Thursday, July 31, 2003

Playing opera to Australian camels

The Vatican’s statement ordering Catholic lawmakers to oppose gay marriages also has this to say about adoption by gays: “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.” But priests fucking choirboys is still ok, right? Read the thing (excerpts here), it’s actually more gratuitously insulting to gays than you’d expect even from the Vatican.

The New Mexican Standoff: The Texas Lite Governor is poo-pooing earlier stories about bounty hunters. But did threaten to expel the missing D’s from the state senate altogether (and then quickly pretended he hadn’t).

I said Queer Like Me yesterday. The show is actually Queer as Folks. The aphasia of impending middle age. Two days ago I couldn’t come up with Henrik Ibsen’s name. However, I can always bring to mind the word aphasia. Forty years from now it’ll be the only word I can still say; “Maybe it was the name of his sled,” the nurses will say as they change my diapers.

Speaking of which, Harvey Fierstein has an op-ed piece in the NYT (reprinted in the London Times) on AIDS that may stir some controversy. He thinks all the ads for AIDS drugs and all the attempts to foster acceptance of HIV-positive people has made catching the virus appear a great way to win popularity and acceptance, and still live an active lifestyle while the drugs control the disease.

Maybe everyone in the world but me already knew this, but Howard Dean’s brother was executed by Communists in Laos in 1974, who said he was a spy.

The Knesset passes the racist bill denying citizenship or residency to Palestinians who marry Israelis. This includes West Bank/Gaza Palestinians who marry Israeli Palestinians. Also, their children would be forced out of Israel at the age of 12. Anyone who isn’t a Palestinian who marries an Israeli is entitled to citizenship. The government evidently argued, in a closed session addressed by security types, that this class of people become suicide bombers.

Article on how technological resources, drone planes and the like, were transferred from the search for Al Qaida in Afghanistan to the war in Iraq. Also, some of the few soldiers who actually speak Arabic.

An enterprising Bahraini company established the first-ever mobile phone service in Iraq. The US authorities shut them down, threatening to confiscate their equipment, in order that Iraq wind up with a system using the American technical standard rather than that of the whole rest of the world (something like ordering that all VCRs be Betamax, is my understanding). And all medical equipment will have to meet American technical standards as well.

Malaysia reverses itself on text-message divorces.

Despite reports that Schwarzenegger has decided not to run for governor, he won’t make his official announcement until next Wednesday, on the spot where all official announcements are made in California politics, the Tonight Show. Incidentally, the election may not cost $35m after all, because they’re going to do it on the cheap, by not using that many polling places, half the usual number in LA County, for example.

I believe I said that the six old Jews Israel got out of Iraq were all men. One was a 99-year old woman.

Here’s the first sentence of a Guardian story: “Six Australian camels are being played opera music to prepare them for an appearance in Aida in South Korea.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

And don't forget to put a condom on that log

In the same issue of Ha’aretz, two stories: 1) Tel Aviv will give to homosexual couples the same discounts at sports and other municipal facilities as married couples (also straight unmarried but domiciled couples, and married people not recognized by the Orthodox; not exactly civil unions, but a step in the right direction). 2) The Knesset is voting this week on preventing Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens from getting citizenship or residency status. It’s now official: better gay than Palestinian.

Also in Ha’aretz, a cute story on Israel’s efforts to talk Iraqi Jews (all 34 of them) into moving to Israel. They netted 6 old men. It’s now official: better an old Iraqi than Palestinian.

Another Robert Fisk story (he’s really on a roll lately. By the way, although the Indy charges, many of his stories make it into New Zealand and other papers within a couple of days, so is an option) wonders about the fate of 200,000+ Iraqi refugees in Iran, that is, whether the US will let them back in, worried that they have been radicalized by their stay in refugee camps in the Islamic Republic. Of course, these are the same people who are refugees precisely because they responded to Bush the Elder’s call for them to rise up in 1991. There are also 300,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan, and tens of thousands each in Germany, Britain, Holland, etc etc., not to mention 800,000 Kurds displaced by Saddam and their homes given to Arabs. There are also refugees in Iraq--Kurds from Turkey and Iran, 80,000 Palestinians who are not quite as welcome in Israel as the six old Jews.

Bush is still pushing the Iraq/Al Qaida connection claim, saying that the US must sort through “literally miles of documents” to ascertain the truth about that and weapons, and we’ve only been there 90 days, and we’re not very fast readers.

Also at the press conference, Bush’s 9th (compared to Clinton’s 33 by this stage, and Bush I’s 61): “I didn't expect Thomas Jefferson to emerge in Iraq in a 90-day period.” A less than diplomatic remark on the same day the puppet “governing council” picked a leader, for one month anyway. (They decided on a 9-man rotating presidency. And I do mean “man.” Don’t know if Chalabi is one of the 9.)

And on homosexuality: “I am mindful that we're all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of their neighbor’s eye when they've got a log in their own. ....That does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on issues such as marriage”. 1) He just called homosexuals sinners, 2) A log in the eye? Someone really needs to sit him down with an episode of “Queer Like Me,” cuz I’m pretty sure that’s not where the “log” goes. 3) Somebody like me? What the hell does that mean?

The LA Times has a story about the man who toppled Gray Davis, Daryl Issa, and discovers that nearly every claim he has ever made about himself is a lie, including some pretty petty stuff. My favorite is his claim that he was in President Nixon’s security detail when he went to the 1971 World Series (which he didn’t). This guy is a sitting US Congresscritter.

Davis said the politically unthinkable: “I'll own up to my mistakes. I haven’t done everything perfect.” Grammar, to name one.

The CIA finally returned the looted Stasi files to Germany. And hey guess what, the current head of the neo-Communist party, if I may coin a phrase, was an informant.

Saw a new noodle restaurant in Berkeley today. It’s called Slurp.

Article on Guatemala. And today, the Constitutional Court put Ríos Montt’s unconstitutional candidacy back on track.

The US has started paying blood money in Iraq to families of those it kills ($500 for wounds, $1,500 for death), as is the local custom, although I don’t think Saddam did it. Or possibly they’re just doing this in Fallujah.

Did you know the occupying authorities fired a tv director for broadcasting “incitements”?

A good article on the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The unexpected

A somewhat unfortunate paragraph in the NY Times’s obit for Alan Bates: “One of the memorable scenes of his film career unfolded in Ken Russell's 1969 film "Women in Love," based on the D.H. Lawrence novel, in which he wrestled nude with Oliver Reed. Glenda Jackson, his co-star, told the BBC, "He always brought the unexpected to everything he did."” Which does rather raise the question what unexpected thing be brought to nude wrestling with Oliver Reed.

The No-Longer-Puppet Government of Iraq says Saddam Hussein’s trial will probably be held in secret.

A South Korean POW escapes from North Korea after 50 years. He has a lot of back pay coming to him.

Mother of the week: Deana Mader of Greenwich, CT, is suing the city because her 2-year old ran into a guard rail in a playground. He is a child model, so she’s suing for lost wages.

Chicago Trib story about suicide among US soldiers in Iraq.

2 stories about naming people. The first, just a link, is from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, on people naming their poor kids after products, brand names or ESPN.

Imagining Ted Kennedy landing on an aircraft carrier

Tom DeLay: “To gauge just how out of touch the Democrat leadership is on the war on terror, just close your eyes and try to imagine Ted Kennedy landing that Navy jet on the deck of that aircraft carrier.” That sentence is so silly on so many levels I wouldn’t know where to begin.

A federal judge strikes down part of California’s recall election law, in the first of many such decisions that will leave voters hopelessly confused. This one correctly decided that people who refuse to vote on the recall can still vote for a candidate. (Democratic) state officials quoted on this (the sec of state, attorney general) all supported the blatantly unconstitutional provision for no reason I can figure out. The deputy atty general gave this opaque explanation: “Allowing voters to abstain on the recall question would allow those with only an indirect or remote interest in this crucial question to decide who will replace a recalled officer.” A remote interest in who the governor is?

Just as Bush’s State of the Union lie (well, one of them) became “sixteen words,” so the censored pages about Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 reports have become 28 (or 29, or 27, although only Bush is using the latter number) pages of a 900-page report. I’m not sure what the length has to do with anything. Bush said he couldn’t release them, to protect “sources and methods,” a phrase straight out of the CIA’s Big Book of Stonewalling. So Tenet is now fully engaged with Bush’s speeches. Goodie. Saudi Arabia is now pretending to really really want those pages released, knowing they won’t be.

Canada’s government, having legalized medical marijuana, will now issue a 59-page user’s manual. No doubt more later on this...

What happened to all those bodies the Liberians dumped in front of the US embassy?

Japanese police replaced their sirens with the recorded sound of church bells, in hopes of soothing agitated criminals.

