Friday, June 13, 2003

Boycotting Belgium, impotent snit-fits, cry babies, spears and Volvos

A State Dept guy on McNeil-Lehrer said Bush himself won’t be publicly criticizing every single Middle East atrocity, because that would “reduce the impact.” I don’t know about that: I find that Bush is good for a laugh no matter how often you hear him.

With a Daily Telegraph headline today “Israel Strikes Back,” this would be an opportune time to point out again the tendency of the media to phrase these things as if all of Israel’s acts were responses to Palestinian acts of aggression.

Croatia refuses to sign the immunity agreement demanded by the US. Good for them. Which is more than you can say for the Security Council. France and Germany expressed their displeasure by failing to turn up to vote. So France has all the dubious pleasures of an impotent snit-fit without actually having the balls to use its veto.

“Impotent snit-fit”?

On roughly the same issue, the US is threatening to “boycott Belgium.”

A Welsh politician who was “politician of the year” is found dead in a massage parlor. Not as good as the German pol, under investigation, who committed suicide by jumping out of a plane last week.

Glad to see Bush’s involvement has created peace in the Middle East. Now he just has to put on the tux and collect his Nobel. Or not. Anyway, Sharon calls Palestinian leaders “cry-babies” for complaining about Israeli retaliations [see above on “retaliation”]. Speaking of cry-babies, no word today on the 8-year old Sharon put into critical condition with a rocket attack yesterday. Guess that wasn’t important enough for any reporter to follow up. Or to get the kid’s name. Sharon did manage to kill another couple of kids today (one of them 3 years old) with another rocket attack on a busy highway. So maybe Sharon can just shut his mouth about cry-babies. This time, the Bushies conspicuously failed to condemn the move. The Guardian comments that Palestinians see rocket attacks on populated areas as the equivalent of suicide bombings.

In Britain, the Daily Mail is holding a “referendum”--mail-in coupons, phone in, email, boxes in shops--to demand a referendum on Europe. Of course this is the sort of thing that is to be taken as seriously as any internet poll or an election in Florida. But in what may be the most sarcastic journalistic exercise I’ve ever seen, the Guardian hired professional international election observers to monitor it.

Speaking of toy democracies, California may really be heading for a recall of the governor. It’s hard to tell because the people working for this may be lying about how many signatures they have. They can do this because they’re evidently not required to hand them in to the secretary of state within a few days like they would with voter registration forms. The whole thing is dangerously undemocratic because 1) we just had an election in November, 2) if they get enough signatures to force a recall election, it’s bound to depose Davis because it’s off-year so the turnout will be low, and because the recall and the next election are on the same ballot. That is, at the same time you have to vote on whether to recall the Gray Boy, and who would replace him. It’s the combination that badly distorts the democratic process: only R’s are likely to run, because no D wants to look like they’re endorsing recall, and Davis isn’t allowed on the ballot. 3) Given the high cost of running a campaign in California, having this go on a few months after a gubernatorial race distorts the process in favor of those who can raise money fast--i.e., the evil. In fact, Darryl Issa has already been caught breaking campaign finance laws to fund this thing. It only takes I believe 900,000 signatures to start a process that’s heavily weighted towards wealthy Republicans. The recall provision of the state constitution has never been used, and would be a serious blow to the legitimacy of government in this state.

Sort of like giving the new UC president a 10% raise over the outgoing one while reg fees are going up 25%.

Nicholas Kristof in today’s NY Times eviscerates the claim leaked to the Post that the CIA never passed on its conclusions about the fakedness of the Niger uranium forgeries to the White House, although he fails to use the phrase ineffable twaddle, not having as much class as I do.

A piece in Salon suggests that if a Republican Supreme Court justice, which is pretty much all of them, retires without a compelling reason, like being dead, or really close to it, it will raise again the legitimacy issues of the 2000 election. Like the Court’s decision then, it will be and look political.

A good article on the “strategic ambiguity” of Bush admin statements, the way they structure arguments to imply strongly things that they can’t actually claim, like that we actually have discovered Iraqi WMDs or that Hussein and Al Qaeda were linked, or that cutting taxes will lead to increased revenue (the Laffer curve, for those who can recall the Reagan administration). Since this article points out how Bush’s speeches are structured so as to deceive people dumber than yourselves, it’s a must-read so that you can detect what’s going on in those speeches, things that go *under* your head and are unnoticed because you didn’t fall for them.

Incidentally, I’ve only seen one poll on this, but Americans seem to think that we have discovered WMDs in Iraq.

Salon on the record of the incredibly far-right record of Alabama attorney general William Pryor, nominated by Bush to the 11th Circuit. I mentioned him a couple of months ago.

The Romanian government claims there was no Holocaust there in 1940-45 (actually, 250,000 Jews were killed or sent to concentration camps).

“Workers sacked from a Volvo dealership in Indonesia attacked their Swedish boss with spears after negotiations over severance pay went awry, police said yesterday.” That story wouldn’t be funny if it weren’t Volvo.

US soldiers killed 100 Iraqis today, in what McNeil-Lehrer described as the worst fighting since the war ended. I don’t think I need to point out the problem with that sentence.

Also watch out for the occasional use of the word “terrorist” to describe attacks on US troops. Attacks on occupying forces cannot be described as terrorist.

Guardian on marriages in Israel, possibly the only “democratic” state that doesn’t allow civil marriages, just an Orthodox one in which the wife is said to be the property of the husband, only the husband can seek a divorce, and if he dies, his brother has the right to marry her if she is childless (or use that provision to blackmail her).

Four years ago, Bhutan became the last nation on the planet to get television. Naturally, the country turned to shit: drugs, crime.

More signs of the apocalypse: Reebok just signed on a basketball star, aged 3½.

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