Friday, October 31, 2003

A hatched-again Christian

I hope you are all making the best of Protection from Pornography Week.

From the Independent: “A British version of a reality television show featuring 44 dwarfs competing against an elephant in a tug-of-war contest has been pulled before broadcast after protests by Dame Judi Dench and animal rights activists.”

More great British tv: “A group of reality show contestants are taking legal action against Sky after being tricked into seducing a woman who turned out to be a transsexual.”

I forgot to mention something about Michael Howard: he is Jewish (his father changed his name from Hecht). His son converted to Christianity at Eton and likes to try to convert Jews. One writer suggests that this is the reason the Tory party is so anxious not to let its bigoted members have a vote. When first looking for a parliamentary seat, Howard was turned down by 40 constituency parties. Here’s the right-wing Daily Mail: “Michael Howard would like to be seen as the very model of... the proper English gentleman... [who] loves the countryside and stands for those very Anglo-Saxon virtues of fair play and decency... his enemies would complain that he is a chilly, calculating, heartless, ruthless, ambitious, calculating political machine, bent on passing himself off as something he isn't.” They said the exact same things about Disraeli, who wasn’t Jewish but his father was, 150 years ago.

Former Italian PM Andreotti’s conviction for ordering the murder of a journalist is overturn. Honestly, I have no idea if he was guilty. With the Italian justice system, it’s anyone’s guess.

From the Times: “President Putin summoned 14 investment bankers to the Kremlin last night in a desperate bid to assure them Russia was still a safe place to do business.” Of course when Putin summons people, they tend to arrive tied up and with hoods over their heads.

Lemmings do not commit mass suicide. A Disney documentary in 1958 faked footage.

And FDR may not have had polio, but rather Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Ted Costa, the guy who brought us the goober recall, now wants to change the way redistricting is done, and hey he wants it done in 2006, 6 years early.

The Center for Public Integrity has issued a report which says that the companies getting the big contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan are all big campaign donors and employ former officials. Just as the cynical among you suspected, of course. Indeed, just as anyone with two brain cells to rub together suspected. But I have to ask if this tells us something special about these companies, or if American business is just hopelessly mired in cronyism and corruption. One way to tell would have been to compare these companies with the ones that didn’t win contracts, but of course these were mostly no-bid contracts.

In a new move to intimidate, the US government is prosecuting Greenpeace, as an organization, for the action of 2 members who boarded a ship to protest mahogany imports. They are using a nineteenth century law about unauthorized boarding of ships, enacted to prevent boarding-house owners jumping onto ships as they arrived to get clients. Greenpeace’s director may not (for once) be exaggerating: “The government's action is unprecedented - prosecuting an entire organisation for the expressive activities of its supporters.”

Putin’s law against election commentary in the press is overturned by the courts.

Billmon notes that the pro-war semi-neo-libs like Tom Friedman have been writing columns saying that Iraq is not Vietnam. Of course it isn’t: it’s a dry heat.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Prancing around the aircraft carrier

Yet another lovely Bush judicial nominee, Claude Allen for the 4th Circuit. On a non-personal level, Bush has screwed with procedure by picking someone from Virginia for what should be a Maryland seat. On a personal level, let’s just say Allen is a black man who worked for Jesse Helms in his campaign against Governor Jim Hunt, who Allen said was vulnerable because his campaign could be “linked with queers.” He says he meant no offense to the queers. Allen is now deputy sec of Health & Human Services, where he pushes for sex ed. classes that only advocate abstinence until marriage, and he doesn’t mean gay marriage. Under Clinton, 4 black nominees to the 4th circuit were blocked by the R’s. Previously, Allen was the top health official in Virginia, where he fought extending health coverage for uninsured youth to abortion in cases of rape & incest, which was required by federal law.

IDS out. Only 2 other Conservative party leaders have never been allowed even to run in a general election (Neville Chamberlain, Austen Chamberlain).

The key description of the Tory Party leader-in-waiting Michael Howard is Anne Widdecombe’s that he has “something of the night” about him--the BBC Newsnight presenter last night referred to his “Transylvanian ancestors” in alluding to this, hopelessly confusing the people he was questioning. There may not even be a leadership contest, as all the decent candidates are too old or were pressured not to run (IDS was elected under a new system that gave much of the decision to the scariest people on earth, the card-carrying members of the Tory party; by having a coronation rather than an election, the Tory MPs are trying to deprive the membership of a vote). Howard, previously seen playing the John Ashcroft role as home secretary, has the advantage of never having had sex with a man, and never having suggested that the EU wasn’t the whore of Babylon. As I suggested, he is a place-holder who will never be prime minister. Not only are the Tories now unelectable, but so is Howard.