Fob James may be gone, but Alabama looks like continuing to provide amusement. The new weirdo governor, Bob Riley, says that voters should support new taxes as a Christian duty. Cool by me, as long as only the Christians have to pay it. How about a virtue tax (opposite of a sin tax) on holy water and crucifixes? The referendum on September 9 should separate Christian from heathen (the latest poll has the heathens winning). In a measure of how stupid Alabamaniacs are, the poorest people, who would pay fewer taxes, oppose it 2 to 1.

Standing next to Ariel Sharon, Bush today referred to the Israeli security thingy as a fence. Friday, when he was with Palestinian PM Abbas, he called it a wall. Actually it’s both, in different areas (it’s a floor wax! no, it’s a dessert topping!). Sharon, standing next to Bush, defied him and said he’d continue to build it, “to defend our cities.” Actually, if it was just that, and followed the border, it would be a lot less controversial than all the detours it takes to include settlements. Here’s a Ha’aretz opinion piece saying that Bush showed that he has given up pushing Israel, at least until the election.

At the event, an, I presume, Israeli reporter asked Bush about releasing Jonathan Pollard, convicted for spying for Israel. Bush had no idea who he was taking about, but answered the question as if he did: “I said very clearly at the press conference with Prime Minister Abbas, I don't expect anybody to release somebody from prison who'll go kill somebody. That doesn't make any sense. I mean, if we're trying to fight off terror and we're interested in a peaceful settlement, it doesn't make any sense to release somebody who's going to get out of prison and start killing...” Beyond the fact that Pollard has a good slander suit, Bush, I repeat, tried to fake an answer, because he can never admit his own ignorance.

The top 40 US lies about war & terrorism.

Latest project of Shrub and his contributors: a gas pipeline through the Peruvian rainforest.

I mentioned that Texas R’s are considering using bounty hunters to retrieve D. state senators from New Mexico. The state atty general has approved the idea--has approved sending off-duty cops or whomever into *another state.* NM Governor Richardson said anyone who tried it would face kidnapping charges. Well, no, that would be up to the Bush administration, wouldn’t it?

Working on re-establishing the death penalty in Illinois, the governor vetoed a bill that would actually have fired cops who committed perjury in a capital murder case.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Viagra and £60m

From the WashPost: “Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Such tactics are justified, he said, because, "It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info." They would have been released in due course, he added later. The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered.” And the colonel is actually proud of himself.

Press Association headline: “Saddam's Sons Had Viagra and £60m.” Now, that’s a party! The article notes that that’s 3X the amount of the American reward. A Times story says that many Iraqis believe Saddam hasn’t been caught because he has a magic stone.

Now that things are going so badly (50 dead US soldiers since the war “ended”), the army has stopped “embedding” reporters.

Residents of the Liberian capital had their water cut off by the fighting days ago. Fortunately American soldiers are there--protecting shipments of beer to the American embassy. I saw it on the BBC. While the US has been doing nothing to get rid of Charles Taylor, it has demanded that the rebels, who are doing something about it, withdraw from their positions in Monrovia, which would give those positions back to Taylor.

I HATE SUMMER RE-RUNS. Texas state senators have fled the state, to Albuquerque, as another special session to pass the redistricting plan is called. They are surrounded by NM state police to protect them from any bounty-hunters that the Texas R’s might use. Really. Incidentally, this is the second special session, coming immediately after the first one. So why call it a separate session? Because the Lite Governor had promised to abide by the senate rules requiring 2/3 for a bill to be considered. Since he lost that by one vote, he decided that his promise only applied to that session.

Given the complete failure of US intelligence (in more than one sense of the word) in predicting events in Iraq and elsewhere, the Pentagon has decided to turn to the futures market, and let investors bet on assassinations, terrorist strikes and North Korean missile attacks.

George Monbiot, however, says it’s a failure not of intelligence but of ideology. Or perhaps theology because, he says, the US is no longer a nation but is now a religion:
Its soldiers have entered Iraq to liberate its people not only from their dictator, their oil and their sovereignty, but also from their darkness. As George Bush told his troops on the day he announced victory: "Wherever you go, you carry a message of hope - a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'To the captives, "come out," and to those in darkness, "be free".'"

So American soldiers are no longer merely terrestrial combatants; they have become missionaries. They are no longer simply killing enemies; they are casting out demons. The people who reconstructed the faces of Uday and Qusay Hussein carelessly forgot to restore the pair of little horns on each brow, but the understanding that these were opponents from a different realm was transmitted nonetheless. Like all those who send missionaries abroad, the high priests of America cannot conceive that the infidels might resist through their own free will; if they refuse to convert, it is the work of the devil, in his current guise as the former dictator of Iraq.

As Clifford Longley shows in his fascinating book Chosen People, published last year, the founding fathers of the USA, though they sometimes professed otherwise, sensed that they were guided by a divine purpose. Thomas Jefferson argued that the Great Seal of the United States should depict the Israelites, "led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night". George Washington claimed, in his inaugural address, that every step towards independence was "distinguished by some token of providential agency". Longley argues that the formation of the American identity was part of a process of "supersession". The Roman Catholic church claimed that it had supplanted the Jews as the elect, as the Jews had been repudiated by God. The English Protestants accused the Catholics of breaking faith, and claimed that they had become the beloved of God. The American revolutionaries believed that the English, in turn, had broken their covenant: the Americans had now become the chosen people, with a divine duty to deliver the world to God's dominion. Six weeks ago, as if to show that this belief persists, George Bush recalled a remark of Woodrow Wilson's. "America," he quoted, "has a spiritual energy in her which no other nation can contribute to the liberation of mankind." ....

So those who question George Bush's foreign policy are no longer merely critics; they are blasphemers, or "anti-Americans". Those foreign states which seek to change this policy are wasting their time: you can negotiate with politicians; you cannot negotiate with priests. The US has a divine mission, as Bush suggested in January: "to defend ... the hopes of all mankind", and woe betide those who hope for something other than the American way of life.

The dangers of national divinity scarcely require explanation. Japan went to war in the 1930s convinced, like George Bush, that it possessed a heaven-sent mission to "liberate" Asia and extend the realm of its divine imperium. It would, the fascist theoretician Kita Ikki predicted: "light the darkness of the entire world". Those who seek to drag heaven down to earth are destined only to engineer a hell.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Prepared to act on the basis of murky intelligence

The recall rules are so complicated that no one understands them. For example, if Davis resigned, would there still be a recall election? Some people say there would, but no one knows what would then happen if he won the election. Given that the turnout is low, it seems that it would behoove the D’s to start a recall of the next governor the day after it, because the number of signatures they need will be based on the turnout in October. Jerry Brown could run in the election (or Duekmejian or Ronald Reagan, if it comes to that), but Pete Wilson couldn’t, because term limits didn’t start until 1990.

The London Times has a headline that the net is tightening around Saddam. Now come on, is it a net or a noose? Of course this is the sort of statement that can only be made in retrospect, and so is completely inappropriate for a newspaper, except in the astrology section. Still, what they’re referring to as a sign of this net-or-noose-tightening is a raid on a villa which didn’t even come close to Saddam, but which Robert Fisk in the Indy describes so: “OBSESSED WITH capturing Saddam Hussein, American soldiers turned a botched raid on a house in the Mansur district of Baghdad last night into a bloodbath, opening fire on scores of Iraqi civilians in a crowded street and killing up to 11, including two children, their mother and crippled father. At least one civilian car caught fire, cremating its occupants.”

Paul Wolfowitz: “I think the lesson of 9/11 is that if you're not prepared to act on the basis of murky intelligence, you're going to have to act after the fact, and after the fact now means after horrendous things have happened to this country.”

Wolfowitz also blamed “biased reports” on Al-Jazeera for the continuing attacks on American soldiers. Well, if you’re not prepared to act on the basis of murky intelligence....

Damn, that was too easy.

I d4ce u, I d4ce u, I d4ce u: The Malaysian government’s chief religious adviser says that under Islamic law men can divorce their wives by text-messaging them.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Temporarily blinded by the underpants

Some commentator said that the California recall could presage events in the rest of the country, as Cal. trends so often do (like fish tacos, the Daily Show said). No worries there, this is too silly to replicate. Unlike at the national level, the D’s here are disciplined and unified, with none looking like running against Davis; if they lose, it’ll be that discipline that does it to them. Conversely, the R’s are highly undisciplined here, which could be their downfall: suddenly this week a dozen or more R’s realized that the cost of entry into this election is almost nill--just $3,500, 65 signatures and a pure heart--and developed an interest in becoming. Who knew we’d ever have Michael Huffington to kick around again, much less Gary Condit? Incidentally, the candidates evidently can’t be independents, since those signatures must be from members of their party, which also means those of us registered with no party preference can’t sign. Also, if you don’t vote yes or no on the recall, your vote for a replacement won’t be counted (some of this will no doubt be changed as a result of several legal cases before the election).

