Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Not spam

My server's anti-spam software has struck again. My last email, dated Tuesday at 8:39 pm, had the subject line “An enlarged prostitute.” This caused the server to add to the subject line a warning that it might be spam. Here’s the funny part: the word that set off the spam detector was not “prostitute,” it was “enlarged,” as in ads for penis/breast enlargement.

So maybe I won’t tell you that scientists have learned how to grow penis tissue in the lab. That’s laboratory, not labrador, and you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Colin Powell’s claim that gunfire was coming from the Palestine Hotel on April 8 was discredited even more thoroughly than I realized: French tv was filming the whole time, and there was no sound of gunfire on the tape.

The Bush admin is asking the Supreme Court not to strike “under God” out of the Pledge of Blind Obedience, saying that the Constitution “does not forbid the government from officially acknowledging the religious heritage, foundation and character of this nation.” What religious foundation and character would those be? I would also note that Bush said earlier in the week (re Iraq) that freedom was a gift from God, and not from, oh, say, institutions created by man. Actually, if you put everything together, Bush is saying that freedom was a gift from God to the United States, and that freedom in places like Iraq is a gift from the US. Although Rumsfeld has emphatically ruled out Iraq ever being ruled by government that acknowledges the “religious heritage, foundation and character” of Iraq.

As expected, on Thursday Bush will declare victory. The Independent headline: “The War is Over (Except for Iraq).” And especially, except for Fallajuh, where US troops shot dead 2 more people today, who were protesting the killing of 13 or so protesters yesterday. Once again, no American soldiers were even injured. I forget, why was Saddam bad? Something about oppressing the people. The fake mayor of Baghdad, the US says, will be held for a very long time, without trial of course.

Bush has chosen a civilian administrator for Iraq, one L. Paul Bremer, former head of the State Dept’s counterterrorism office (and then in Kissinger Associates). In other words, someone whose qualifications have nothing to do with rebuilding Iraq and everything to do with the US’s interest in neutering Iraq.

Rummy is in Iraq. He broadcast to the Iraqi people, telling them all about his grandchildren (really). He said that there is more food, water and electricity in Iraq than under Saddam--remarks which would have pissed Iraqis off, had any of them had electricity with which to view the broadcast. He called for them to provide information on “foreign fighters,” who are there “seeking to hijack your country for their own purpose.” Whenever an American talks about foreign interference, I’m reminded of my stay in Cambridge in 1983. After a couple of weeks, a lot of us Americans were complaining about those noisy foreigners (i.e., Italians and Germans).

He is visiting the country for the first time since 1984, when he went to sell a pipeline to Saddam. And here’s a story about Rummy being on the board of a company that won the contract to build nuclear reactors for North Korea. Astonishingly, at the same time, he was chairing the “Rumsfeld Commission” on missile threats to the US, which concluded that NK could strike the US within 5 years (this was in, uh oh, 1998) and that it was using those reactors to build nukes. Why don’t we just find out which countries he did business with, and bomb them all?

You may remember that the BBC had Brits vote on the Top 10 Britons of all time, with Churchill beating out Shakespeare as top bulldog. The Germans will do this next, but their options will be circumscribed: Steffi Graf yes, Adolf Hitler no.

I said again recently that the Russians lied about the number killed in the theater siege. Sure enough, at least 40 more are dead. And some of the survivors are not at all well.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

An enlarged prostitute

Heard a story on NPR that hasn’t made the papers: the US, working through a private company, has bought up voter registration information in a number of Latin American countries, including Mexico, Nicaragua and Colombia. Which aren’t supposed to be sold in the first place. The INS and Justice now hold lists that include addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth.

I’ve really got to get one of those tv’s with closed captioning. Last week ABC News’s closed captioning said that Alan Greenspan was in the hospital for an enlarged prostitute. I understand that’s a problem with older men, and can be very painful.

To combat SARS, the respiratory illness so dangerous that it is both serious *and* acute, Beijing has closed all schools, libraries and most hospitals. So just like California under the next budget, then. Also theaters, movies, karoake. So just like the Taliban, then.

As of this writing, it is not clear whether anyone in the crowd of Falluja protesters actually fired at the school taken over by US soldiers (what is it with all the occupations of kiddie parks and schools, anyway?). I’ve seen reports which say there are bullet holes in the school, and reports which say there are none. Quite possibly shots were only fired into the air, in the moronic but traditional custom of celebrating Saddam’s birthday (have a happy, Saddam!). What is clear is that there are scores of bullet holes in buildings opposite the school, because US soldiers fired on a crowd consisting largely of children and teenagers, with machine-guns. 15 dead by the latest count, countless wounded. The American version would be strengthened if a single soldier had a single bullet wound, but nope. They are pulling out of the school, though.

Similarly, the US is going to pull its bases out of Saudi Arabia and use Qatar instead, which leaves the burning question, do even the Qataris know how to pronounce Qatar, or do they just pretend to cough every time they have to say the name of their country aloud? Anyway, it took a year and a half after 9/11, but Osama bin Laden has finally won the most important of his goals, getting US troops away from the holy sites. Obviously the plan was pretty darned subtle.

“Jerry Springer--The Opera,” premieres in London.

The Supreme Court refuses to hear a challenge to S Carolina’s dangerous licensing laws for abortion clinics, including full access by the government to patient records, and requiring the presence of a member of the clergy. I mean, how could that last possibly be constitutional? Who is the government to say who is or who is not a member of the clergy? The mere requirement amounts to saying that some people are closer to God, if there were a God, than others, which besides going against the principles of half the major religions, including Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, entails government licensing of the clergy. The state of SC said the clergy requirement was “sensible” because “the fact that to many female believers, the potential impact of the abortion transcends secular psychology and may well have ramifications for her ‘immortal soul.’” Oh, ok, because until I saw that I was thinking it was none of the state’s business.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

But is it art? Actually, who cares, as long as there are naked people

Clarification: when I said that HIV-positive men can father children, I of course meant through IVF, after a “cleaning” process. So don’t try this at home.

The Pentagon decides its troops know everything about keeping the peace that they need to know, and will close down the Peacekeeping Institute at the US Army War College.

In the Independent, “Revealed: How the road to war was paved with lies.” Pretty much what it sounds like.

Follow-up: Hamburg, NY has declined to change its name. Turns out Hamburg is where the hamburger was born, in 1885. The PETA guy says that veggie burgers are a nutritious alternative and animals don’t have to suffer. Unless you count humans as animals, and humans are the ones expected to eat the wretched things.

I’m told by a recipient of this list who can read Norwegian that that amusement park had no children in it when the US soldiers ran the naked looters through it, because it is occupied by the US military, which is using it to store weapons. And that way there are no lines for the rides. No kids, but there certainly were photographers, weren’t there? The article also explains that Iraqis find public nudity very humiliating, something which Norwegians, who enjoy being naked in public, might need explained to them, my informant points out.

Norway’s equality chief (who should start with her own job title) has urged a change in crosswalk signs to more gender-neutral stick figures. Norway’s current signs feature a man in a hat (or possibly a lesbian). No word in the Agence France-Presse story about whether the figure wears anything besides a hat.

You know, somewhere there must be a website devoted to crosswalk figures throughout the world. It might even be fun. I remember noticing that the figure in West German signals walked a lot faster than the one in East Germany.

The Day the Fake Laughter Died: Charles Douglass, inventor of the laugh track, has died.

Attorney Gen Ashcroft “rules” that illegal immigrants who aren’t criminals or terrorists or anything can be detained indefinitely, without any investigation to determine whether the individual poses any sort of threat. The case was of a Haitian, and the reason Ashcroft gives for imprisoning him is that releasing him would encourage other Haitians to come which would strain “homeland security resources.” In other words, imprison an innocent man indefinitely purely to send a message to others. How many concentration camps does this country now run, in which people are incarcerated without any legal process?

Shrub gives an interview to NBC, which I did not watch. The NY Times says it “provided rare access to the president’s thinking.” The horror, the horror.

Here’s the “president’s” thinking on the Dixie Chicks: “They can say what they want to say. And just because--they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out. You know, freedom is a two-way street.” True as far as it goes, but the--here come those quote marks again--“president of the United States” just endorsed a boycott of artists who speak out against his policies.

And a reminder of other blacklist activities: Martin Sheen seems to have survived the impeachment campaign against him, but he did lose a car commercial, and Janeane Garofalo, who was supposed to have a sitcom in the fall, no longer does.

Bush said that "on bended knee to the good Lord, I asked Him to help me to do my job in a way that's wise". So that would be a “no,” then.

US troops from the 422nd Irony Battalion arrest the self-proclaimed mayor of Baghdad for “exercising authority which was not his.” Those exercising authority which evidently is theirs include the so-called technocrats, the Iraqi exiles just flown in. Most of them refuse to be identified by name, because they don’t want to be killed.