Maybe the alleged experts will just shut up. Earlier this week all the talk was that Iraqi rebels were targeting civilians now, because it was easier. Today they blew up a tank.

The Afghan opium industry has restored itself to pre-Taliban levels. Hurrah.

Wesley Clark on Bush’s claim about the banner: “I guess that next thing we are going to hear is that the sailors told him to wear the flight suit and prance around on the aircraft carrier.”

At his press conference, Bush refused to answer a question about whether he could promise there would fewer American troops in Iraq in one year, on the grounds that it was a “trick question.” Incidentally, the other thing Michael Howard is famous for is evading and refusing to answer a question in an interview with Jeremy Paxman, despite being asked it 14 times in a row.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Failed liberations: Iraqis, garden gnomes

In the Tuesday NYT, Paul Krugman (who gave a great talk broadcast on CSPAN, I believe viewable online at writes about the wilful ignorance of Bush and America in general about the views of others, the column brought on by 1) Bush’s failure to understand moderate Muslims’ distrust of the US (I made the same point yesterday by mocking Bush’s hyper-simplified analysis of Iraqi militants as hating freedom and loving terror), 2) the hate mail he got when he tried to explain, not excuse, the Malaysian PM’s anti-semitic remarks. Trying to understand, rather than issuing anathemas, is taken to be moral weakness. There was a mini-series about Hitler a few months ago, which originally was supposed to have been about his early years and based on the very good Ian Kershaw biography. By the time it reached tv, his childhood was reduced to about 2 minutes (presumably because showing his father beating him up would have been taken as sympathy for Hitler), the title was changed to something like Hitler: Rise of Evil, in case you mistook CBS’s moral stance, Kershaw had demanded his name be removed, and Hitler was played as a ranting lunatic, with no attempt in 4 hours to get into his head at all, much less explain how a nation could respond to him. 58 years later and CBS was scared it would be perceived as soft on Hitler. It was a film that filled Americans’ deep need NOT to understand.

For another example of wilful misunderstanding, there’s been a lot of condemnation in the last 2 days of the bombing in Iraq of the International Committee of the Red Cross, but I have yet to hear a suggestion that there’s a reason beyond sheer assholery: a big red symbol of Christ’s death and alleged resurrection didn’t carry that much weight in fucking Iraq.

I mean, in the same newspapers there are stories about the shitstorm in Italy where a judge ordered crucifixes removed from public schoolrooms (following one of Mussolini’s laws), after objections from a Muslim student. In case anyone needed a reminder that not everyone is a Christian. (Yes, I know that the ICRC claims the cross isn’t Christian but Swiss, but c’mon.)

Iain Duncan Smith is facing what we Kallyfohrnians call a recall as Tory party leader, under rules that also made recall way too easy (15% of Tory MPs could secretly demand it). Simon Hoggart of the Guardian: “This looks likely to be the fourth leadership election in eight years. The Tories seem to work their way through leaders like other people get new cars, except that a new car will get you somewhere. ... Heaven knows what the Tories would do if they ever found a leader they liked. They'd have nothing to do to fill the empty hours.” He might retain his job, simply because no one else really wants it--no one thinks the Tories will win the next election, so the next Tory leader will lose the election and be knifed in the back in his turn--but IDS is mortally wounded and can’t survive until the next election (probably in 2005).

And nearly 6 months after the flight carrier thing, Bush claims that the “Mission accomplished” banner did not refer to the war, but to that carrier’s mission, and that it was the work of the crew, not his PR people at all. Actually, it turns out to have been made by a private vendor, and no one is saying who paid for it. Also, Bush used the words “mission accomplished” in speeches, so blaming the carrier crew is especially weaselly.

Trent Lott on how to deal with Iraq: “If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.”

From the Daily Telegraph:
More than 40 gnomes stolen and liberated by a shadowy French underground movement were yesterday condemned to life in a "dusty cupboard" by a police chief hunting the thieves.

Earlier this year priests arriving at the cathedral in Saint-Die in the Vosges found 84 stolen garden gnomes lined up on the steps as if waiting for Mass.

Flapping above them was a banner, which read "Free at last!" But after months of investigation, the police have given up trying to find the culprits.

An open day was held on Monday for those wanting to claim the gnomes. Fewer than half were collected.