Many counties were gearing up to replace punch cards with new voting systems. These won’t be ready by October (and possibly not by March anymore either, since many counties are robbing the funds for next year’s primary to pay for the recall election), which should lead to all sorts of electoral mayhem. Something else no one thought of: there will be something else on the recall ballot, Ward Connelly’s latest screw-the-black-people initiative, something about not counting the race of people served by various state programs, which should have been March, but had to be put on the next state-wide ballot after it qualified, which is this one. All in all, a circus, even if The Arnold doesn’t run.

Remember how Jessica Lynch was supposed to have been shot and stabbed after making a heroic stand, emptying her gun at the Iraqis, etc? Evidently it was all true. The story came from intercepted Iraqi communications, but as usual the US got it wrong. It wasn’t a moderately cute hillbilly girl, but a 33-year old named Sgt. Don Walters, and he was killed. His family is not pleased at missing out on the media deal...sorry, I meant the honor, of course, not the media deal at all.

Jeb Magruder says that Nixon authorized the Watergate break-in, which if true finally answers the question, what did the president know, and when did he know it. Asked why he didn’t mention this before, Magruder says, because nobody asked.

Ariel Sharon will be meeting Bush yet again soon, so he has made the generous offer of withdrawing troops from two more West Bank cities. That they aren’t actually in.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Head-on-a-stick politics

Rumsfeld justified showing the pictures of Uday & Qsay as demonstrating to Iraqis that they were truly dead. But what about the 14-year-old grandson? Aren’t Iraqis living in fear that he might return?

Seriously I’d like to see someone in the administration just once acknowledge that they just assassinated a 14-year old. The general who made the initial briefing had to refer to him as an “individual,” because he could hardly call him a man and didn’t want to call him a boy or youth or teenager or whatever.

I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, MR. DEMILLE. Excerpts from the latest Fisk: “THE AMERICANS followed a grand Iraqi Baath party tradition by showing their dead enemies on television yesterday. Back in 1963, when Abdul Karim Qassem's corpse was shown on the screen, there was no colour television and the executed prime minister - Baathists and army officers had jointly condemned him to death - appeared in black and white, propped up in a chair but very, very dead. ... The US authorities creepily announced that they had treated the bodies at their mortuary at Baghdad airport with "the same respect" they would accord any corpse, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to parade dead bodies on television. ... Then the US authorities announced that they were waiting for "a family member" to come forward to claim the brothers for burial, as if Saddam was going to turn up at the airport in a Mercedes to sign the release papers.”

TONIGHT, ON A VERY SPECIAL “SIX FEET UNDER.” At the Guardian, Mark Lawson calls the footage of the dead Husseins “head-on-a-stick politics.” He notes, talking about British politics but it applies here: “in only six years, politics has jumped from a culture in which reality was nothing and perception everything to one in which citizens need to be shown a raw, bleeding corpse before they will even begin to consider the possibility that their rulers are telling them the truth.”

Liu Yang-wan of Taiwan dies at 103 after 86 years of marriage (March 1917!). Scary. Oh, or was that supposed to be heart-warming?

The Saudis have responded to the Congressional report. Their ambassador says "Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages." I say we take him at his word and print everything it said about the Saudis.

Incidentally, right during the press conference releasing the report, Rumsfeld coincidentally started his own press conference. CNN, Fox and MSNBC all dropped the former in favor of the latter.

Liberians now understand that Bush has betrayed them. This is not true because of course Bush never promised them a damned thing to begin with. He will support a Nigerian force going in, propping up Charles Taylor and looting the country like they did in Sierra Leone when they kept the peace there.

Ríos Montt was blocked from registering to run for president of Guatemala, so his supporters put on ski masks and went on the rampage. Although he was Reagan’s favorite in the ‘80s, presumably because he was the only Fundamentalist Christian ruler in Latin America, the current State Department may well have stopped this little action by blaming him and his party for funding the protesters and today he called off his dogs. But, here’s the thing: the government ordered the military to stop the violence, and it ignored the orders. Not good.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Gone and will not be coming back

If you’re wondering, as I was, why the governor of N Dakota was recalled in 1921, lookie here.

The Congressional 9/11 report is out, and there are serious conclusions, such as that evidence of Al Qaeda intentions were more specific than we had previously been told. Still, the report can’t be taken that seriously because the Bush admin effectively stonewalled it. Its people refused to testify, release information, and this is not to the public, this is to the United States Congress, which is supposed to have oversight authority, that they told to go fuck itself, and which in fact obediently went and fucked itself, not even making a peep about being given too little information to do its job. And if you want a subtle clue about why the CIA failed to deliver helpful information before 9/11, note that they ordered Congress (!) not to report Saudi connections to the terrorists because that would offend the Saudis connected to terrorists. The Post article is good at listing the types of info the Bushies refused to share with the inquiry.

Bush: "Now more than ever, all Iraqis can know that the former regime is gone and will not be coming back." That’s what his mother told him about his pet hamster when he was 23.

Dental records?

Oh dear, it’s worse than I thought last time. The drug industry is actually subsidizing the anti-RU486 program of the Traditional Values Coalition against the drug re-importation bill.

Robert Fisk, in another of those vital stories in the Indy that the non-paying public mostly can’t read (it must be vital, it says several things I’ve been thinking all day), comments on the decision to kill rather than capture the brothers Hussein (and it was a decision: 10 anti-tank missiles, helicopter gun-ships and .50 machine guns were used [and with the usual American accuracy--one missile hit a house 5 doors away; while this was going on, neighbors whose houses were being shot up were not allowed to leave.] If they were worried about taking weapons fire, they could have mounted a siege. With bad pop music, like Noriega.) that it is unbelievable that the decision was an “operational decision” made at a low level. Not only would a trial have been better than deaths, and more indicative of a transition to a rule of law, but Iraqis might have believed images of the brothers surrendering rather than the hilarious claim that Tariq Azi was brought in and id’d the bodies. As of this writing, no pictures have been released, although Rumsfeld says they’ll get around to it “soon.” It is already too late for them to be believed. And how exactly does the US have the sons’ dental records? Interesting question: where will they be buried?

Saw Bush on tv giving an award to former president Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic. The dissident playwright did not say anything about Bush’s Secret Service going to the LA Times to try to interrogate an editorial cartoonist.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003


Bush: “The desire by the North Koreans to convince the world that they’re in the process of developing a nuclear arsenal is nothing new.” Oh sure, *now* he gets sceptical about foreign nuclear programs. I mean, the smoking gun might be a mushroom cloud, right? Do you think his failure to engage with the NK problem is because he hasn’t personalized it? He always refers to NK rather than Kim Jong Il. Kim didn’t “try to kill my dad.”

Although I guess Shrub got his revenge for that one today.

Treasury Secretary John Snow says that the killings of Saddam’s sons will be good for the US economy. And the killing of Qusay’s 14-year old son will be darned good for stock prices, too.

Robert Fisk notes that the American unit in charge of the operation, Task Force 20, was the same one that supposedly killed these very same people, and their father, when it attacked a convoy near the Syrian border earlier this month. Fisk also wonders whether the two sons would really have been together. And he questions the American assumption that killing the Husseins would end all resistance to the occupation. Indeed, “many Iraqis were reluctant to support the resistance for fear that an end to American occupation would mean the return of the ghastly old dictator. If he and his sons are dead, the chances are that the opposition to the American-led occupation will grow rather than diminish - on the grounds that with Saddam gone, Iraqis will have nothing to lose by fighting the Americans.”

Just as the US recruited Hitler’s spies because of their knowledge of the USSR, the NYT says today that they’re recruiting Saddam’s spies because of their knowledge of Iran and Syria. And that Chalabi is doing the same, presumably in order to discredit his political opponents as dupes of Iran.

Congress is dealing with a bill to allow re-importation into the US of drugs produced by US drug companies for the export market and sold at much lower prices. What’s fun about the debate is that all these Congresscritters who took money from Big Pharma are having to claim that the drugs their bosses are peddling abroad are unsafe. The NYT story on this says that they’re teaming up with anti-abortion groups to warn that RU-486 might become affordable under this bill.

From the Harper’s weekly review: “The Department of Homeland Security announced that Microsoft was chosen as its exclusive supplier of desktop and server software; shortly thereafter Microsoft acknowledged a critical security flaw that permits hackers to take over computers running the latest version of its Windows operating system.”

Has anyone linked those stories about teenagers not being able to find summer jobs with the 25-40% tuition increases at public colleges and universities? The latter is, of course, class warfare at its finest.

Israeli transport minister Avigdor Lieberman has offered to provide buses to transport any released Palestinian prisoners to a place "whence they will not return," specifically the Dead Sea, where they would be drowned.