Bush’s little exploitative gesture of holding the R. convention in September 2004 puts it past the deadline to be on the ballot in several states, including California, heh heh heh.

Talks over Northern Ireland, conducted entirely through the media as near as I can figure it, are still going on, with the British and (for once) the Irish governments trying to get the IRA to say that the war is over. Jeez, how hard is that, Putin has declared the war in Chechnya over half a dozen times, Bush is supposed to declare Gulf War II over this Thursday, and nobody expects that to stop us killing Iraqis. I think Gerry Adams’s statements have been as clear as anyone could expect on the subject, but they keep demanding more clarifications, which will never be enough for David Trimble. Anyway, the Northern Ireland Assembly is still suspended, which may mean that the elections scheduled for a month from now may occur, even though they will be to a body that doesn’t actually technically exist. “Vote for me, I won’t do anything.” Pretty appealing, actually.

Bush says he would invite the new Palestinian prime minister to the White House “one of these days,” but only if he wasn’t in the company of Arafat (who was actually elected to office, unlike Mr. Abbas, or indeed Bush). The thing is, that statement is pure posturing. Arafat is under house arrest, still, and if he left the country, the Israelis would refuse to let him back in. Today, Abbas said that he will refuse to go to Washington, or anywhere else, until Arafat’s freedom of movement is restored.

US forces in Iraq seize the six of clubs. Not a person, just the six of clubs.

A children’s hospital in Iasi, Romania has decided that it no longer has enough money to pay for dialysis, and so will let children with kidney failure die. What it does have money for is new armed guards to keep journalists out of the hospital.

The pope, as ever working for religious intolerance, is to make a saint of a friar who worked to keep Turks out of Europe. And in the process invented cappuccino.

From the Daily Telegraph. There is a picture in the story. I have appended a picture from the guy’s website. There is also a piece by the paper’s art critic, who participated in the piece.

Friday, April 25, 2003

If my liver makes people talk about the issues then some good will come of it

I bought a package of chicken breasts from Safeway, and found there was also what appeared to be a tentacle.

This is a Norwegian newspaper. The picture at the top is of American soldiers with some Iraqi thieves they have caught, and decided to punish by burning their clothes, writing “Ali Baba--thief” on one, and marching them naked through a park. Which looks an awful lot like a kiddie park, so you can see why marching naked men through it seemed like a good idea. (This story does not seem to run in either the NY Times or the WashPost, although a couple of British papers have it--par for the course. Only the Norwegians have pics.)

Colin Powell writes to the Spanish foreign minister defending the soldiers who shot up the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing among others a Spanish cameraman. He repeats the story that they were responding to fire from the hotel, which was categorically discredited more than two weeks ago. But then this is the man who first investigated My Lai and claimed nothing happened.

Headline: “Dixie Chick Regrets Choice of Words.” Which word? Dixie, or chick?

Bush finally comes out in defense of Rick Santorum several days after Senator Sanctimonious made his original homophobic remarks. Meaning that like with Trent Lott’s racist remarks a few months ago, he decided to wait until he found out whether there’d be political fallout, and in this case decided that there wasn’t. The weather vane has spoken: gay-bashing is officially acceptable. As long as it’s “inclusive,” I guess. Here’s an exchange from a Friday press conference:
Reporter: What's the president's beliefs about homosexuality?

Ari Fleischer: You know, that's a question that's been put to the president, and if you go back and you look at it, the president has said that, first of all, he doesn't ask that question about people. He judges people about who they are, their individual soul. That's not a matter the president concerns himself with. He judges people for how they act and how they relate, and that's his focus on that.
As to whether private sexual acts should be illegal, Fleischer said that he couldn’t comment about matters before the Supreme Court. (Remember that the court case is from Texas, from when Bush was governor).

The US (motto: do as we say, not as we do) has accused N Korea of blackmail. And prepares to retaliate against France for not doing exactly what we wanted. Actually, the only use to which nuclear weapons have ever been put (since August 9, 1945, anyway) is blackmail. That’s what they’re for.

The US is also blaming Iran for stirring up the Shiites in Iraq against America. You don’t think all those bombs might have something to do with why they aren’t all that thrilled with us?

Another questionable miracle of modern medical science: it is now possible for men with HIV to safely father children (because the virus is carried in the semen, not the sperm).

The president of PETA has willed that after death her body be barbecued, except her feet, which will be cut off to make umbrella stands, her skin, which will be turned into leather products, her liver sent to France, because “If my liver makes people talk about the issues then some good will come of it.” Oh, and some part of her heart buried near the Formula One track in Germany. That one’s not a protest, she just likes car racing.

In South Wales, a man in court for sending offensive emails to a company which wouldn’t hire him, produces a character reference from the pope. Which was fake. (“Papal Bull,” the Daily Telegraph headline read)

A rather impressive suicide. A builder constructed this elaborate thing involving a timer, a jigsaw cutter and a guillotine. It took three months. To build I mean, not three months to cut off his head.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

One thing's for certain...

Bush says, “One thing's for certain, Saddam Hussein no longer threatens America with weapons of mass destruction.” Certain, except for the fact that we don’t know where either Hussein or the weapons actually are.

More Bush logic: “Some in Congress say the plan is too big. Well, it seems like to me they might have some explaining to do. If they agree that tax relief creates jobs, then why are they for a little bitty tax relief package?” So if we eliminated taxes altogether....

Actually, he’s used that type of argument before. On Iraq, in March: “These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it.” Basically, if you show any willingness to compromise with Bush, he claims you accept all his premises and are therefore a hypocrite for not following him 100%.

Card #11 was captured today (well, turned himself in, as most of them have--we’re just not very good at finding stuff or people in Iraq). Leaving the question, where are all these prisoners disappearing to?

One place they’re not going is the witness box. The Justice Department is trying to deny Zacarias Moussaoui the right to question an Al Qaeda leader in US custody. Justice is saying that intelligence-gathering comes above, well, justice. OK, it’s actually fine for the government to decide that, but in that case it doesn’t get to have both, and Moussaoui should be free to go.

Some peace activists allege that they’ve mysteriously wound up on the FAA “do not fly” list, a list which is supposed to be for terrorists, not pacifists, and certainly not people who just happen to be critics of Bush.

The talks with North Korea are going well. Really. Remember how the talks to end the Korean War went on and on and on, taking months just to decide the shape of the table? Well here at the very first meeting, the N Korean delegate says, yeah we have nuclear weapons, we may test them, we may use them, we may sell them, and then said, and this is evidently a quote, What are you going to do about it? Now that’s rapid progress!

You’ll remember a Florida law insisting that women giving up babies for adoption recite their sexual histories for the court. This just got struck down.

Montana culture

I don’t know what it is all of a sudden with the Nigerian email scams I keep getting. Today's has a nice twist: it claims to be from the son of Laurent Kabila. In fact, the particular sum of money, 25% of which can be mine if I provide my bank account number, was intended to buy arms from South Africa. And I can tell you, people don’t just give bank account numbers--my answering machine message has asked for that information for a month and no one has yet provided it.

As predicted, Iraqi Shiite gratitude to the US lasted about a nanosecond. Either they have really short memories, or they were too busy with the pilgrimage for the anniversary of the death of Mohammed’s grandson in 640 AD.

Montana’s legislature breaks up without even voting on an open-container bill. Let me introduce you to one of the few supporters of drinking and driving, Jim Shockley (R-Denial), who says, using an odd definition of the word culture, “If they don’t like our culture, they should go somewhere else.” But if they do that, they might want to avoid driving there, cause it’s kinda dangerous.

The US says it opposes “any outside interference” in Iraq. I assume that’s a joke. [Later:] evidently a NY Times story I haven’t seen yet (damned ink on paper slowpokes) on this very subject also says that the US is trying to assist certain clerics, but, shh, don’t tell anyone. Still, there was absolutely no hint in the warning to Iran that there might be something funny about it, nor in the story in the WashPost about the unelected mayor of Kut, who simply walked into the mayor’s office and took over, like Jay Garner didn’t just do the same to a presidential palace.

Weasel words of the week: Ari Fleischer explaining why Bush hasn’t said anything about Santorum’s anti-gay comments: “the president typically never does comment on anything involving a Supreme Court case.” Bill (“The Cat Vivisector”) Frist says that Santorum is actually a voice for inclusion and compassion in the Republican Party. Richard Cohen of the Post suggests that that’s a pretty low bar.

The WHO says that people should avoid travel to Toronto. Canadians are furious, which actually looks a lot like Canadians being calm, or bored, or euphoric.

The US military (finally) admits that some of those held at Guantanamo are 13-15 years old. Guantanamo now has a juvenile wing. And we’re bitching about what the Cubans are doing with the part of the island we’ve graciously left in their hands.

