achieve his invisibility and eavesdropped on them with the aid of a wooden fetish doll. They also said he used the screen of his solar-powered laptop computer. "He confirmed he was able to see what was going on through this traditional computer," said a police spokesman.

As it happened, Mr Kalumba voluntarily showed himself to the team that came searching again after a tip-off from a local man. He emerged from behind a shrub too small to hide a man, said the police, adding that he wore charms around his neck and waist.

Now behind bars in Lusaka awaiting trial, Kalumba has denied the use of witchcraft, saying the objects were planted on him.

Police said the case was plagued with strange troubles. Police vehicles would unpredictably run out of fuel or develop mechanical failure; heavy rain would fall from clear skies at key moments.

Even after his capture, they said, Mr Kalumba was able to make himself invisible when the convoy passed through roadblocks on its return to Lusaka. Mr Kalumba and his wife, Lumba, claimed that police resorted to a witchfinder to track him down.

Accusations that police removed their underpants to make the search more effective would be interpreted in Zambia as a sure sign of witchery; black magic is best practised naked.

But police said that, apart from the lack of underpants and their urination on traditional herbs found at Kalumba's hideaway, it was a conventional operation.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Curse be upon your mustache

A Washington Post headline refers to “provocations” by North Korea. Right, they were bothering a spy-plane which was sent to spy on them. The effrontery!

The Arab summit didn’t go especially well, with the Iraqi delegate calling the Kuwaiti a monkey and shouting “God curse your mustache!” Possibly it loses something in the translation (another translation I’ve seen is “Curse be upon your mustache!”, which is arguably more elegant). Here’s a quote from the London Times: “A Kuwaiti Foreign Minister tried to interrupt, prompting Mr Ibrahim to shout: "Sit down, you minion, you agent. Shut up you monkey." There were gasps as some delegates thought that Mr Ibrahim had not said qird (monkey) but kelb (dog - a far graver insult).”

Speaking of something lost, well, gained actually, in the translation: Not having seen the Dan Rather interview with Saddam Hussein, I missed hearing the CBS translator, who had a thick Arab accent--and turns out to have been an American actor faking the accent.

A BBC reporter talking about US arm-twisting at the UN says the message is You’re either with us...or with the French. Ouch.

Don’t remember where I got that story about the members of the Washington state legislature who walked out during a Muslim opening prayer, but the AP version carried in the NY Times misses the key quote I highlighted, “My god is not Mohammed.” Either they didn’t want to make that legislator look like the fool she is, or their grasp of Islam isn’t any better than hers. [Later] I just looked up the story on, and even the Wash. papers don’t carry the quote. Incidentally, she is now claiming that she really left just to get a drink of water. Her husband is a pastor, by the by.

Here’s a Chicago Sun Times columnist on the sudden rise by Khalid Mohammed from Wanted Terrorist No. 22 to top man in Al Qaida, who really made all the decisions, never mind that Osama guy.
Here’s a paragraph:
News reports quoted U.S. officials as saying that Mohammed was like the "Forrest Gump of al-Qaida." His name and fingerprints seemed to be everywhere. He'd been involved in all of al-Qaida's major attacks. But no one had noticed. The class nerd has a way of fading into the background.
Evidently he’s being upgraded because of evidence from one of those oh-so-reliable AQ prisoners. Actually, this guy’s story is really very tangled indeed, with so many lies attached to it that...well, read this story.

Here’s a good terrorist idea: one of those suicide terrorist types infects himself with something like smallpox and just walks around.

An 85-year old retired nurse in Britain says that doctors and paramedics often experience pressure from relatives to revive people who don’t want to be revived. So she’s had “Do not resuscitate” and a heart with a line through it tattooed on her chest.

The Supreme Court rules that a 50-year sentence under the Cal. 3 Strikes law for shoplifting some videos (Cinderella and, ironically, Free Willy) as gifts for the perp’s children is not cruel and unusual. Gray Davis says “This is good for California,” but doesn’t explain how. I take back anything I may have thought about the SFPD’s Fajita Crisis being silly. The perp’s lawyer notes that if he had committed rape, he’d have gotten 8 years because it would have been his first rape.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Bash a Peugot for peace

Prosecutors in New Hampshire say the Catholic Church was wilfully blind to paedophile priests. Probably have hairy palms, too.

Yesterday Israeli troops accidentally kills a pregnant woman when it destroys the house next to hers. Her husband explains that they hadn’t left their house because soldiers warned everyone to stay inside--or else--over loudspeakers.

The Easter Bunny, packin’ heat.