After Ambassador Joseph Wilson went public about his investigation in Niger of the uranium claim, the Bushies, who had asked him to go in the first place, decided to smear him, personally, and his mission. Ari Fleischer, for example, sneered that all he’d done was heard the Nigerien government deny the allegation, which is of course what they’d do; no reporter asked Ari what then was the point of sending him in the first place. Since then, they have leaked to the press that Wilson’s wife is a CIA officer. This is a felony. If you or I revealed the name of a CIA employee, we’d go to jail.

Be Careful What You Wish For: the prospective Museum for Contraception and Abortion (in Austria) is asking for people to contribute exhibits, old condoms and such.

Something I hadn’t heard: when the civil unions law passed in Vermont, the U of Vermont immediately ceased offering health benefits to gay employees’ domestic partners unless they registered. That was in this moderately thought-provoking article on why gay marriage isn’t enough, in the Voice.

At Buckingham Palace, a 17-year old streaker, yards away from the queen, shouting “Wahey,” was tackled by a Beefeater. There’s a sentence you don’t get to write every day. Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat MP, who was also at the party but who missed the incident, said: “I feel he showed a naked loyalty to the Queen. I applaud him.”

Monday, July 21, 2003

OK, flatter than a pancake

That mysterious disappearing WaPo story about the Dept of Heimat Security’s shortcomings finally reappears. Pretty much as expected, at least by me, the dept that Bush didn’t want got crushed by its competitors, the CIA and FBI, and where it does anything at all, it’s another layer of bureaucracy where another layer is not needed. It is not performing and never will perform any function in coordinating intelligence. Which is probably just as well, since it wouldn’t have the institutional strength to stand up to demands to “prove” whatever the administration wants proven.

From William Safire’s column: “Drop the premature conclusion that if we can't yet find proof of the destructive weapons, they never existed. That's like saying because we haven't found Osama or Saddam, those killers never existed.” Or the Easter Bunny.

I complained a while back that the petitions to recall Gray Davis weren’t being turned in immediately (of course once the recallistas did get around to turning them in, they wanted them counted immediately, faster than the law required, and got a tame judge to go along, necessitating the hiring of new personnel by registrars--hey, might I suggest you hire some of those day care workers the state just stopped paying because of the budget crisis? God this state is fucked up). This got up my nose because of the attitude that petitions, which are properly a matter between citizens and their government, were being treated like the property of the recall committee. Well, it’s even worse than that. Some of their paid signature-takers were not legally qualified to take signatures, being felons and non-Californians and whatnot, so they just threw away all the signatures collected by those people. That should be a criminal act, just like tampering with an election. The right to petition is mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, one of the things that is supposed to prevent government from becoming a tyranny between election periods.

For that last sentence, I looked through the Declaration. It is especially ironic reading because the “representative” “Governing” Council in Iraq’s first action was to declare April 10, “Independence Day.” (The Daily Show asked whether that means next year they’ll advertise Independence Day sales--almost as cheap as looting!) Ironic because the things our Founding Fathers were complaining of are exactly the things we bequeathed to Iraq on its “Independence Day”: standing armies, protected “by a mock Trial” from punishment for murders of the locals; “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution,”; depriving us of trial by jury, transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences; “He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts [ok, deserts], burnt our Towns, and destroyed the lives of our People”; excited domestic insurrections--check--large armies of foreign mercenaries--check--multitude of new officers, swarms of officers to harass our people & eat out their substance--let’s see, Paul Bremer, Achmad Chalabi, Haliburton, check and double-check.

(Later:) Kofi Annan says the UN should certify the US-appointed fake government in Iraq, and the Security Council should “confer legitimacy on the process”. As far as I’m concerned, Annan just declared himself unfit for the office he occupies.

The US has finally sent troops to Liberia. Of course they’re only there to protect the embassy, which is pretty much the definition of adding insult to injury. Liberians are piling up their dead bodies in front of the embassy, which I take to be a subtle criticism of Bush’s wait & see policy of “monitoring events,” events which included the massacre of 90 civilians in Monrovia today.

The first human tongue transplant has been performed successfully.

It is scientifically proven that Kansas is in fact flatter than a pancake. Whether this says more about Kansas or about pancakes, I simply lack the scientific credentials to say.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

My daily thought showers

A Mexican special prosecutor insists that a human rights lawyer committed suicide in 2001 by shooting herself in the head. And the leg. Not necessarily in that order.

Bush is trying to destroy yet another international treaty, that on ozone, possibly a swipe at Al “Ozone Man” Gore. He is demanding that the US be allowed to retain and even increase use of a pesticide which is the most ozone-depleting substance still used in the developed world (it also causes prostate cancer in farmers unless of course they masturbate a lot in their 20’s rather than having sex with farm animals). He wants the US still to be able to use it for critical applications, like tending golf courses.

Tony Blair went to Hong Kong, which he evidently washed his hands of completely when he handed it over in 1997. He refused to meet privately with Martin Lee or any other democracy advocate.

In contrast, the French embassy in Cuba invited every Cuban dissident it could think of to its Bastille Day celebrations.

From the Telegraph: “Two Zimbabwean mortuary workers have been arrested on charges of renting out corpses to motorists to enable them to take advantage of special fuel deals for hearses.” (The version of this story in the Observer is that they merely borrowed the bodies in order to purchase fuel themselves at a discount, and then re-sold it.)

A NYT story (oo, and in the Post) says the obvious, that the actual war on Iraq started months before it started. Also, this half-chilling, half-humorous tidbit: “Air war commanders were required to obtain the approval of Defense Secretary Donald L. Rumsfeld if any planned airstrike was thought likely to result in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes were proposed, and all of them were approved.”

Robert Fisk (and others) are reporting that the US is hushing up any attack on US forces in Iraq that doesn’t result in casualties, and some that do. Including: an attack by 15 armed men on a patrol 3 days ago; a bomb consisting of a series of mortar shells injured a US soldier outside a bank 5 days ago. Basically, they only report successes, and then in oddly Stalinist terms, saying for example that recent raids "successfully achieved the objectives of neutralising subversive individuals". Reports of attacks on Americans, however, are reported more seriously than those on Iraqis, which are stuck under the heading “crime.”

Friday, July 18, 2003

You little fruitcake. You little fruitcake. I said you are a fruitcake

Bill Thomas claims he didn’t call the cops to intimidate D members of the House Ways and Means Committee, but because they were afraid of getting beaten up by septuagenarian Pete Stark, a man who does not like fruitcake.

Dick Cheney’s ultra-secretive energy committee asked for maps of oil sites in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, well before 9/11.

The White House plumbers are getting remarkably petty. After ABC interviewed some really pissed off soldiers in Iraq, they spread the word that the reporter was gay and Canadian. And they gave Matt Drudge a picture of D presidential candidate (not that you’d know it) Bob Graham near a Jaguar.

The reporter thankfully has thicker skin than Dr. David Kelly, a fatality in the war between Tony Blair (Alastair Campbell, really, but you’ve never heard of him) and the BBC. That war concerned the government trying to get the BBC to name its sources for the claim that Campbell had “sexed up” the dossier on Iraq, falsely asserting that it could launch WMDs within 45 minutes. This is the British equivalent of Yellowcake-gate (by the way, that term is my own, and I like it precisely because of how difficult it is to saw out loud. Others are using Niger-gate, but since Americans insist on mispronouncing the name of that country, I went elsewhere).

US deaths in Iraq are now higher than in Gulf War I.

Ríos Montt has a campaign slogan: “I am Guatemala.” How very Louis XIV.

The WaPo cites a Bush admin source, who coordinated the State of the Union Address they say, doing a somewhat crappier job of hiding their source than the BBC, as saying that Bush was unaware of the bits in the National Intelligence Estimate saying that the Niger claim (and the aluminum tubes claim) was doubtful. The Post:
“The official said Bush was "briefed" on the NIE's contents, but "I don't think he sat down over a long weekend and read every word of it." Asked whether Bush was aware the State Department called the Africa-uranium claim "highly dubious," the official, who coordinated Bush's State of the Union address, said: "He did not know that." "The president was comfortable at the time, based on the information that was provided in his speech," the official said of the decision to use it in the address to Congress. "The president of the United States is not a fact-checker."

No fucking kidding. And....a “long weekend”? The NIE was 90 pages long. Are they supposed to just come out and admit that Boy George is not a good reader?

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Universal values

Tony Blair in DC: “We promised Iraq democratic government. We will deliver it.” And then they’ll find that it looked better in the catalog. But really, can something “delivered” from the outside actually be called “democratic government”? Elsewhere in the speech, Tone talks about spreading universal values--not American or British values, he said, universal values. Of course if they were universal values, they would hardly need spreading, now would they? Although the Independent editorializes that he might have tried spreading them in Washington by pointing out the lack of universality in treating non-citizens in Guantanamo by different rules.

A cute LA Weekly column on Bush’s recent travails points out that Bush, who “adversity always turns...rabbity and mean,” “acted as if the charges against his speech somehow concerned the depth of his convictions. ‘There’s no doubt in my mind,’ he kept saying. ‘There’s no doubt in my mind . . . I’m confident in the decision I’ve made.’”