Etch-a-sketch online. Literally seconds of fun. But what sort of person does it take to figure out how to use a computer to cheat at the etch-a-sketch?

The US has captured 10 of the 55 cards in Iraq, and whoever came up with that pack of cards thing must be pissing themself laughing at how the media ran with it. Forget the tv news graphics, the bloody NY Times shows a drawing of the appropriate card whenever one is captured. You know they never even issued these things to actual soldiers and only ever printed 200 sets? It was aimed right at the media from the beginning, forces them to print every time another of Saddam’s second cousins or whomever is captured, as if it were some major triumph. They still haven’t captured so much as a Saddam stunt double, but this gimmick still lets it look like progress is being made, at least in the capture of people on a list chosen by some process that no media outlet I’ve seen has even bothered trying to examine. Oh, and quite a few of the 10 have been “captured” by Chalabi’s mercenary forces, who were just airlifted into the country a week or two ago, a suspicious level of success which suggests that the cards are marked (sorry).

Bush is pressuring Congresscritters, including those of his own party, by sending Cabinet members and himself to 30 states, a tactic the Bushies are calling “flood the zone,” evidently a football term of some sort. The Daily Show notes that the Democrats will respond with their own sports strategy: the asthma note from home.

Which is really too sad to be funny. The R’s just announced plans to push their 2004 convention back a month to hold it--in New York, yet--right before the anniversary of 9/11, in a cynical attempt to exploit it for partisan advantage. So where are the howls of outrage from Democrats that should have followed? I suspect a good many Americans would share that outrage with only a little bit of prodding. I mean, I personally experienced disappointment. I used to express wonder at the fact that I expected almost nothing from Clinton and yet he still somehow managed to disappoint me, but before this week I never felt disappointment at Bush--shock, disgust, outrage, amazement, sure, but never disappointment.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

You have the right to anything

A story in the Monday NY Times says that the Bush admin is making decisions about what procedures and drugs Medicare will cover based on costs. No kidding. We’d have a much more rational discussion about health care in this country if there wasn’t this fantasy that there is some system possible in which health care isn’t rationed in some way. Some of the Times’s examples, though, are new drugs that Medicare refuses to pay for because it insists they are “functionally identical” to cheaper older drugs, and this raises some questions. Either Medicare is practicing medicine without a license, or the FDA is so much the instrument of the pharmaceutical industry that it is licensing drugs it is legally required to reject (new drugs not only have to pass tests, but they are supposed to be rejected if they are not in some way an improvement on existing drugs). Either Medicare or the FDA is lying.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Homophobia) clarifies his earlier remarks, saying that he has nothing against homosexuals, just homosexual acts. So that’s ok then. In case you missed the earlier remarks, they were: “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.” Rick, you have the right to remain silent--use it.

The official state sport of Maryland is jousting. Oklahoma’s official state meal is okra and chicken-fried steak, which sounds suspiciously like a prisoner’s last meal. However, Pennsylvania is deadlocked on the issue of a state cookie, with the state senate supporting the chocolate chip, the house of reps the Nazareth sugar cookie. (Oddly enough, these facts derive from 2 different articles I happened to come across today, just a couple of days after Chris, using his period of unemployment to maximum effect, called to regale me with the lyrics of state songs he’d found on the web (“Here We Have Idaho,” indeed). One article went on about the politics behind making the official dance of half the states the same one, Western Square Dancing, which evidently has a particularly vicious lobbying group.

A McNeil-Lehrer piece on non-citizens in the US military didn’t quite suggest the extent to which citizenship is being held out as bait to get foreigners to fight our wars for us. Of the 1st 10 Californians who got killed in Iraq, 5 were not citizens, which is exactly in line with recruitment in southern Cal.

PETA (motto: Providing Straight Lines for Late Night Comedians Since 1987, Despite Having No Sense of Humor Ourselves) wants Hamburg, NY to change its name to Veggieburg.

Russian train conductors were hospitalized following a contest that involved smashing their heads repeatedly against a train window to determine who had the strongest forehead.

Viceroy Jay Garner (whose last nation-building effort was the highly unsuccessful Strategic Hamlets program in South Vietnam) arrives in Baghdad, finally, takes over a palace, and said "The new government of Iraq will have one leader, one army, one government." Probably sounded better in the original German. For details on the selection process, click here.

Garner also said that the new government would be a “mosaic.” My computer dictionary defines a mosaic as a picture or pattern produced by arranging together small colored pieces of stone, tile or glass. Which is I guess pretty much all the bombing left.

Note also that while Bush said that after World War II “we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments,” we actually occupied Japan until 1952 and Germany until 1955 (Berlin a lot longer). Oh, and we currently have 69,000 troops in Germany and 40,000 in Japan.

A Times op-ed headline: “The King is Dead, Long Live the Ayatollahs.” (And a good line from that piece: “A Bechtel contract is not a constitution.”) Fascinating how much moral influence the mullahs seem to have in Iraq. Makes you wonder where they’ve been all these years. Anyway, some of the looters are returning goods because a cleric issued an edict forbidding their wives having sex with them until they did.

The ayatollahs are spreading rumors that female British troops wear very short skirts (must be an Austin Powers thing) and the male troops are distributing sex pictures to women and children.

Speaking of freedom, Pizza Hut and Burger King have already moved into Iraq (in the British bases in Basra, anyway).

Sunday, April 20, 2003

I would suggest he not pop his head up

There’s nothing like the current Bush administration to make you regret the times you rolled your eyes while listening to a conspiracy theorist or told some reductionist Marxist that the world was really more complicated than that. Evidently, it’s not. Now, corporations are buying legislation directly; the US is turning its attention from Iraq to the next country on Israel’s enemy list and is planning a pipeline to deliver Iraqi oil to Israel; the only Iraqi government office in Baghdad that wasn’t bombed was the oil ministry, which was also the only place protected by troops from looters on day one of the occupation; and the media, well....

I hate to think the world is really this unsubtle, but Time magazine recently pulled from its website an article it published in March 1998 by George Bush the Elder and Brent Scowcroft, giving reasons they didn’t remove Saddam Hussein in the 1st Gulf War. It even airbrushed it from the Table of Contents for that issue (incidentally, that issue is “premium content,” meaning that you have to have paid them in order to access it, so the removal of the article is also a rip-off to whoever pays them for premium content). Anyway, if you want to read it (I didn’t), it’s archived here.

So possibly the conspiracists had it right all along. Maybe we should all take another look at the Trilateral Commission.

Here’s a nicely appalling anti-abortion parody.

Rumsfeld says that the US probably can’t find Iraq’s weapons without someone leading us to them. So what’s the point of having a CIA, NSA, DIA, etc? Let’s abolish them and just post a $1 billion reward every time we want information like this. Even the British Tories are saying that if Blair doesn’t produce evidence about WMDs there should be an investigation as to whether the intelligence services misled the government. No one is making such a demand in this country.

Trouble in paradise, or at least Baghdad: the #2 man in Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (which is neither Iraqi nor national nor a congress) has declared in favor of an Islamic theocracy (and named himself mayor of Baghdad and lord of all the rubble he surveys). Chalabi denies any such intentions. When the CIA was giving all that money to the INC, did it know about this? According to “Mayor” Zubaidi, he was chosen as mayor not by reverse alphabetical order as you might imagine, but by “tribal leaders and educated people, the doctors of the city and other prominent leaders.”

The US is meanwhile restoring Baathists to power, if they ever left. In fact, that general who was just captured, who had been in charge of the chemical weapons program, well, the US military just offered his brother his job back. He works at the oil ministry.

Remember the restaurant the US allegedly bombed in an attempt to assassinate Saddam? It’s reopened. This is possible because all 4 bombs missed, hitting civilian houses. The restaurant turns out to be pretty down-market too, not really Saddam’s style--$1.50 chicken, not gold toilets--so he was probably never there to begin with. Bush’s advice to Saddam today: “I would suggest he not pop his head up.” Why? It’s hard to see him being in much danger from us.

Bush spent Easter with two of the POWs, like they haven’t suffered enough. Have you noticed that our designated heroes from this war are all POWs? I think it’s a post-9/11 thing that even during a war of conquest, the US celebrates its “victims.”

Bush says that Syria has gotten the message. “I'm confident the Syrian government has heard us.” Yup, those were pretty loud explosions.

Slovakia, which is not Slovenia no matter what the Bushies think, has signed a deal with the Vatican on “freedom of conscience,” which of course means no such thing. Under it, no doctor will have to give an abortion, teacher teach sex ed, judges can throw out divorce applications on religious grounds, etc etc. Like Poland, when it joins the EU it will demand an opt-out on “cultural” issues, like giving equal rights to gays.

Have I ever mentioned the tv-parody website If not, now I have. In the current one, I esp like the idea of a youth-oriented news programme [the site is British] called “Now ’n Shit.”