"The liberators have failed," said Michel Klein, the local police chief. "The gnomes are now going to spend the rest of their lives locked up in dusty cupboard."

Despite M Klein's remarks, the closing of the Saint-Die gnome theft case marks another victory for France's gnome liberators. Since 1997, they have freed some 6,500 gnomes around France, stealing them from private gardens and leaving them in forests, beside lakes, or in one case encircling a roundabout.

In the strangest case, 11 gnomes were found hanging from a bridge in Briey accompanied by a suicide note saying: "When you read these few words, we will no longer be part of your selfish world, where we serve merely as pretty decoration."

Suspicion in the Saint-Die case naturally fell on the Front de Liberation des Nains de Jardin (Garden Gnome Liberation Front), whose leaders were arrested in 1997 and given suspended prison sentences.

Whereas in Britain thieves steal garden gnomes to resell them there is no suspicion that the FLNJ is out for money. Instead, they repaint the gnomes in green, representing trees, and blue for the sky, and cover up their clownish red noses. The gnomes are then liberated in a ceremony involving techno music, fireworks and, police suspect, drugs.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Highly protected

NYT: “an American colonel was killed and at least 16 people were wounded when a barrage of air-to-ground missiles from a homemade launching pad slammed into a highly protected hotel where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was staying.”

Define “highly protected.”

A long expose of the Teapot Dome of the Bush admin, well, one of them and possibly a bigger waste of money than that going to Halliburton, the leasing of refueling tankers from Boeing, at a cost many billions greater than if the Air Force bought them outright. But it couldn’t afford that, so it put it on the ol’ credit card, because tomorrow is another day and interest doesn’t “count.” It’s also another example of the use of conference committees: this lease was initially approved two years ago by one, and will get the final go-ahead soon from another, without ever having been considered by either the House or Senate. Which I believe used to be called taxation without representation. It’s also an example of a contractor being allowed by the Pentagon to rewrite rules, for example eliminating a provision that the new tankers be at least as good as the old ones. And yes, all the Air Force officials involved will be moving to Seattle and taking up highly paid no-show jobs after they retire from the service. It’s worth the read, and very reminiscent of the Reagan years, another period when infinite resources were lavished on the military with no regard for waste.

In Kallyfohrnia, all state employees, and legislators, have to take a sexual harassment training course. Governors don’t have to, and our incoming one has been training his entire life, so doesn’t feel he needs it.

The Post Office wants to ban anonymous mail.

Least believable statement from Iraq of the day: “the policemen say that, as he was shot and fell, he said he was Syrian.”

Whoops, spoke too soon: “George Bush yesterday tried to stifle rising doubts on the occupation of Iraq by insisting yesterday's bombings were a sign that life had improved under America's watch.” Shhh, soon everybody will want suicide bombings. No town will be considered civilized without at least 3 Starbucks and its police station a mass of smoking rubble.

Kerry responds: “Does the president really believe that suicide bombers are willing to strap explosives to their bodies because we're restoring electricity and creating jobs for Iraqis?”

Bush also showed a deep psychological understanding of his enemies: “[They] can't stand the thought of a free society. They hate freedom. They love terror. They love to try to create fear and chaos.”

In June, Ariel Sharon pledged to dismantle illegal settlement outposts. Today, he announced that 8 of them will receive lighting, school buses and military security.

3 Muslim states in northern Nigeria have blocked injections to deal with a polio outbreak, saying it is a western plot to spread AIDS. The annoying thing is that the idiot obscurantists have reason to be suspicious, since US drug companies have tried out experimental drugs there, including one for meningitis allegedly administered in one of the Nigerian states without the patients being informed of the risks.

George Monbiot has a story about Uzbekistan, which tends to imprison Muslims and, occasionally, boil them, but which has the full support of the US and UK, including increased aid, much of it going to the security services responsible for quite a lot of torture. Still, the State Dept focuses on the good news: "Average sentencing" for members of peaceful religious organisations is now just "7-12 years", while two years ago they were "usually sentenced to 12-19 years". Hurrah.

The European war against immigrants continues. Austria just tightened its laws, and France is actually setting “expulsion targets” for local authorities, with the aim of doubling expulsions.

George Lakoff, a leftie linguist who I’ve always liked, interviewed on how conservatives control the debate by controlling the language.

And, along those lines, Billmon points out the frequent use by Bushies of the word desperate to describe the Iraqi resistance.