Indeed, it’s Bush’s confidence and lack of doubt that we find so scary.

Marc Cooper notes in the same issue that “Bush bullied and bullshitted to get his way, and the top Democrats fully accommodated him” months before that speech. They didn’t even really need to be lied to. “You had me at hello.” [that’s me, not Cooper][I wouldn’t be that fastidious about taking credit, but Cooper himself suggests Bush’s speeches should be footnoted so we know who’s responsible for which lie].

A story allegedly in the WashPost today about how the Dept of Heimat Security isn’t up to the job of dealing with intelligence never returned more than an empty page when I clicked on the link, then it vanished altogether from the table of contents, and it’s not in Lexis-Nexis either. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

A reminder of the longevity of war’s effects: 2, possibly 3 Austrians were killed by an unexploded American bomb from the Second World War, near the train station in Salzburg, where I never committed armed robbery.

Enormously overblown

We (well, I) haven’t been paying enough attention to Guatemala, whose supreme court just overruled the constitution to allow former coup leader and scum Efrain Ríos Montt to run for president. He was overthrown 20 years ago next month, on my birthday. He has been head of the legislature since 1999, when he engineered the election of an admitted multiple murderer as president when the courts wouldn’t let him run. His party is now in total control of Guatemala, including the supreme court. Checking my old emails to see what’s been happening, I find a reference to Guatemala televising executions (June 2000), and paying pensions to old members of death squads (July 2002). Wonder what I’ve missed?

Evidently the creationist science fair site was a parody. I should have known it was too good to be true. Sorry.

The law setting up independent prosecutors, I thought, required that people investigated but not charged with anything would have their legal expenses reimbursed, as happened with Reagan and Bush the Elder. In fact, one of the ways in which Kenneth Starr abused his power was threaten to bring charges he knew wouldn’t stick in order to bankrupt people who didn’t cooperate with him. Now, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for DC has decided to stick the Clintons with 98% of their legal expenses for the Whitewater investigation, saying that even though no charges were filed, even if they’d just been private citizens someone else would have investigated them. Whether that someone else would instigate a $50 million (or whatever it was) witch hunt over a $100,000 failed land deal, the panel, whose majority was of course appointed by Republicans (and at least one of whom conspired to appoint Starr), did not say. This decision ratifies the sort of hunt & destroy methods used by Starr and the Republicans, which left Clinton with legal bills amounting to way more than his presidential salary over 8 years. Whatever one thinks of Clinton, we all know that a private citizen would not have been treated that way, and a multi-million-dollar debt should not be accepted as part of the trappings of office.

Lieberman and Dean are demanding that DCI Tenet resign over Yellowcake-gate. Why? The CIA is the only institution in the executive branch known to have made any effort to stop lies being told. It didn’t stop all of them, but with this administration that would be a task beyond the ken of mere mortals. They lie like others spam.

(Later): Dean seems to be saying that Tenet should resign not because he didn’t stop the lie, but because his taking responsibility for it now is an attempt to derail a proper investigation. OK, that’s fair.

Condi Rice on CNN about Yellowcake-gate: "It is 16 words, and it has become an enormously overblown issue." Yeah, totally overblown, like it was 19 words or something.

The Niger forgeries finally go public, in La Repubblica, and they are even cruder than we were told. 8 pages, at least a dozen obvious errors (a document dated July 1999 talking about negotiations in June 2000, for example), not counting as many spelling mistakes as you see in the average Nigerian scam (yes, I know that’s another country), and a crude drawing of the supposed Nigerien national emblem.

This is a must read. It’s about the parallel intelligence operation Rumsfeld established. If you’ve read other stories on that, you still have to read this one, which makes clear how amateurish and how out of control this administration has become. It also talks about the relationship between these spook-wannabes and a similar ad hoc group in Ariel Sharon’s office started for exactly the same reason, because Mossad refused to be as alarmist about Iraq as Sharon wanted. Newt Gingrich shows up in the article (see also an op-ed piece), as does Dick Cheney. Remember him? I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that a vice president can disappear so completely, but the evidence is increasing that he’s been a very busy boy.

Take this quiz to find out how much of a threat you pose to the Bush administration.

Times headline: “Prostate Cancer – Is the Solution in a Man’s Hands?” Evidently masturbating a lot in your 20’s (er, 5 times a week, is that a lot?) is the key. And up to 50, just to be safe. Having lots of sex in your 20’s increases the risk of prostate cancer.

Ways in which Britain is now a colony of the US. It no longer has an independent military capability; not only can’t they use their own nuclear weapons without permission, for technological reasons, not any NATO or treaty arrangement, but the same applies now to cruise missiles, which work through a GPS system that the US controls. Ditto intelligence. The US has bases all over Britain and British possessions like Diego Garcia over which Britain has no control at all. And a recent extradition treaty requires that Britain hand over any of its citizens the US wants without any evidence being presented in a British court, but not the other way around. And the British papers have been making a fuss for days about the US holding 2 Brits at Guantanamo, and the British government can’t get them turned over to it. The article points out that if the UK really were the 51st state, its citizens would have more protection from the US government. This is the future of the world if the Bushies get their way, with nations exercising only so much sovereignty as the US will allow them.

On the other hand, the Guardian elsewhere notes that in the 1950s Britain planned to plant nuclear landmines in Germany to prevent a Soviet invasion, so it’s not like they were doing anything useful with their sovereignty when they had it.

Here’s something I hadn’t heard of: a program begun during the Depression under Hoover to deport Mexican immigrants to cut down unemployment. Some of the deportees had American citizenship.

I mentioned that the military will have a veto on defense lawyers for Guantanamo tribunal trials. Did I mention they’d have to pay for their own security clearances, thousands of dollars, and transport, and that if they talk to anybody about any detail of the case, like say the press, they can be Guantanamo? And the rules of evidence and the eavesdropping on lawyer-client conversations would leave any lawyer who participates to being sanctioned--quite correctly, I think--by their bar association. Meanwhile, Gitmo is up to its 29th suicide attempt.

Quote of the day: "President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said 'bring it on.' Well, they brought it on, and now my nephew is dead."

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Dead, alive, or torn to pieces

Howard Dean: “this government either is inept or simply has not told us the truth.” Don’t know why you thinks its either/or, Howie. The WashPost editorializes that there is no proof, yet, that the Bushies knowingly falsified the case for war. Even if we grant that, which I don’t, there is proof that they failed to correct their misstatements after they were found to be false, which is quite bad enough. And if there isn’t proof yet, it’s because they really didn’t care that much about the facts, they just put any old info-turd out there.

Mrs. Bush read a book about Clifford the big red dog to some HIV-infected children in Uganda; the children responded with a song: “AIDS has no mercy to the youth," they sang. "We all die young.”

Here’s an amusing transcript of a CNN interview by Wolf Blitzer of Scott Ritter. (or would be if I’d remembered to past the URL, but you could look it up) Blitzer tries to make Bush’s case at every turn, and Ritter corrects him on his facts over and over. As an example of what’s wrong with tv journalism it’s instructive, but Ritter also gives a new datum. There’s an Iraqi nuclear scientist who had equipment buried in his back yard. British foreign sec Jack Straw just tried to use this as an ah-hah without mentioning that the stuff had been there since 1991 and was never dug up, suggesting that Iraq was not reconstituting its arms program. Ritter mentions that if Clinton hadn’t pulled the plug on inspections in 1998, they had plans to go into the scientist’s back yard with ground-penetrating radar.

Gay marriage is legalized in Buenos Aires.

A 13-year old girl in Florida will be tried as an adult.

Bush’s new press secretary’s father has a book coming out about the conspiracy behind the assassination of JFK.

The puppet “governing” council in Iraq acts to set up a war crimes court. Oh yeah, that’ll be fair. Victor’s justice at its finest.

The US has cleared the soldiers who shot down an RAF Tornado in Iraq. Have you ever heard of someone being punished for a friendly fire incident? The board of inquiry claims that the Tornado’s friend-or-foe identifier wasn’t functioning. The only problem there (besides the fact that you still wouldn’t mistake the plane for a missile) is that if that system isn’t working, the plane cannot take off.

The Philippines government has announced a reward of £60,000 for an Islamic militant, alive, dead or “torn to pieces.”