I’m going over the links archive at dead website, since it is bound to be pulled at some point. Expect some odd links over the next little while, such as:

A concentration camp made of Legos.

Or torture devices and scenes of industrial accidents, also made of Legos.

How to cure depression. You won’t believe me if I tell you the title, so just click (make sure you scroll down to the other suggested books).

How to live forever.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Saddam and the Elvis factor

Here’s a cute story that 6 Congresscritters--Reps. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; Mike Doyle, D-Pa.; and Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev. and Sam Brownback, R-Kan.--live in Washington in housing subsidized by a secretive religious group. Isn’t that special?

Lacking a DSL line, I usually keep at least 2 windows open while web-surfing and click between them while 1 is loading an article. Sometimes you get odd juxtapositions. A NY Times story on the Daily Show in the arts section quotes a segment from a couple of weeks ago:
When Mr. Stewart asked Mr. Colbert for his take on whether Saddam was dead or alive, the correspondent answered, "One thing is certain: If Saddam is dead, it greatly reduces his ability to control Iraq." But wouldn't his death end his control entirely? asked Mr. Stewart. Not necessarily, argued Mr. Colbert: "When this man appears in public no one is sure it's actually him, and yet he's held an iron grip on power since 1979 — 24 years of brutal dictatorship, all while only maybe existing. The point is we can kill Saddam Hussein but we won't win the war until we kill the idea of Saddam Hussein. So what we need to do is develop bombs that kill ideas."
And over in the Telegraph a story says that with footage of Saddam continually popping up after the US says he’s dead, no one in Iraq will believe he’s dead even if a body is produced--the “Elvis factor,” as it is called.

As worried as I was that American imperialism would be buoyed by a victory in Iraq achieved at a low cost in American lives, and with all those POWs back and happily negotiating movie-of-the-week deals, there is some hope in the attitude of the Iraqis and in the Pentagon’s staggering ability to lose the peace. If the Iraqis ever danced, it was the minute waltz, so quickly did their attitude turn from Hey, thanks for the liberation to Why are you guys still here?, and What have you done for us lately? They’re already asking why they should have to pay for contracts they never signed with American companies that were certainly not the lowest bidders and which never contributed to the election campaign of any Iraqis. I suspect we can also whistle for those four permanent bases the US wants--no Iraqi politician can survive as a perceived American puppet: just look how fast Chalabi’s star waned. This is what happens when your motives are in doubt: even the Iraqis who see this as a liberation believe that for the Americans liberation was only a happy coincidence to their real motives, oil and empire. So they see no reason for gratitude, and they’re right (also, we didn’t ask for gratitude, which they might have been willing to give, we simply imposed Bechtel and Haliburton and Jay Garner and the permanent bases on them). And Iraqi nationalism turned out to be pretty potent.

As for losing the peace, the same power vacuum that allowed all that looting has also allowed in all sorts of Iraqi power-grabbers. Like the Shiite cleric who came from Iran, marched into the government offices in Kut, declared himself the elected governor without bothering with the formality of an election, and the Marines can’t figure out how to get him out. If they ever do figure it out, I hope they tell the rest of us, since we had the same problem in 2000.

The Israeli army assassinated an AP cameraman. This sort of thing has been increasing; they have also been deliberately targeting peace activist “human shields.”

Both the NY Times and the WashPost have stories about Rumsfeld now “standing tall.” Dunno, to me he still looks like Robert MacNamara as a gnome, shorter, wider and squintier.

Some R group I’ve never heard of is attacking R moderates in tv ads digitally inserting French flags.

Here’s a creepy WashPost headline: “Bush to Worship With U.S. Troops in Texas.” Yee ha. Creepier is what Bush said in his radio address: “As a nation, we continue to pray for all who serve in our military and those who remain in harm's way. America mourns those who have been called home, and we pray that their families will find God's comfort and God's grace.” Count me out. Also, the White House Easter Egg roll (how is that different from an Easter egg hunt? [for the purposes of a joke, I will assume no difference])(or from the thing you get in Chinese restaurants?) will be closed to the public, only military families. They are expected to find none of the eggs, but claim that the Easter Bunny smuggled them into Syria.

Oh for fuck’s sake--the US plans to build a pipeline to send Iraqi oil to Israel. That shouldn’t create any sort of backlash at all. Since this isn’t mentioned anywhere else, and the story seems reasonably well sourced, I’ll give the URL.

I haven’t mentioned SARS yet, but shouldn’t China get some sort of spanking for covering up an epidemic for 3 months?

Friday, April 18, 2003

Snow day

Simon Wiesenthal, 94, has decided to retire as a Nazi hunter. Quitter.

Testing mania continues: 4th graders in Massachusetts took the state’s standardized test, and were told to write about their last snow day. This question did not take into account global warming--Boston hasn’t had a snow day in 2 years. So the superintendent ordered all 4th graders to take the test again, presumably asking them about the last time they had to take a pointless standardized test. Only the parents objected, so now parents can opt their kids out.

Cute piece on Chalabi’s first press conference in Iraq, punctuated by gunfire. Says the Indy: “he refused to explain what the flag of his movement – yellow, green and blue with what looked like red cluster bombs in the middle – symbolised.” Asked to explain why his “volunteer” Free Iraqi Forces tell reporters they are being paid $300 a month by him, he says that it’s not $300.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Oil for palaces

Now Bush wants sanctions lifted on Iraq. The problem with that is that the sanctions were not put there because the world didn’t like the old Iraqi government (and even if they had been, there isn’t any new Iraqi government, except for the US military’s occupation government). As the French helpfully point out, there is no evidence that Iraq has disarmed itself of WMDs. Thus is the Bush admin hoist on its own petard (I just looked that up; the metaphor is more violent, and appropriate, than I realized), that is the mid-war change in rationale for that war, from WMDs to “liberation.”

Of course, where it counts, sanctions still exist. For example, Save the Children accuses the US of killing Iraqi children by refusing to let a plane of medical supplies land in northern Iraq. Business as usual then.

Tommy Franks, holding a meeting in one of Saddam’s palaces, jokes that the UN program should have been called oil-for-palaces. Hilarious, Tommy. Maybe you should have thought a little more about how it looked before you decided to take over a frickin’ palace. Still, it’s always nice to take a dump in a gold toilet after you’ve taken a really big dump on an entire country. I noticed all those US colonels were wearing camouflage in the palace; given Saddam’s taste, though, they kinda stood out, which defeats the purpose of camouflage. I think they should all have been wearing Elvis’s old outfits, or Liberace’s.

In the strange allies department, the US, keeping a deal with Iran, according to the Wall Street Journal, bombed some of the guerilla groups that operated against Iran from Iraq.

Michael Kinsley has a cute column in Slate making fun of the huge no-bid contracts to rebuild Iraq. Here’s a paragraph:
It's like getting one of those cards announcing that instead of a Christmas present, someone has made a contribution in your name to some charity you aren't interested in. "Dear American Taxpayer: We are pleased to inform you that in gratitude for all the billions you're going to be pouring into Iraq, the U.S. government has made a sweetheart deal on your behalf with a company you've never heard of." Eighty billion dollars-the size of just the first expense report the Bush administration has submitted to Congress-works out to about $1,000 that needs to be kicked in by each household in the United States. Of course we're putting it all on the credit card, to be paid for in the future, with interest. But it's still real money. If we made a contribution that big to our local public broadcasting outlet, we'd qualify for a CD recording by six, nine, or even 12 tenors. From the Bush administration, we don't even get a tote bag.
He notes the widespread assumption that because we destroyed all those roads and bridges, we should get the contracts to rebuild them. Far be it for me to point out irony, but Michael Kinsley works for a Microsoft company.

A story that has the US already claiming that one reason it can’t find WMDs is that the looting destroyed the records. I of course said that this was coming.

US Marines have been ordered to hand over confiscated assault rifles to Chalabi’s stage army, mostly recently hired kids, who are using them to carjack people.

Another of Vladimir Putin’s critics, an opposition MP, is assassinated.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Pining for the fjords

A good q&a on various aspects of the war (what happened to WMDs, is Chalabi a stooge, did the US violate international law, what about those market bombings, etc etc). A useful recap.

WashPost headline: Hussein's Rule 'Is No More,' President Says. Um, pushing up the daisies, bereft of life, joined the choir invisible...

And today, he says that Hussein’s rule has “passed into history.” Presumably the history 7,000 years of which were just looted or destroyed at the Museum of Antiquities.