Evidently the US’s spying on UN delegations is not actually news. The guy who broke the story was scheduled to go on NBC, CNN & Fox News, but all three cancelled. Indeed Bulgaria’s ambassador to the UN says it’s a mark of prestige: "It's almost an offense if they don't listen." In the good old days in Bulgaria, of course, the highest social status was marked by the secret police attaching electrodes to your genitals. People put it on their resumes.

And for more about icky things done to genitals.

Speaking of inflated resumes, think Whatsit Mohammed is really the Al Qaida “mastermind” he’s cracked up to be? I had my doubts even before this.

Two Washington state legislators stage a walk-out when the opening prayer is led by a Muslim. One of them, no doubt a religious studies major, says "My god is not Mohammed."

Speaking of intolerance for our enemies, a Nashville radio station hosts a “Bash a Peugot for Peace” event. Note to organizers: how could you tell the difference.

The leaflets being dropped on Iraq.

A BBC interview with Rummy Rumsfeld today. Questions about his role in dealing with Iraq in the 1980s led to him stalking out of the studio at the end. A bit I liked: “DD: How damaging to the war plans is Turkey's refusal to let their bases be used?

“DR: There are workarounds. We'll be fine. Turkey is a democracy, it's a moderate Muslim country, it's a friend, it's an ally in Nato, and they're going through a democratic process, and we accept that.”

Notice how he makes “going through a democratic process” sound like an adolescent rebellion? Like Turkey just had something pierced just to piss off the US?

It’s also the first time I’m aware of where Rummy has been cross-questioned on his use of the phrase “so-called occupied territories.”

A man who escaped a Texas prison by helicopter in 1962 is re-arrested. The police say “You can run, but you can’t hide.” I would say Robert Coney has proven that wrong.

Something I didn’t know: Israeli subsidies to (Jewish) children are sharply progressive. That is, the amount given for the first and second child is half that for the third, ¼ that for the fourth, 1/5 that for the fifth and up.

The part of Kuwait now occupied by the US military and off-limits to Kuwaitis is now up to 50%.

War, what is it good for?

Hell is (for) other people: A Harris poll says that 82% of Americans believe in heaven, while 2/3 believe in hell--and 1% expect to go there.

And half believe in ghosts.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Drunk upon the floor

British journalist Henry Nevinson, re the Black and Tans in 1921, but with perhaps some slight applicability elsewhere: “It is a terrible thing to feel ashamed of the country one loves. It is like coming home and finding one’s mother drunk upon the floor.”

Everybody says that the recently captured Al Qaida guy is a master of disguise, but no one explains why he was disguised as John Belushi when captured.

The last Caribbean who fought in Europe in World War I dies at 105.

A Martin Amis essay on Iraq and Bush, longish but with several quite good bits.

Ah, democracy. The US has evidently told the Turkish government to tell its Parliament to vote again, and this time get it right (arrogantly, the process of unloading military supplies in Turkey went on like nothing had happened). Why can’t they be more like the Bulgarians, whose Parliament offered bases and support without a single no vote? As a communist state, Bulgaria was the most sycophantic puppet of Moscow.

Speaking of countries that are only allowed democracies if they don’t produce governments and policies the US doesn’t like. Yesterday I noted that the US press had mostly missed Bush’s step back on the issue of Israeli settlements, saying nothing had to be done while there was violence and Arafat was in power, the wholesale adoption of Sharon’s ever-increasing list of demands, in other words. What I missed is that the next day Sharon told the Knesset that expansion of the settlements would be a priority--abandoning the pretext that his building boomlet was to accommodate “natural growth.” According to the Israeli defence minister, the current plan for a Palestinian state is 7 cantons based on the cities, with the rest of the West Bank annexed by Israel, with Israel controlling entry into the 7 bantustans.

Another regime change demanded by American conservatives: NBC is being pressured to fire anti-war activist Martin Sheen from The West Wing. Network execs have already demanded that Sheen explain his views.

A leaked Republican party memo on the environment says that they should pretend that there is no scientific consensus on the danger of greenhouse gases. Consultant Frank Lunz writes, “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.” He also says they should never use the frightening phrase “global warming,” but rather “climate change” (and yes, Bush stopped using the phrase last year).

The British advertising regulator bans a McDonald’s commercial because the image of a steak sandwich in the ad looked nothing like the ones they actually sell. A Holocaust on your plate--and the portions are so small!

Yesterday I mentioned text messaging. The BBC has had a competition, classic texts into text messaging.
For ex:

rm rm w4Ru rm? [Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?]

1nc mr un2 T brech dr frnds 1nc mr

0.5a leag 0.5a leag
0.5a leag onwrd
All in T valy o Dth
Rd T 600
"^ T LB!
"Chrg 4T gns" he sd
In2 T valy o Dth
Rd T 600

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.