In a discussion that’s way beyond my technical knowledge, this site says that the White House website has been deliberately tinkered with to make it hard to get information about Iraq from it through an external search engine like Google (although a search conducted within via its internal search function still works). More importantly, those pages won’t be archived at Google & elsewhere. Why? Well, the Democratic Party’s website notes that the White House has sometimes altered old pages, for example to have Bush saying on May 1 that “major combat” had ended, when in real life he didn’t qualify the word combat.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I came, I saw, I pressed a crease

“In an act of callous political opportunism, Gov. Jeb Bush last week basically kicked down the door of a hospice and forced a feeding tube down poor Terri Schiavo's throat.” Read more.

Never has a Washington Post editorial, or at least its headline, expressed an opinion so diametrically opposed to the wishes of everyone in the United States and indeed the world: “Speak Up, Mr. Rumsfeld.”

Oddly, the same section has an op/ed piece by Rummy, which seems to call for a hard slog, to coin a phrase, against terrorists and what he calls terrorist states, in which the nearly pointless war in Iraq is once again conflated with the war on terrorism. By the way, last week the Senate voted 97-1 to allow the “War on Terrorism” medal to be awarded to soldiers who fought in Iraq (Jim Jeffords was the one). I hope soldiers who think they were lied to about the reasons they were sent into Iraq will publicly throw those medals away; indeed, I don’t see what else they can do with honor.

We’ve heard a little bit in the last week about the wounded in our little colonial brush war. I’d have said casualties, but the Pentagon has redefined that word to refer only to dead soldiers. You’ll be pleased to hear that wounded reservists will be moved from their current facilities to some place with indoor plumbing (they’re in Georgia, so what do you expect). Hurrah!

Click here, if you don’t believe me about the lack of indoor toilets.

The Post has an analysis of Iraqi weapons, and concludes that there were none of the weapons programs the Bushies claimed. I’m not sure it says anything we didn’t know, but others are treating the story as a big deal, so I pass it on.

Russia has arrested its richest man, an oil tycoon. Before you giggle too much, understand that Mikhail Khodorkovsky is the main financial support of the liberal opposition and that elections are less than 2 months away. A previous richest man in Russia was granted political asylum by the UK last month.

From the Times: “THE bishop at the centre of the dispute over same-sex blessings in the Anglican Church yesterday compared homosexuals in the Church to the Israelites wandering for 40 years in a wilderness infested with snakes.” But not in a good, you know, metaphoric way.

Israel releases its plans for the fence/wall, and yes it will cut 15 miles into Palestinian territory. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: Mr. Sharon, stick this wall up your ass.

This weekend, Israel destroyed several 13-story apartment blocks in Gaza, leaving thousands homeless. Also, all those homes destroyed, allegedly in the search for tunnels, were actually to create a giant buffer zone. Also, the military is ordering Palestinians who live in 15 villages near the Berlin Wall to get permits to live in their own homes; they are deeming the area a “closed military zone.” Any Palestinian (but not a Jew) visiting the area will require a pass. Note that when the UN Security Council was debating condemning the wall, Israel promised that the legal status of Palestinians would be unaffected.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Long hard slog

I've gotten tired of waiting for something to attach that subject line to, so don't go looking for relevance.

Still dead: the right-wing Spanish government is offering to repatriate the remains of Spaniards killed fighting for the Germans in the Soviet Union. The republicans killed by Franco’s fascists, on the other hand, are still buried in mass graves.

The Senate votes to ease travel restrictions on Cuba while the Dept of Homeland Security plans to use intelligence resources to identify the tourists. Evidently there is no longer any terrorist threat to the United States, and the department of Homeland Security, its job complete, may now be safely disbanded.

LA makes it illegal to shit and/or piss in public, punishable by a $1,000 fine or 6 months in jail. They say it won’t be enforced where there are no public toilets, but since they don’t put that into the law, so it’s just another arbitrary power put in the hands of the police.

There was a bizarre attempt at spin by the Israeli military this week. After a bombing/assassination attack in which 14, I believe, were killed, they released some of their footage from drone planes allegedly showing empty streets when they fired missiles at a car. They didn’t show all of the footage, and they never explained how all those people got deaded, unless Palestinian militants are now traveling by clown car. I guess they got away with it, in that the first headlines were about Israel releasing footage that proved something, while the stories the next day didn’t get nearly the same play. Because the film didn’t show what Israel claimed it showed, empty streets, if you actually looked at it closely.