Of course today US soldiers finally stop some looting--of a bank. Why did anyone even bother? Do you know how little the dinar is worth right now? Especially since the plates for printing them disappeared with the rest of the Iraqi government. [Later: maybe the bank thing didn’t go as well as previously reported--see London Times story below]

NY Times headline, on the front page: “Free to Protest, Iraqis Complain About the U.S.” That little thing where 10 freely protesting Iraqis were shot to death by US soldiers is confined to page B3, below the fold. This seems to be typical of American media on this one. Among other things. I still haven’t heard a credible explanation, or of any reporter trying to get the story, of how the “flag that flew over the Pentagon on 9/11” just happened to be there when they pulled the statue down. Or the US admit to, or even investigate, those market bombings. One other thing someone pointed out that the US wasn’t investigating: that missile strike on a restaurant that was aimed at killing Saddam and his kiddies. They haven’t dug through the rubble, meaning they already are sure that they missed.

In Moscow theatre news, the musical comedy “Nord-Ost” closes. Management is blaming the incident where 129 audience members were killed (I still say it was a lot more than that, unless you believe that no one died after the first day)--but critics say the musical was never the same after Matthew Broderick left.

The US gov is insisting that severely retarded children, some with IQs under 30, be subjected to testing just like everyone else.

The French, experiencing the tolerance for which they are well known, allow a Muslim Council to be elected. When fundies win 1/3 of the seats, the interior minister threatens to expel any religious leaders who say things he doesn’t like. In addition to the obvious intolerance is the assumption that all fundies are non-French citizens.

Salon piece on little Ali. I hadn’t realized that the US media had been ignoring the story until this week; the British were certainly all over it, like flies on a kid with no arms to shoo them off. The Salon piece (by the way, when Salon makes you watch a commercial to get to their site, just click on “Having difficulties seeing this commercial? Click here” to skip it) says that the Americans are having problems with the fact, even understanding the fact, that the 12 year old hates America for, ya know, crippling him and killing his parents. CNN anchor Kyra Phillips, shocked by this, asked his doctor, “Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning? Does he understand it?"

If Saddam is in Syria, the US plans to go in to snatch or assassinate him, as “hot pursuit,” very much over British objections.

The issue of Nature just out says that the US sprayed 4 times as much dioxin on Vietnam than it has previously admitted, and sprayed areas at much higher levels.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Revenge of the Toddlers

Best terrorist name of the week: Israelis who bombed a high school on the West Bank call themselves “Revenge of the Toddlers.” A Luis Buñuel movie in the ‘70s had a Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus; it’s always nice to see life imitating surrealist art.

The Spectator is already claiming that Syria was part of 9/11.

The most repulsive website ever:

Headline in the Independent: “First Iraq Conference Says Democracy Is the Priority.” Another headline: “American Soldiers Fire on Political Rally, Killing at Least 10 Civilians.” I guess that would be a no. This came right after the new “governor” of Mosul said that cooperation with the US would be necessary. The crowd was unconvinced, and I’m not sure being shot at immediately after made the case.

In the 1920s Baghdad was 40% Jewish. So what happened?

The head of Chile’s secret police under Pinochet is sentenced to 15 years.

In Bridgeport, CT, an 89-year old is being tried for murder for smothering his 85-year old wife of 63 years to end her pain. String him up, I say!

WARNING, my sickest joke ever: Ali, the kid whose arms got torn off by a US air strike, finally flies to Kuwait for medical treatment--and boy are his lack of arms tired!

But seriously folks, I notice that one of the 3 districts into which we’re dividing Iraq--temporarily, like we divided Korea, and Germany, and Vietnam--is named Central. I thought the lesson from South Los Angeles is that there is great stigma attached to the C word, because of the looting and rioting in 1992, which the then-Bush Admin blamed on welfare programs, because they didn’t have Rumsfeld around to explain to them that freedom is untidy (loosely adopted from the Guardian’s US reporter).

I hadn’t thought to do the math before, but even if the US “freed” them, there are 23 million of them, at a cost of well over $100 billion. Yes, you do have to wonder what a similar per capita expenditure could make in, say, Africa.

Goodness gracious, on to Syria!

I’ve mentioned that Israel banned a Palestinian film on the massacre of Jenin. Well, the director of that one just petitioned to stop Israeli tv running a pro-massacre, I mean pro-Israeli, film. He was turned down. And the George Orwell award of the day goes to the Israeli High Court for this: “The right of expression exists in full force even when a differing viewpoint is forbidden due to a legislative arrangement.”

The Guardian explains in more detail exactly what Ahmad Chalabi did to earn that prison sentence he never served in Jordan.

So now our Kurdish allies are ethnically cleansing Arabs. Isn’t that special. And Rumsfeld thinks the looting is ok because everybody will probably give all that stuff back when we ask them. And now the national library has been torched. Book-burning--ain’t freedom grand? At least it gives more scope for those American companies that’ll be providing the new textbooks, and Franklin Graham to bring in lots of Bibles. And Al-Jazeera won’t take commercials from PETA showing animals being killed.

I guess it’s official that we’re going to war with Syria, now that that’s been threatened by Bush and Powell and Ari Fleischer as well as Rumsfeld. At first I wasn’t sure; it could have just been Rumsfeld shooting off his mouth. Think about that: we now have certain people, like Rumsfeld or Wolfowitz, who will casually threaten some country with military devastation in an off-the-cuff comment. That’s how arrogant these people are. Worse, Rumsfeld will probably use some phrase like “goodness gracious” while he’s doing it. Bush said that N Korea is backing down (very very slightly) because they took the lesson of the war in Iraq. In other words, the US position everywhere in the world is now implicitly backed by the threat of military force; we don’t even have to make the threat out loud, it’s just a given. So, Canada, we don’t really want to hear any more whining about soft wood lumber.

What exactly is Syria supposed to have done? There was the night-vision goggles thing--but like Iraqi WMDs, none have actually ever been found. Evidently we also accused Syria of sending gas masks, like (Robert Fisk argues in the Ind.) one country can’t help its neighbor with defensive clothing against an illegal war (and as Fisk doesn’t say, Bush authorized the use of tear gas, in contravention of international law). And some Syrians, like other Arabs, went to Iraq to help fight off the Americans, but, Fisk comments, don’t Jews from all over flock to Israel to help fight all of its wars? I’d add, what about all those foreigners the US uses in its military, who they’re talking about rushing naturalization for. Hell, my great-grandfather was drafted into the Spanish-American War right off the boat. Syria might well have chemical weapons--who doesn’t?, especially in the Middle East--but have for decades without using them and it isn’t against international law because they never signed the chemical weapons convention. And Syria may or may not be “harboring” Iraqi officials, as opposed to, what, honoring its non-existent extradition treaty with the US? And like the US really knows where any of those people are. Probably sharing an apartment with Osama, Mullah Omar et al. We managed to “lose” the entire Republican Guard, the whole Cabinet, and where did all those Saddam doubles go anyway? Can you believe we haven’t found a single Saddam double?

There clearly is no COW for a Syrian war. That and the exclusion of the UN from Iraqi reconstruction are a major kick at Tony Blair, a way of saying that no matter how much support he gives, he has no actual influence.

The Post says the obvious, that the Pentagon plans never to issue a count of Iraqi civilian dead. Because if we don’t count them, they don’t exist.

They say they found downloaded porn at Uday’s palace. I told Chris a couple of weeks ago this would happen. WMDs or not, we always manage to “find” porn in the palaces of people we depose, Noriega and the like.

Am I right that the Iraqi kid Ali with all the missing limbs is not plastered over the American news like he is everywhere else in the world? He’s certainly a big deal in Britain, where they’re all set up to do the surgery that might save his life, and have been for days but the Pentagon, which controls all air flights in and out of Iraq, obviously, has been obstructing it.

A Guardian writer talks about the Gettysburg address. The main speaker was the former governor of Mass., who spoke for two hours, followed by President Lincoln, who took 3 minutes. “and oratory was mercifully never the same again. Nor was the civil war. For Lincoln's conclusion gave the war an overarching purpose: "That the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth." This was not Lincoln's original purpose, which was to preserve the union, but it has given the war an unarguable retrospective justification. To that extent, there is an analogy with the Iraq war, where the liberation veneer was added belatedly to the original casus belli about weapons of mass destruction, which it seems Saddam literally could not use to save his life. But as American wars go, Iraq is far closer to the Mexican war of 1846, another adventure in which the result was preordained and the rationale fuzzy.”

Saturday, April 12, 2003

All Zanzibaris are beautiful

Bush has already used that crowd of literally tens of people watching the pulling-down of the statue (we need a shorthand name for the statue thing--anyone have an idea?) to justify the war. As opposed to a couple of million peace protesters, when it was “you know, size of protest, it's like deciding, well, I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group.”

Zanzibar bans beauty pageants because “all Zanzibaris are beautiful.” Isn’t that special--in a Special Olympics kind of way.

Rumsfeld may have to take back his light-hearted comments about the looting of vases. Robert Fisk visits the National Archaeological Museum and sees some destroyed 4,000 year old Assyrian vases. 50,000 artifacts have been looted. Fisk also says that this is not mere looting, but a civil war between Shiites and the Sunnis who were the ruling class until last week.