Neil Bush, the presidential brother whose crimes at Silverado S & L have been completely forgotten, is in the middle of a dirty divorce, which is being ignored like FDR’s wheelchair. He’s trying to throw her and his kids out of the family house (which she’s willing to buy, but he won’t sell...not to her anyway). And he admits to having sex with local women (read prostitutes) several times during business trips to the mysterious Orient.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Going to the lavatory at speeds up to 75 mph Like the URL says, a creationist science fair. First prize: a 5th grader proves that her uncle is a human and not a monkey. Hon. menshes include a 3rd grader’s project, “God made kitty” and a 4th grader’s, “"Pokemon Prove Evolutionism Is False” (sic). An 8th grader conclusively proved that life does not come from non-life, by putting water, a lump of charcoal, and a vitamin in a sealed glass jar and leaving it for three weeks (praying to God not to fuck up her project by performing a miracle, of course). A 7th grade boy won 2nd place for proving that "Women Were Designed For Homemaking". The high school projects are a bit more advanced, and much weirder.

For only $3,500 you too can run for governor of California. No, I’m not. How could I win against the likes of Angelyne (from the Hollywood billboards), who has just entered.

Not only are environmental reports that disagree with Bush ideology being suppressed, now the EPA is refusing to analyze air pollution proposals produced by Democrats.

Lecturer in what? “An American lecturer, Richard Rodriguez, 42, has set a record with four days on a rollercoaster in Germany, sleeping, eating and going to the lavatory at speeds up to 75 mph.”

Bush now says the war with Iraq resulted from Saddam’s refusal to let inspectors in, which will be news to Hans Blix. He also says that the doubts about the Nigerien intelligence only arose after the State of the Union speech. In fact, it was disproved a year before. The statements from the administration are getting wilder and wilder. See, for example, the transcript of Rumsfeld on This Week, and Ari Fleischer’s last news conference. Fleischer said "The president, of course, would not be pleased if he said something in the State of the Union that may or may not have been true and should not have risen to his level." Well, who would be? And, asked for evidence that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program, Fleischer said: "I turn it around. Why would anybody think that a leader as brutal as Saddam Hussein would not pursue weapons of mass destruction of biological and chemical and then say, 'But I'm not interested in nuclear?'” Gosh, I’m convinced. The WashPost has a nice snarky piece analyzing the many types of evasion Fleischer deployed. at the end, Bob Deans of Cox News Service rose to say that he had brought Fleischer a cake. "We've received assurances that it's not yellow cake," Deans said. "But that doesn't prove that it's not yellow cake."

Howard Dean ran his first ad, ending, “That's why I'm running for President. And that's why I approved this message.” Jon Stewart made fun of him as “a can-do guy who’s in charge of the things that come out of his own mouth”, but that was before Bush started blaming everybody else for the word-things that came out of his own mouth. This is why political satire is so difficult.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

The real victim

Bush now considers the matter of Yellowcake-gate closed, meaning Tenet won’t get fired for “letting” Bush tell a porkie. So why does Bush think that *he* gets to decide when the question is closed? Because he sees no connection between himself and the words that are expelled from his mouth. Therefore, when Bush tells an untruth, he is actually the real victim, but in this case Bush has magnanimously decided to let Tenet off the hook for Bush having lied. Bush is not actually a liar, they are suggesting, he is a lie-delivery system. After all, you don’t blame the urinal for your bladder infection.

The person who wrote the lie in the first place is still at large. His speechwriter claims to have forgotten who inserted the text about Niger. Must have been the lie fairies.

The US has put out a reward of $2,500 for anyone with information about one of the many incidents in which Iraqis kill or try to kill US soldiers. That’s insultingly paltry, isn’t it? It’s 1/10,000th of the reward for Saddam’s capture. Still, that hasn’t happened either. It’s nice to know there are things the Iraqis won’t do for money. And still none of Saddam’s look-alikes have been found. Or Osama or Mullah Omar. Remember Mullah Omar?

The falsely named Iraqi governing council has just met (the Iraqi national budget was announced a week ago) and, exercising the one governing power devolved to it by Proconsul Bremer, has named a new holiday, the falsely named Independence Day, and abolished 6 old ones, which my feeble grasp of mathematics suggests means that Iraqis will have to work 5 more days for the same money.

The appointed council has been described as a mixture of Shiites, Kurds and whatnot, fully representative of the diversity of Iraqis (evidently the Iraqi population has 8 men to every woman, which would explain why they’re so cranky). 10 of the 25 lived in exile, 6 in Kurdish or other areas not controlled by Saddam. One is Chalabi. And, if this is any help, 18 wore business suits, 4 had keffiyas, 2 tribal costumes. The people surrounding the meeting wore US military combat gear, with some CIA agents in plain clothes. No members of the Iraqi public were allowed in. The most important member, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, said “We are working as fast as possible to end this invasion.” The sentence was mysteriously left out of the official translation. Can’t find it through Google, either.

Condi Rice was at the forefront in blaming George Tenet for Yellowcake-gate, but it turns out the State of the Union address was not the first time someone tried to put the Niger lie into a Bush speech, that the CIA had in fact intervened 3 months before with her deputy. So maybe Condi can stop trying to shift the blame away from herself. In a new shift, today the Bushies were trying to claim that it was all true, that Iraq really was trying to buy uranium in Niger. Look in the next couple of days for an attempt to blame France (if MI6 really didn’t tell the CIA everything it knew, it was because it got the info from French intelligence, which makes sense since France runs Niger’s uranium program).

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Tolerating gay sex in the church

The German newspaper Bild marked the resignation of Italy's tourist minister Stefano Stefani by chartering flights to Rimini and offering seats to readers who are "fat and blond" and like "to make plenty of noise".

The current state of play in Yellowcake-gate is that the CIA is saying it never believed MI6 about the uranium story, but that MI6 refused to share its intelligence. Both sides say this. Bullshit. Good Maureen Dowd column on this.

If you need an overview, the Independent lists and debunks the top 20 lies about Iraq.

From the Sunday Times, a rather badly phrased first sentence: “CHURCH of England bishops are planning to publish a radical report which will argue that gay sex should be tolerated in the church.”

Friday, July 11, 2003

Not totally outrageous

In Africa, Bush said that the average American "cares deeply about the fact that people are dying in record numbers because of HIV-Aids. That's really the story that I want the people of Africa to hear, and I want the people of America to know that I'm willing to take that story to this continent." No help, you understand, just stories. Bush the griot. Actually, pretty much as he said this, Republicans in Congress were cutting 1/3 of the AIDS spending Bush promised from the 2004 budget. Which would be fine if it were the 1/3 Bush wanted to spend on abstinence propaganda.

At a photo-op, two elephants started mating right in front of Bush. I want pictures, and I can’t find them. This demonstrates everything that is wrong with the media. Well, maybe not, but I want to see Bush in front of the fucking elephants. Or squashed by them, but that’s really too much to hope for.

From the AP: “Arnold N. Nawrocki, the man widely credited with bringing individually wrapped slices of cheese into the homes of millions of families in the 1950s, has died at 78.”

The Bushies are passing around the blame over the Niger/uranium fiction less like a hot potato and more like hot uranium. And lying, lying, lying. I did like Colin Powell’s defense that the claim was “not totally outrageous.” Condi is blaming DCI George Tenet (a Clinton appointee) for failing to object (the CIA, State, DOD & her own NSC all had at least 10 days to do so), although it does seem the CIA insisted that Bush attribute the claim to British intelligence (the British are having the same blame-fest, but they scream at each other in classier accents). By the way, I mentioned that by treaty all this “evidence” had to be turned over to the IAEA? When it eventually was, the IAEA took exactly one day to decide it was crap. Ari Fleischer, the slimy toad that he is (I understand Bush likes to rub his bald head, possibly hoping he’ll turn into Pierre Salinger), claimed that the ambassador who went to Niger just found out that Niger denied it, which is not true. There’s lots of talk about who learned what when. If we take all the denials seriously, giving them the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t pass on a really feeble, easily disproven lie for the hell of it, that is if we choose to believe that no one saw the ambassador’s report, no one checked the fake document, then we have a picture of utter incompetence and no one sharing information--exactly the situation that created the 9/11 intelligence failure.

And no one seems to be even trying to get to the bottom of the forged Niger document. I suggested Israel some time back, others are saying Chalibi, which given the sheer incompetence of the forgery is probably the better bet.

This email has been cleared by the intelligence services

“Q: My son has earned the rank of Eagle Scout, and I understand the CIA will send him a letter of congratulations upon request? A: We regret we are unable to process and provide certificates of congratulations to the fine young Americans who have become Eagle Scouts. We have curtailed some activities in order for us to concentrate on the War on Terrorism. Please be assured we will resume the practice when we are able to do so.” -- from the FAQ section of the CIA website.

No, the CIA is too busy taking the rap for a lie in the State of the Union Address. So there’s some talk about the Niger claim misleading Congress, and some about it misleading the American people, and no one at all is asking whether Bush made his decisions based on faulty information. Possibly the idea that Bush bases his decisions on information of any kind is so laughable.

Still, there’s something ignoble and craven about Bush’s excuse: “I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services.” Remember what Truman said about where the buck stops. No, not with the selfish Jews, the other thing. Dictionary definitions of clear: free of obstructions or unwanted objects; transparent; net profit.