The NYT has an article about something I’ve been meaning to talk about, and now don’t have to, the increasing use by R’s of conference committees to rewrite legislation behind closed doors, the rewriting being done by just a few very powerful R’s, and always, always in the direction of special interests and the right wing. It’s secretive, undemocratic (and unDemocratic, since D’s are excluded from the work). Conference committees are supposed to reconcile differences between bills passed by the two houses, but that’s not how they’re being used now.

George Bush the Elder was shot down during a bombing run on the island of Chichi Jima, as were 8 other airmen. He escaped. The other 8 were all captured, tortured, beheaded or stabbed to death. 4 of them were then eaten.

Israel is planning to release 400 Hezbollah and other prisoners in exchange for one live drug dealer and 3 dead soldiers.

Frank Rich on Bush’s media wars.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Even though I've played very, very heroic characters in the movies....

In Britain a man has been fined for driving while using not one but two mobile phones.

Bald Tory Party Leader Number Two is likely to be kicked out soon. So soon that the bookies aren’t even taking bets on it anymore. Of course, IDS has proven a major loser, but the proximate cause is his siphoning of funds to pay his wife a salary for doing nothing (in theory she was working for him at home, taking care of his diary and such, which a very snarky Guardian writer says should soon be a very easy job, “because his appointments diary will be completely empty. "Right what have we got this week... Monday, let's see, hmm... Waitangi Day, New Zealand. Um. Tuesday... full moon. Wednesday... it's the vernal equinox... how am I going to fit all this in?"”). The same writer notes that like his wife, IDS has been paid money for two years to perform a job he isn’t actually doing, leading the opposition.

Fat Tony Scalia is reported as mocking the recent decision allowing gay sex, saying that sodomy was illegal at the time of the founding fathers. No one asked him whether it should therefore be illegal to teach a slave to read, probably not wanting to hear his answer.

The NY Times is asking for a Pulitzer to one of its own reporters to be revoked, for whitewashing Stalin in the 1930s. Two words: Judith Miller.

The Arnold met with Calif’s treasurer, and suddenly realized that the fiscal situation is not good, “disastrous,” he called it, and not just Last Action Hero disastrous, but End of Days disastrous. Now he’s trying to reduce expectations. “The problem was created over the last five years, and so you can't expect that — even though I've played very, very heroic characters in the movies, but you can't expect me to walk into his office and all of a sudden come out with the answers.” Which is odd because I thought the whole point of his campaign was that he had all the answers precisely because he had played the Terminator and the Kindergarten Cop. I’m pretty sure that’s what the bumper stickers said. And it made so much sense at the time.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Action action action action

LA Times headline: “Gov.-Elect Rolls Up His Sleeves on Budget.” Unfortunately, he then got distracted, and spent the rest of the afternoon admiring his own biceps.

One thing about farming out phone and clerical work abroad is that certain US laws become unenforceable. And there are other problems. For example, a woman in Pakistan doing outsourced work for UCSF Medical Center has threatened to post patients’ medical records to the web unless she is bribed. Of course it is Pakistan, so maybe UCSF can have her executed.

William Saletan suggests that the mythological beast put to the sword by the Senate yesterday, “partial birth abortions” is described in ways intended to obfuscate that the thing being aborted is not viable, is not in fact being partially born.

And another piece, by an abortion doctor in Boulder, makes the case very clearly that there is no such critter in medical terms, and that because of that, there is no way that a doctor, who actually thinks in medical terms, one hopes, knows what has just been outlawed. As any Iraqi will tell you, when this administration starts going after mythical things, a lot of people can get hurt. (That analogy is mine, and it’s darned clever, and I want credit for it.)

The R’s fortunately passed a measure that is not constitutional (if the Supreme Court is reshaped to the point where it allows this law to go ahead, then this law will be the least of the dangers to reproductive freedom). The R’s are now so fanatical (or so much more interested in votes than abortion, which is almost worse) that they wouldn’t allow an exception for the life of the mother, even knowing the act is not, ahem, viable without it. By the way, the only term by which women are referred to in this bill is “mother”--as usual, doctors are subject to prison terms (2 years), but women’s decisions to procure this illegal act would have no legal consequences for them--but is one really technically a mother before birth? Isn’t the correct term expectant mother?

Sweden, with 45.3% of its MPs being women, has been knocked into second place by, wait for it, Rwanda (48.8%) (The US House of Reps is tied for 60th place with 14.3%)

Governor Arnold, without a hint of irony: “Action, action, action, action — that's what people have voted me into this office for.”