The US are recruiting from Saddam’s police force, although they are evidently not especially well-liked by the populace, despite being called “bobbies” and wearing funny tall hats and saying “Hallo guv’nor” to everyone they passed, when they weren’t attaching electrodes to people’s unmentionables (I may have some of the details wrong). Also, the US is giving a major policing contract to DynCop (a major Republican contributor), despite its record in doing the same job in Bosnia, when they weren’t heavily engaged in white slavery. The Observer had a reporter pretend to be a potential recruit. He was told that he didn’t have to speak Arabic.

Haiti legalizes voodoo marriages, and each one of you can come up with as good a joke as I can on this one.
Goodbye, Frank Burns.

The Italian Supreme Court rules that a woman getting a divorce from a man who turned out to be gay is not entitled to any alimony because it wasn't a real marriage because homosexuals can't properly perform their marital roles. Which is controversial because that's evidently the Vatican's take on the issue, adopted wholesale. Which you can tell because it's both homophobic and, no doubt unlike her husband, screws the woman.

Historian David Irving loses his libel case, as the judge says that he is a racist Hitler-loving, Holocaust-denying asshole. He may not actually have said asshole. But he implied it. As much as I enjoy seeing Irving kicked solidly in the goolies, this is something of a problem for me, since the man is essentially being found guilty (if you can be found guilty in a libel case in which you are the plaintiff) of being a lousy historian. That's more pressure than I care to work under.

Speaking of historical revisionism, someone leaked in light of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, that the massacre was not started by British soldiers but by Martin McGuiness, current Sinn Fein #2, who supposedly shot the first bullet. There is no evidence for this whatsoever.

Back to Irving. He started this libel action with very substantial funds raised by fascists world-wide (notably Florida) who seem to be escaping scot free now that Irving is supposed to be paying a few million in legal costs to Penguin. This is just not right.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Shock and Awe ®

Bush’s judicial appointees are getting wackier. For example, William Pryor, Alabama’s attorney general, nominated to the 11th Circuit. Pryor thinks Roe v Wade is "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history." He indicted Barnes & Noble for selling art books (which he considered child pornography). He says he became a lawyer so he could fight the ACLU. He is against the separation of church & state, supports prayer in public schools and has said “God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians ... to save our country and save our courts.” He supported Ala.’s ban on sex toys and practice of tying prisoners to “hitching posts,” supports executing the retarded, endorsed a bill to let anti-abortion lawyers represent the state against minors trying to get judicial overrides of parental notification. Naturally he supported Ala’s nutty chief justice when he put up the monument to the 10 Commandments. (Later:) the Post has an editorial against Pryor.

On the artificiality of tv views of the big statue-toppling, click here.

This is a must read, because it shows what happens to a story if you pull the cameras back just a little. The scenes of jubilant crowds becomes a few dozen people in a circular plaza with US tanks at every entrance. As the site says (it’s an exaggeration, but not by much), this was a military propaganda exercise that the world’s media lapped up. I wouldn’t make such a big deal about imagery if this war wasn’t such a massive psyop. Even the NY Times has the absurd headline “In Statue’s Fall, Vindication of a Strategy.” It’s been like this since the beginning, with Rumsfeld addressing himself to Iraqis at every briefing, and a bombing strategy described exclusively in psyops terms as “shock and awe.”

Of course for all we know it worked, since it’s only through the grace of, well, someone Iraqi, that the siege of Baghdad wasn’t the weeks-long bloodbath that the Iraqis still retained the ability to make it. In other words, we still don’t know why we won. Some are saying that the very uniformity of the withdrawal, from the Republican Guard right down to the minders for foreign journalists, suggests that some form of command & control still exists.

OK, more information, suspicious as hell: the flag that soldier draped over Saddam’s face was one that flew over the Pentagon on 9/11, which as 60% of Americans--the number is increasing--know, was the day Saddam personally attacked the US. The Pentagon claims it’s just a wacky coincidence that that particular flag happened to be there.

Speaking of being liberated through the power of symbols, the people of South Los Angeles have been freed from the stigma inflicted by the C word.

Uh, that’s “Central,” in case you didn’t catch the reference.

A letter in the NY Times complains that US troops traipsing through presidential palaces and crapping in Saddam’s gold toilets, etc., “looks less like an army of liberation and more like the Visigoths sacking Rome.” Well, like Visigoth’s sacking Siegfried and Roy’s house.

Margaret Warner on McNeil-Lehrer asked a guest why the US is picking Iraqis as leaders who are members of the old tribal religious caste. Um, because Bush and most of the Cabinet are members of America’s old tribal religious caste?

Well, the happy Iraqis are celebrating their liberty by looting UNICEF offices. We liberated them, they’re liberating office supplies. And really large truck tires. Still, Robert Fisk says that they’re actually very polite. When a looter puts his hands on an object, it is his; there are no fistfights or arguments. I said some days ago that the British were literally encouraging looting of Baath party offices as a way of demonstrating the loss of control by Saddam. Maybe today’s shopping frenzy wasn’t quite what they had in mind. Or was it? Fisk wonders how a new Iraqi government will operate when all the old government’s offices have been comprehensively denuded. It can’t, of course, but will be at the mercy of the US. Also, all the government files are gone, giving another excuse for both the failure to find WMDs, and the failure to purge the administration of lower-level Saddam henchmen, evidence against whom just vanished. US marine snipers are also shooting at cars.

Something I didn’t see on my tv (from a Guardian columnist): “Early on, a US infantryman was seen grimly returning fire over a sand dune, then turning to camera and complaining: 'They don't seem to realise we're here to help them.' How odd that they didn't.”

I have to think that our declaration of victory yesterday makes the fact that we haven’t done killing people in Iraq look a lot more like wanton bloodshed. Today they’ve been threatening finally to use that MOAB bomb on Tikrit. They won’t, but they don’t really even have the option, because how do you do that after the war is supposed to be over? I’ve even heard vague rumors of dancing in the streets, but I haven’t seen any yet (unless you count the idiot who stamped on the burning portrait of Saddam--he sort of danced as he tried to put his shoes out).

From the business pages: The day after the war on Iraq began, Sony registered the Pentagon term “shock and awe” with the US Patent and Trademark Office to use in computer games.

Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?

Say, if we build a nice statue of Osama bin Laden, and then pull it down with a tank, can we claim that the war on terrorism is over too?

The NYPD professes to see nothing wrong with interrogating arrested protesters about their political affiliations (pardon me, not interrogating, because that would require the presence of a lawyer; rather, these were “debriefings,” which evidently don’t), but will knock it off anyway.

Another day, another extreme right-wing judicial nominee. For the Federal District Court, one Dr. James Holmes, who is another rabid anti-abortion activist who believes that rape exemptions are a “red herring” because rapes rarely result in pregnancy, believes that wives should subordinate themselves to husbands, that feminism is evil and leads to contraception and homosexuality, etc etc.

Rumsfeld today once again blamed the media. He thinks that all that looting is actually one guy stealing a vase, but that tv keeps running the footage of that one guy over and over. ("The images you are seeing on television, you are seeing over and over and over. It is the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase and you see it 20 times. And you think, my goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?") Rumsfeld (aka the bull in the China shop) has morphed into the Iraqi information minister before our very eyes. The US and Britain keep saying that it is not their role to stop looting. Actually, under those pesky Geneva Conventions again, it is indeed the responsibility of the occupying power (as the Internat Red Cross pointed out today). Whose else would it be? Actually, the Kurds did a nice job of it in Kirkuk, but the US has ordered them out because Turkey doesn’t like it.

Bush may have been watching tv this week, but Blair did something much more useful: he recorded his guest appearance on The Simpsons (there is talk of a movie, by the way).

Remember before the 1st Gulf War when that story was faked about Iraqis stealing incubators in Kuwait? You guessed it, Iraqis have today looted the hospitals and stolen the incubators (and ambulances and everything else). Anyone else wondering if these people deserve “liberty”? Some of the looters were assisted by Marines. Well, the looters told them that the shopkeeper (this is in Baghdad), who was defending his store with a rifle, was Fedayeen, so the Marines shot him...

The “sheikh” the British picked to run Basra, whose name they wouldn’t even release for days (possibly the only reason he’s still alive, unlike that Shiite cleric who was hacked to death; British troops had to stop a mob going after His Sheikhiness today), turns out to be a former Iraqi general in Saddam’s army.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

No relationship with Saddam

My mother sent an ad from the LA Times for the 99¢ Store chain which says that due to customer pressure, they refuse to sell the following French items: Dom Perignon Champagne, Louis Vuitton Purses, and Peugeuots.