Tony Blair issued not one but two “dodgy dossiers,” with material lifted from not terribly recent public sources.

Bush meets AIDS victims. I guess he seemed sincere, right up until he brought God into it: "You are not alone. America has decided to act. I believe God has called us into action.” And then he brought in the military metaphors, calling doctors generals in “the world-wide army of compassion.”

Sometimes when I keep several windows going and click between newspapers so I don’t have to sit around while things download, I get interesting juxtapositions. Variations on a theme: the Italian tourism minister who complained about “hyper-nationalist arrogant blonde” German tourists has resigned; Norwegian “whore children,” fathered by German occupation troops as part of a program to create hyper-nationalist arrogant blondes, are suing because of the horrendous treatment of them after the war (as was also the case in Denmark); Germany is planning a really really tough language requirement for immigrants.

AP headline of the day: “Man Gets Life for Sucking Boys' Toes.” And oh good, it’s a California story. A supervisor of a youth program, but still.

The Swiss national airline has been refused further subsidies by the government, so it has cut back on its flights. For example, all its flights to the capital, Berne.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

The facts will show the world the truth

AP headline: “Man ‘Mad at the World’ Kills 5 Co-workers.” Well I’ll bet the world isn’t too happy with him either.

The 9/11 commission complains that the government is delaying producing documents and refusing to let officials testify without minders being present, evidently waiting out the 18-month clock on the commission, and no one has yet compared this to Saddam’s techniques towards UN arms inspectors, as obvious a comparison as it is. Hell, you’d think the Bushies would welcome the comparison, since it turned out that Saddam wasn’t even hiding anything.

Asked in a press conference in South Africa, "Do you still believe they were trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa?", Bush said: "Right now? One thing is for certain, he's not trying to buy anything right now." Now how would he know what Saddam is or isn’t doing right now? On the same subject, Ari Fleischer: “I think the burden is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are.” And Bush again: “There's no doubt in my mind that when it's all said and done the facts will show the world the truth.” Pretty much by definition.

Incidentally, those claims that there’s other evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa? If it exists, then we are in violation of Security Council resolution 1441 for failing to turn it over to the IAEA.

In South Africa, Bush failed to reiterate demands that Mugabe step down as president of Zimbabwe, saying that SA’s Mbeki was “the point man” on Zim. Mbeki then said that in fact South Africa had successfully created dialog between the Zim government and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (pronounced just like its spelled), which is in fact a lie. At least two British papers refer to SA’s “quiet diplomacy” towards Zimbabwe, which is the term Reagan used for his policy towards apartheid South Africa.

Berlusconi not having insulted Germans enough last week, his tourism minister attacks Germans as "hyper-nationalistic blonds" and "beer-swilling yobs.” (What’s the Italian for yob?) Schröder cancels his plans to holiday in Italy and will vacation in...Hannover. Berlusconi says I feel sorry for him.

A Pakistani newspaper editor is jailed for life for publishing a “blasphemous” letter. The law of blasphemy is frequently used in Pakistan against Christians. [Later: another story has the top Pakistani university about to ban all sorts of “vulgar” Western literature.]

Elvis was The King, and eBay is selling his crown. The one from his mouth. And part of a tooth.

“Danish troops in Iraq were sent salt for de-icing, a snowplough and lawnmowers in a recent shipment. The 380-strong group had complained of the heat in armoured vehicles with no air-conditioning. Many vital supplies, including stakes for their tents, have not been delivered. (AFP)”

I smell Bush backing away from the idea of sending troops to Liberia. Right now, Bush is saying he won’t send troops until Charles Taylor leaves the country, and Taylor is saying he won’t leave until the troops arrive. If anyone were serious about this, this would not be a major obstacle. Bush doesn’t want to send troops if they’d look like they were propping Taylor up, but the recent record of performance by the US military entering a political vacuum is not good. The US did send a few military types to scout out the situation, and they were greeted by actual by god dancing in the streets. So what do I think? I’d like to see some sort of force go in, but not the US and not the West African countries either (Bush talked about training the ECOWAS force in peacekeeping, so they can do as good a job in Liberia as we’re doing in Iraq, presumably). This is what the United Nations is for. Peacekeeping is required and US troops are flat-out incapable of doing it. However good the intentions of the operation, the result will always be bad because US troops’ first through tenth priority is always their own protection, which they take to mean aggressive searches, road blocks, armored personnel carriers, no personal contact, a lot of yelling (in English), and shooting anyone who looks at them cross-eyed.

From the WashPost: “The Department of Homeland Security launched an operation yesterday to help protect children from pornographers, child prostitution rings, Internet predators and human traffickers.” If the dept has time for this, then the country is obviously secure from terrorism and the dept can be abolished.

And here’s a story from California: “The state Board of Education delayed for two years yesterday a requirement that all high school students take an exit exam to graduate, saying some have not been prepared for the high-stakes test.” This shows, if further proof was needed, that tests do not test existing knowledge but rather test-taking skills. Nobody should need to “been prepared” for the test.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

"A plan known only to Providence." What does Rhode Island have to do with it?

So Stephen Hawking rolls into a strip club.... No, seriously. There’s a picture.

The US may not have admitted that its “ultimate objective” in sending troops to Iraq is to gain access to its oil, but the Polish foreign minister has (the words in quotes are his).

Bush comes out against slavery. He thinks it was a bad thing. Although he doesn’t actually apologize for it. Now remember how I complained about the affirmative action decision that the “diversity” argument was used as if you couldn’t just do it to redress injustices against minorities but had to claim that it benefitted white guys as well? How’s this for logic--Bush again: "the spirit of their captors was corrupted . . . small men took on the powers and airs of tyrants and masters. Years of unpunished brutality and bullying and rape produced a dullness and hardness of conscience. Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith..." Then he goes on about the black people convincing whites to free them. "By a plan known only to Providence, the stolen sons and daughters of Africa helped to awaken the conscience of America. The very people traded into slavery helped set America free." So the real crime of slavery was that it hurt white people. (Most reports omitted the “Christian men and women” line; the NY Times carried it, and noted the intense religiosity of the speech, although it didn’t mention that Senegal is a mostly Muslim country.)

By the way, I was wrong about the residents of Gorée being confined to their homes during Bush’s visit. They were actually herded into a football field and kept there most of the day.

Maybe the drug tsar should be retitled the drug pope? He was at a Christian drug rehab clinic to “celebrate its miracles. ... Institutions that connect people to God are crucial to the many millions of people who are in recovery.” Hey if you want to connect them to God, give them their LSD back. Obviously the Bushies are preparing yet another cash giveaway to the God-botherers. (In the first line of this paragraph it would have bene more appropriate to say drug patriarch than drug pope, that being the title of the head of the Russian orthodox Church, thus extending the “tsar” theme, but I couldn’t be sure how many of you would have recognized the term)

WashPost headline: “U.S. to Appoint Council to Represent Iraqis.” Appoint. Represent. Don’t think so.

Monday, July 07, 2003

A very important continent

Gray Davis is spending a million bucks or so to get signatures on petitions against the recall. Such petitions have no legal value, or any other value really, and are presumably just intended to fog the issue. The LA Times has a story about migrant signature-collectors, who go from state to state in search of these paying gigs (it is illegal for other than registered voters to collect signatures, but the Republicans actively recruited in Washington state). Some simultaneously collect signatures for each side. Ah, citizen democracy at its finest.

The Israeli Cabinet agrees to release some prisoners. Islamic Jihad is threatening to end its week-old truce because none of its (or Hamas’s) people will be released. Or any the Israelis “think have blood on their hands.” That formulation refers to the fact that Israel doesn’t bother trying most of the people it detains. The 400 (some papers say 300) that will be released--very very slowly--would only amount to a fraction of the number detained without trial (every paper has its own figure for this one). I don’t know if releasees will be confined to them or will include people actually convicted of something, although I gather most will be women, children and sick people.

You’ll remember that Rumsfeld threatened Belgium that if it didn’t change its crimes against humanity law, he would pull NATO hq out of Brussels and otherwise punish them. They pointed out that they had already changed the law, stopping the proceedings against Bush and Tommy Franks, so why is Rumsfeld still not happy? Well, Rummy is actually acting on behalf of Ariel Sharon. The change in the law, allowing defendants to be tried only in their own countries, did in fact protect all Americans, but the people who filed charges against Sharon for the Sabra-Shatila massacres are Palestinian refugees, who wouldn’t be allowed into Israel to present their cases, so Belgium still has jurisdiction.

Only 9 current and former Senators made it to Strom Thurmond’s funeral. Trent Lott did not go. Suggested eulogy: If we had buried Strom in 1948 the country would not be in this mess.

I can’t figure out what the vote in Corsica turning down greater autonomy meant, but it sounds like the Corsicans weren’t too clear themselves.