Also a cartoon explaining the extinction of the unicorns, with security at Noah’s arc refusing to let them on because they were carrying sharp objects.

A Brit living in France named Eric Bush, age 72, decided to change his name to protest the war (to Buisson, French for Bush).

I can’t keep up with the changing roster of Republican assholes like I used to. For ex, there’s one Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wy) who in a debate over exempting gun manufacturers from lawsuits, said “One amendment said we couldn't sell [guns] to anybody that was on drugs or had had drug treatment or something like that. Well, so does that mean if you go into a black community, you can't sell any gun to any black person?” She was also in the middle of some point that centered around her children having blond hair and blue eyes; I’ve looked in a couple of papers and can’t find out what; possibly she was interrupted by angry black people before making her doubtless scintillating point. I have found out that she supports bear-baiting, which doesn’t mean what it did in the 19th century. The R’s backed her right to make such comments.

This follows Ed. Sec Paige’s comments which I alluded to but didn’t quote, and now will: In Christian schools, "the value system is set. That's not the case in a public school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values." Paige used to be superintendent in Houston. Before his time, Houston was faced with a court order to desegregate, and so decided that for the purposes of desegregation, Hispanics counted as white, so they bussed a lot of Hispanic and black kids and left the white kids entirely alone (until the courts told them to stop it).

The Iraqi ambassador to the UN insists that “I have no relationship with Saddam.” Or with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

Matthew Parris, Times columnist, on watching tv coverage of Iraq: “Looters, I suppose, cannot be choosers, and if you break into (say) the regional offices of the Ministry of Public Works, you must take what you find. Pictures of a vase of plastic gladioli waving wildly as their captor scuttled down the road with them will stay with me for life. One man who had looted a swivel-type office chair tore across a lawn with a grin on his face and the chair on his head, upside-down and swivelling.” He also comments that that statue should never have been pulled down by the US marines with a tank, but that the Iraqis should each have been given a rope and left to do it themselves, which would have been a much better symbol. “Instead the confusion about what to do became another kind of metaphor: the Stars and Stripes draped over Saddam Hussein’s head in temporary triumphalism, swiftly thought better of, but too late; a moment spoilt as liberators briefly forgot they were not invaders, or not supposed to be. That, too, will never be forgotten.”

Joe Lieberman, the prig from Connecticut, says of Iraq “History teaches us that if you leave a brutal, immoral dictator with weapons of mass destruction, eventually he will use them.” I just want to point out that Hitler had poison gas and Stalin had atomic weapons.

I’d missed that Viceroy-designate Gen. Jay Garner had signed a statement praising the “admirable restraint” of the Israeli army.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Les Jeux sont faits

The secretary of education Rod Paige thinks we need Christian values in the schools. And that diversity is bad. How did this clown get through? He does say that he’ll pray for his critics. Well fuck you very much!

China stops the UN issuing a statement about North Korea. Now remind me, what was the reaction in the US when France did something similar? We aren’t going to have to rename more stuff, are we? Liberty fire-drills?

An assistant secretary of state threatens Syria, North Korea and Iran with war, telling them to “draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq”. Of course according to Rod Paige, the only appropriate lessons teach Christian values. Asst secy state John Bolton was returning from the Vatican when he made those remarks, so he obviously wasn’t drawing any lessons himself. Link

Similarly, Cheney said that the war sent a clear message to “all violent groups.” And Rumsfeld threatened Syria again.

Some statue was pulled down today. CNN has it on pretty much a continuous loop.

According to CNN, Bush watched tv as the Iraqis toppled the statue. Leave it To Beaver, I believe.

The Iraqis on the streets of Basra celebrated by begging British troops for water or to get off their asses and stop all the looting. Baghdadians also celebrated by looting, breaking and burning stuff, much in the manner of residents of Oakland celebrating a World Series victory.

The US killed 11 Afghan civilians as well, but you’ll never hear another word about that.

Still no WMD’s, and it no longer matters, because if Iraq didn’t use them as it was being actually invaded, it certainly wouldn’t have used them if we hadn’t invaded.

An Indian woman gives birth at 65, setting a record...for stupidity. Yes, fertility treatments were involved. She was been married for 50 years (yes, at 15). Gold, woman, not babies!

From a Guardian columnist: For once in this war, our newspapers have spoken with the same voice. Saddam's taste in palaces is universally considered lamentable. From the Times ("part Alhambra, part Barratt home") to the Mirror ("decadent opulence"), from the Sun ("garish") to the Mail ("obscene"), war correspondents have united in merciless judgment on the dictator's interior design, apparently stunned, as they had not been by his hundreds of self-glorifying murals and equestrian statues, by Saddam's more private fondness for gilt, mirrors and marble, his love of entwined Ss and Hs, his perfectly dreadful, lottery-winner's gold taps.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Finger by finger it's coming off

Clarence Thomas in the cross-burning case: “In every culture, certain things acquire meaning well beyond what outsiders can comprehend.” Which may be the first use of “It’s a black thing--you wouldn’t understand” in a Supreme Court decision. Thomas also astonishingly claims “This statute prohibits only conduct, not expression,” displaying a complete inability to distinguish between symbol and reality. In case anyone here shares that problem, I should explain that when I call Clarence Thomas a horse’s ass, I am being figurative, not literal.

Incidentally, I was premature yesterday. Evidently the Virginia law does ban cross-burning only when done with the intention of intimidation. That makes it almost ok in my book, although not enough so to make it constitutional, since it still bans an expressive act. As I said, burning a cross on someone else’s lawn has to be a crime already, and intimidation is already a crime, for which the burning of a cross could be evidence (but not prime facie evidence, a provision of the act the Court correctly struck down), so there is no good reason to ban it in a separate act.

And I still say a burning cross isn’t quite as scary as, say, a fiberglass bloody Jesus.

A cute Jon Carroll piece on explaining ourselves (and Britney Spears) to the Iraqis. And less politically, Jon Carroll on cats, and copulating penguins.

Puppet-in-training Chalabi’s financial past. Evidently he was on 60 Minutes this week.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the US bomb al-Jazeera during the Afghan war as well? Yes we did, November 2001, I just looked it up. (Later): it gets even better. The same correspondent survived both attacks. So far only Robert Fisk (without whom the Independent would have no reason to exist) dares call the Pentagon’s literal war on the press what it is, murder. The claim that the attack on the Palestine Hotel (and on Reuters’ office) was a response to firing was universally repudiated by every reporter staying there.

Funny headline in the Independent: “UK Forces Invite Religious Leader to Help Run Area as City Is Looted.” Yup, that sounds like a religious leader all right. The British say the religious leaders has “credibility and authority,” which they wisely refrain from undermining by actually naming him.

Are we really supposed to believe that right in the middle of the pulverizing of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein decided to go out to a restaurant, and maybe dancing later? Still, at least we managed to kill a cadre of elite busboys.

Bush and Blair really did meet in Belfast or, as Ari Fleischer called it, Dublin. The Guardian seems to think the Bushies aren’t that engaged with the problems of the Northern Irelanders, as Bush called them.

The Times also makes fun of Bush: President Bush at Hillsborough Castle: “The grip I used to describe that Saddam had around the throats of the Iraqi people are loosening. I can’t tell you if all ten fingers are off their throats, but finger by finger it’s coming off.” The location of Saddam’s thumbs has yet to be revealed.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Human beings are human beings, and things are going to happen

In another stupid ruling, the Supreme Court ok’s bans on cross-burning, saying that it isn’t speech, but intimidation. 1) Nonsense. 2) Intimidation is already a separate crime (the particular case involved white guys burning a cross on the lawn of a black person, which is obviously already illegal, so no ban on cross-burning per se is necessary). 3) They’re complaining about the historical meaning of cross-burning, which is not the province of the courts--individual, present-day cases are. 4) You want to talk about the history of crosses in terrorizing people, go into any Catholic and many Protestant churches and you’ll see crosses with images of some actual guy nailed to them, so you really have to ban all non-burning crosses too, in which case, 5) The vampires win. 6) Not that they don’t have rights too. Still, what do you expect from a country whose soldiers spend all their time tearing down statues and pictures of Saddam Hussein.

Saw one General Benjamin Freakly on CNN talking about supposed chemical weapon components (or pesticides). Suddenly we’re in Dr. Strangelove.

Speaking of people with oddly appropriate names, Otto Reich threatened the Caribbean countries, telling them to shut up about the Iraq war and we’d screw them over bananas (again).

Interesting article on friendly fire. It says that with “smart” targeting systems, mistaken identity incidents tend to be a lot more fatal. Also, with advanced weaponry, there is a premium on being the one to shoot first (and ask questions never). Rumsfeld has given a pithier analysis: “Human beings are human beings, and things are going to happen.” Especially when you decide that equipping military vehicles with friend-or-foe devices is too expensive, as he did in 2001.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

The chick got in the way

Whatever you can say about the “embeds,” they are often there to hear soldiers say stupid stuff, like the Marine who shot a woman for the crime of standing near an Iraqi soldier and said “I’m sorry, but the chick got in the way.”

on the Bush regime’s plans to replace all Iraqi textbooks (You have 7 doubles of Saddam Hussein. 3 are assassinated by Zionist agents...) According to one of the Post’s sources, these books teach Iraqis from an early age nationalism and “the bearing of arms and the constant readiness to fight enemies”. And we’re planning to change all that. I see where France might finally have a role. (I know, I know, but it’s so easy.)

By the way, we know that Afghanistan is now the world’s #1 opium producer. Guess who’s behind Ecstacy? Israel, evidently.

Kinda interesting Robert Fisk report, in which he goes all Sherlock Holmes on a destroyed US tank. On the barrel he finds written “Cojone EH.” Quote: “There was a little difficulty in translating cojones as "balls". We wondered why "EH" – if they were indeed the tank commander's initials – would name his tank after only one testicle. The Iraqis wanted to know why a soldier would call his tank a ball at all.”

Also today saw a BBC report on that friendly fire incident, filmed with blood on the camera lens. Yech. No doubt you can see it on their website, but the text (from a slightly later broadcast than I saw, I think) is here.

Favorite quote “I am sorry to be so excitable. I am bleeding through the ear.”

The Guardian says that the US has secretly flown future Iraqi puppet leader Ahmad Chalabi into the country. Usually when Chalabi flies secretly to another country, it’s to escape bank fraud charges, so this’ll be a nice change of pace.

I also hear that the US is planning to divide Iraq into three zones: leaded, unleaded and diesel.

The US population in prisons and jails has surpassed 2 million. I believe the 2 millionth customer got a free tattoo touting the superiority of the race or ethnic group of his choice. (The 2m. doesn’t include juveniles, illegal immigrants, people in military prisons or indeed Guantanamo).

Under cover of our war, Israel just opened the very first settlement in Arab East Jerusalem (with government approval).

Story about an army chaplain who will only let soldiers take a bath if they listen through a long sermon first and then get baptized.

Still no word as to why that colonel was relieved of his command. The more they don’t talk, the more interested I am. Too bad I can’t say the same about the journalists.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Self-flagellation, sure, but will they dance even one polka?

So we’ve renamed Saddam Hussein International Airport. Evidently we’ve gotten to the “I claim this land in the name of Queen Isabella” stage where we get to name everything. They’re calling it Baghdad International Airport, until they get around to deciding whether Baghdad will be New Dallas, New Crawford or maybe New Kennebunkport. Saddam Hussein himself has been renamed Osama bin Laden. Now that we have the airport, we’re planning to really piss Saddam off by losing his luggage. That just leaves the problem of the airport code (LAX, SFO, that kind of thing). If it’s no longer SDA, it can’t be BDI, which is taken. The Guardian helpfully points out that GWB is available.

Britain’s defense minister Geoffrey Hoon, trying to prove he can be as big an asshole as Rummy, says that the mothers of children killed by cluster bombs in Iraq will one day thank Britain.

Guardian on some of the mysteries of the war. Including what happened to the electricity in Baghdad.

Times on why we are encouraging Iraqis to loot.

The Shanghai Communist Party has resumed use of the title “comrade.” Only problem is, the term now pretty much means homosexual, a usage spread to the Mainland from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

British soldiers in Iraq are using the internet to order British flags, so that the Americans will stop killing them.

Shiites in newly liberated Umm Qasr have used their new freedom to resume traditional religious habits not allowed by Saddam’s Sunnis. Public self-flagellation at funerals, for example. Freedom, ain’t it grand.

Bush and Blair will have a summit next week on how to bring peace and tranquility in Iraq, and then the Middle East. The summit will be held in Belfast, and I couldn’t possibly have made that up.

Can you believe that the Bushies still haven’t decided who’s going to run the Iraqi puppet government? The WashPost says no expatriates, while the Telegraph in the same day (Saturday) says expatriates will run the whole thing, starting with the convicted bank fraud.

Tina Brown has a piece somewhere in which she comments that GeeDubya, even when he’s trying to be charming, has the permanently pissed-off look of the dry drunk. I don’t know about that, but I increasingly think that Bush is a textbook sociopath, unable to believe that other people have existences of their own. The pissed off quality is brought on by people not acting out their supporting roles according to his script. All that talk about how much he values loyalty--nope, he actually doesn’t think other people are real. If he hadn’t been born rich, he’d be living in a cabin in a woods filled with shallow graves for the bodies of drifters and hitchhikers.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Gentlemen, Iraqis and Neo-cons prefer blondes

Astonishingly, the US is once again dropping food packages in the same color as its cluster bombs, just like we did in Afghanistan. Cluster bombs, in case you haven’t been following along, have a failure rate variously reported as between 10 and 16%, which means they leave unexploded bombs that look to children like bright-yellow toys. If anyone actually needs another reason not to use them, at least some of them (those used by the Brits, don’t know about the US ones) are manufactured by Israel.

The State Senate of N Dakota votes to keep the state’s ban on unmarried heterosexual couples cohabiting. Gays are ok.

US soldiers have gotten down to the really difficult work: destroying statues and pictures of Saddam Hussein. I mean, there must be millions of them.

In a story I was only skimming, I ran across a quote that made me stop. A female soldier was saying of her enthusiastic reception, It must be because of my blonde hair. Sadly, she turned out not to be Priv. Lynch, of whom we have heard so much, and about whom I had had a similar thought, that if it had been that black woman who was among the first POWs, the media wouldn’t have gone into quite such raptures.

Not quite so much publicity about the failed attempt to rescue those 3 CIA agents taken prisoner by Colombian guerillas, in which 3 American soldiers died.

An article about the Christian missionaries that will follow our troops into Iraq. The first sentence: “It could only happen with an American invasion - poised behind the troops are the evangelical Christians.” If it’s not called Operation Ann Coulter, it should be (invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity)(and speaking of people who wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without blonde hair).

Guardian headline: “Chirac Apologizes to Queen for Graffiti.” In a British war cemetery in France, but it’s still kinda funny.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

This time

Tacky tacky tacky.

The “media war on Saddam” drinking game.

When office supplies attack (people with too much free time).

Ari Fleischer, doing that thing he does: “I think that, as the president has always said, and members of the administration have said when asked 'is Saddam alive', we say we don't know, because we do not know. The fact that he failed to show up for his scheduled appearance today raises additional questions. But I think it's also fair to say, given the fact that we don't know if he's alive or not, when the president refers or other people in the administration refer to Saddam Hussein this or Saddam Hussein that, it's almost now a generalised term for the Iraqi regime, because we don't know if he's alive or dead ... we don't know how Saddam is feeling today. We don't know how he's been feeling for a couple weeks.”

The British have been distributing leaflets around Basra. Key phrase “This time we won’t abandon you.” This time.

That was a fast backlash. Yesterday I mentioned the plethora of stories throughout the British press comparing their own soldiers’ methods to those of the cowboy Yanks. Today there’s this piece suggesting that they’re trying to pretend that the British are clean, caught between reckless Americans and sneaky wogs.

Mr. Funk, the humorously named conscientious objector, now also claims to be gay.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

We are the chemotherapy

It seems those night-vision goggles Rummy claimed Syria was sending to Iraq don’t actually exist either.

Onward Christian soldiers.

Saving Corporal Ryan: "The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy," said Corporal Ryan Dupre. "I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill him."

Article on the US military’s introduction of free market capitalism to Iraq: gouging destitute Iraqis for water.

After three months, the CIA has given up its program of attempting to get Iraqi military and political leaders to defect, after getting exactly none of them to do so.

The US military has been taking out ads in Indian newspapers for workers for military bases in Kuwait. Applicants must speak English, be under 35, and not be a Muslim.

These stories are typical of ones in every British newspaper, of whatever political stripe, about the differences between British and American soldiers in their approaches to Iraqi civilians.

I mentioned Saturday that Robert Fisk had found the serial number of the missile that hit the Baghdad market. The number has been tracked back to Raytheon.

The US is still trying to find Iraqi WMD’s, like anyone in the world would believe anything “discovered” now. They have pissed off Hans Blix again by trying to hire some of his inspectors.

For a few days I’ve wanted to write something, but it just hasn’t jelled. I wanted to compare the assumption that Iraqis would be shocked and awed into, well, not just surrender, but actively welcoming the Americans, with those letters I keep reading in the NY Times, and interviews on tv, in which mothers of soldiers or POWs (it’s always the mothers, which suggests to me that they were prompted by someone in the Pentagon), saying that protesters should just shut up to honor their boys who volunteered to protect us from the Iraqi hordes and make the world safe for democracy.