African leaders are expected to complain to Bush about their cotton farmers being bankrupted by the heavy US subsidies of our cotton farmers. Oh sure, but when we brought them over to work in our cotton fields, they bitched and moaned about that too.

By the way, Bush will be visiting Nigeria, which he once described as “a very important continent.”

Italy’s highest court, which you know from this space deals exclusively with cases involving sex in automobiles, mothers-in-law, whether women wearing jeans can be raped, etc etc, rules that a pat on the ass constitutes sexual violence.

We’re getting closer to figuring out the precise limits of acceptable homophobia in this country. It’s somewhere between Rick Santorum and Michael Savage (who I never got around to watching during his brief run on MSNBC, not knowing the wit and subtlety of his rhetoric rose to this level: “Oh, you're one of the sodomites. You should only get AIDS and die, you pig. How's that? Why don't you see if you can sue me, you pig. You got nothing better than to put me down, you piece of garbage. You have got nothing to do today, go eat a sausage and choke on it. Get trichinosis.”).

In Britain, those limits have been clarified this week by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who pressured the newly appointed Bishop of Reading to resign. Seems the guy is in a homosexual relationship, celibate just as the Church of England and until recently the state of Texas demands, but the evangelicals, who have all the money, and the Anglican church in Nigeria, complained that he used to have sex and has not “repented.” The thing is, Rohan Williams, the bearded, happy-clappy Archbishop, knows better and not only gave in but defended the right of the bigots to be bigots.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

The Simpsons, I mean Bushes, are going to Africa!

An ITN cameraman is killed in Iraq, the 17th journalist of the war and if I’m not very much mistaken the first not killed by the US.

Anglers in northern Italy are using live kittens as bait to catch catfish. If that isn’t icky enough for you, try to find footage of those Iranian siamese twins joined at the head.

Bush is going into the bush, the first president to visit Africa in his first term, and possibly the first sitting Republican president (what, Teddy Roosevelt didn’t go to shoot something?). He claims it’s about AIDS and humanitarianism (the extent of which can be seen in appointing an Eli Lilly executive to run the AIDS program, despite a compete lack of experience with AIDS or Africa). But of course it’s about oil deposits off the West African coast, which evidently the neo-Cons and pro-Israel types want. Oil has done nothing for the people of Nigeria or Angola except to increase corruption and pay for civil wars. Studies have said that discovering oil is one of the worst things that can happen to a Third World country.

Anyway, in Senegal, Bush will go to a slavery museum, where he will be shown the weights, neck rings and leg irons used on slaves being sent to America. No newspaper anywhere in the world will run this story next to a picture of prisoners being sent to Guantanamo. Which is why I should run a newspaper. When Nelson Mandela visited the museum, he asked to spend some time alone in the isolation room used for recalcitrant slaves. Speaking of which, the 400 residents of Gorée island will not be allowed out of their homes while Bush is around, because god forbid he should meet an actual native. Basically, he’s going to airports in 5 African countries, and the heads of state will come out to meet him and he’ll say he visited Africa.

I don’t think we’re ever going to get a credible explanation for why US troops in Iraq seized those 11 Turkish troops.

They don't expect God to have a Manchester accent

When I said that Wolfowitz names the people to be prosecuted by military tribunal, their juries, judges and the review board, I failed to mention that his insistence that defense lawyers have security clearances effectively means he appoints them too, or at least vetoes (and can remove them, or the judges, any time during the trial), and reserves the right to listen in on their conversations. The prisoners are also being threatened with the death penalty if they don’t plead guilty.

Incidentally, has there ever been an official explanation of the two prisoners beaten to death at Guantanamo?

Headline in the Observer: “Language Schools 'Were Front' for Lap-Dance Smuggling Ring” [in Ireland]. That’s what we need: an English-Lapdancing Dictionary.

This week Laos sentenced two European reporters to long prison terms, garnering absolutely no attention in the US, although they were reporting on the Hmong and other fighters we first incited into rebellion and then mostly abandoned in 1975. Evidently some of them are still fighting on and expecting rescue by the US any day now. Talk about not getting the message.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Checks and balances

Happy 27th anniversary of the Bicentennial.

Berlusconi denies that he ever apologized. Indeed, he feels that he is owed an apology.

Some idiot with piercings of her lips and studs was hit by lightning. Guess what acted as conductors? There is an organization for such people. I didn’t dare click on “Become a member.”

They’re finally moving towards those “military tribunals.” Here’s a quote from the Times:
"There are a lot of checks and balances in this system," one Pentagon spokesman told The Times. Asked what those checks and balances were, the official cited the review of the President's decision by Mr Wolfowitz.

Asked if there were any other checks and balances other than that, the official replied: "No, sir."

Wolfy not only names the people to be charged, but appoints their jury, and the panel that will review cases, and will make the final decision. So the person he is checking and balancing is himself. The “trials” will allow hearsay and coerced statements.

The BBC show Mastermind, compared to which Jeopardy takes the little bus to school, denies that it’s dumbing down, but sadly it is. One possible specialist category is The Simpsons. The Times has these suggested questions. If you’re very nice to me, I’ll send the answers some time. If you’re looking for a way to be nice to me, the Times says that Mastermind CD-ROMS are sold by the BBC. [Never mind, more expensive than I expected.]

Friday, July 04, 2003

I blame Roberto Benigni

India finally gets around to asking the US to extradite the former chairman of Union Carbide for the Bhopal disaster of 1984.

Berlusconi sort of apologized today (while also saying it was a premeditated provocation by his enemies), one of those sorry if you were offended because you’re a tight-assed German who can’t take a joke apologies. He also says that Italians make lots of Holocaust jokes because they know how to laugh at that kind of tragedy. But it turns out his “joke” was in far worse taste than we realized, thanks to lousy translation. He didn’t say Herr Schulz should play a commandant but a kapo, that is Jewish prisoners used to keep other prisoners in line. By the way, the film Berlusconi mentioned is already completed, and will be distributed by one of his companies. It wasn’t just an insult, it was an advertisement. One of his tv stations broadcast an excerpt from Hogan’s Heroes to show just how much Schulz resembled his fictional namesake (actually, not at all--by the way, Schulz’s father was victimized by the Nazis and he is a pacifist), and to keep up the sitcom theme, Britain’s Europe Minister Peter Hain suggested Berlusconi should follow Basil Fawlty’s advice and not mention the war.

A man in Oklahoma has been sentenced to life imprisonment for spitting at a cop.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

My answer is bring them on

You know it’s a bad day when your desk chair tries to kill you in a suicide attack.

Bush on attacks on US troops in Iraq: “My answer is bring them on.” Traditionally, isn’t that phrase only used by people who will do the fighting themselves? Or is this some sort of subliminable reverse psychology thing? He also blames Al Qaida for the attacks, with no evidence whatsoever.

I’ve lost track. Have we reached the point where more US soldiers have been killed after the war in Iraq was declared over than during the war?

A German is fined after admitting to crashing his car into a road sign while having sex with a hitchhiker at 60 mph. The fine is for leaving the scene, and to replace the sign. It turns out that having sex while driving isn’t actually illegal in Germany. Plan your vacations accordingly.

Robert Mugabe calls Colin Powell an Uncle Tom. And your point is? Last week Powell promised massive aid to Zimbabwe if Mugabe was overthrown. How that’s different from putting a price on his head, I’m not exactly sure.

Darrell Issa, the guy funding the Davis recall, continues to implode as two old gun charges against him come out. Also, when a judge awarded him control of a company that had defaulted on a debt to him, he arrived, the story goes, with a gun that he showed the company’s director as he fired him. He sort of denies this, saying, “I don't think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.” Right. Once again, Davis has found the one Republican he can beat.

I’ve talked about the secretive Carlyle Group and its Republican connections. Its managing director, who evidently didn’t realize he was being recorded, made some hilarious remarks about a drone he was asked to put on the board and fired 3 years later, one George Walker Bush. Read this, it’s hilarious.

One reason Berlusconi got his immunity law was so that his presidency of the EU wouldn’t be blighted. Unless of course he opened his big mouth and suggested, not one full day into that presidency, that a German MEP would be perfect to play a Nazi concentration camp commander in a film. The MEP’s name is Schulz, yet. Berlusconi has refused to apologize. It should be noted that members of his governing coalition want ships carrying immigrants to have cannons fired at them. Some people have noted that the minimum standards of democracy that new applicants to the EU like Poland have to meet are no longer met by Italy.

Israel has pulled out of Bethlehem, which is still surrounded on all sides. Remember how I said Israel would make no such move without doing something nasty at the same time that wouldn’t get nearly as much publicity? In this case, they confiscated a bunch of land and plan demolition of Palestinian houses there, both acts not allowed under the “road map.”

Go to Google. Type into the search window “weapons of mass destruction,” but without using quote marks. Click on “I’m feeling lucky.” Do it now.