In Indonesia, Bush says that the views of “Jerry” Boykin that Muslims don’t worship a real god are not his views nor those of the American people. After all, he added, didn’t our CIA give your government the names of hundreds of thousands of alleged godless commies in the 1960s so they could be killed? All joking about genocide aside, I could do without Bush pontificating on what the American people do or do not believe about religion. In fact I, like Boykin, don’t think Muslims worship a real god. And neither does Boykin.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

It takes a while to get the Rambo stuff out

Bill Maher has described Bush’s aggressively virtuous appointees as men whose sole claim to office is that they “read the Bible and fuck their wives.”

I’ve been reading Hugo Young’s book about the history of British attitudes towards European union. Which was always skittish to say the least, but then there’s this (from today’s Indy): “Tony Blair believes that he may have triggered his heart scare by drinking too much strong coffee at the European Union summit in Brussels.”

A cute detail from day 2 of the Toledo Blade exposé: a panel was created after My Lai to prevent cover-ups in war crimes cases. The panel never actually met.

Fortunately, we’re so much more diligent about investigating war crimes now. The Human Rights Watch report out yesterday says that of 94 civilians killed by the US military in Baghdad alone since May 1 that it knows about (one lesson learned from Vietnam: stop counting), a full 5 have been officially investigated (4 exonerations). HRW’s head says, “Right now soldiers feel they can pull the trigger without coming under review.” The report notes that units went from combat duty to security details and, quoting an anonymous officer, “It takes a while to get the Rambo stuff out.” (Later:) and then there’s this AP story that US soldiers executed a prisoner in Iraq whose hands were tied with those plastic thingies Tiger Force would have loved to have had.

George Monbiot considers the implications of the export of phone support jobs, soon to be followed by middle management jobs, to India.

After 4 days of the summit, Bush finally “confronts” Malaysian PM Mahathir on his anti-semitic remarks. See, he was right, the Jews always do manage to get others to do their work by proxy.

Kidding, kidding. I kid because I love.

I hadn’t realized that Bush has never attended the funeral of a soldier killed in one of his wars (this in a Post story that the military has banned tv cameras showing the return of coffins).

Water pollution

A Voice writer suggests that Joe Lieberman’s tactics, which entail attacking his opponents as dangerous leftists whose “old, big-government solutions” would lead to a “Dean recession,” etc etc, is an if-I-don’t-win-nobody-wins strategy. He compares this to the hatchet job Al Gore did on Dukakis in 1988. He also comments that when he tried to find a Lieberman event to cover, Holy Joe’s press office wouldn’t tell him any, and his website indicates that he pretty much only shows up at fundraisers.

Sy Hersh on just how the Bush admin got its intelligence on Iraq, etc, so horribly wrong, and some speculation on the origins of the yellowcake forgeries.

Harper’s on Bush abroad: “Bush said that the Philippines, which he called "the oldest democracy in Asia," should be seen as the model for a new democratic Iraq, and then quickly left the country because of security concerns.” Hey, that’s a model for any country: one where Bush doesn’t dare stay more than 6 hours.

The Florida legislature rushes through a bill allowing Jeb Bush to overturn a court order and order doctors to keep alive the body of a brain-dead woman against the wishes of her husband.

Chirac supports a ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves in school: “We cannot allow people to shelter behind a deviant idea of religious liberty in order to defy the laws of the republic.” Especially the really petty, vindictive laws of the republic.

Re “Jerry” Boykin, David Corn asks what the reaction would be if he had said that Judaism was a false religion. I think as long as Rumsfeld keeps him in his job, any non-Christians in the military get to go home if they want. Rummy’s response to a question today was that he’d only heard difficult-to-understand video tapes, so he doesn’t really know what Boykin said. Corn comments that the Pentagon did seem to have the ability to analyze the supposed Osama bin Laden tapes, so this shouldn’t have been that difficult, but Boykin works for Rumsfeld, so why can’t he just ask him what he said? This is the Yellowcakegate (Weapons of Mate Destruction won the WashPost name-the-scandal contest) strategy of pretending Bush can’t order the leaker to reveal his or herself.

Boykin has asked to be investigated by the IG. Josh Marshall: “This, of course, rather begs the question of which “rules and procedures” his comments would have violated. Conduct unbecoming an officer from this millennium? Use of hellfire in violation of the Geneva Convention?”

Also from Harper’s: “Thai protesters captured the soul
of George W. Bush, imprisoned it in a clay pot, and then
drowned it in the Ping River.”

And this: “In France, a judge was caught masturbating in court. A penal inquiry was underway.” (Sorry)

Monday, October 20, 2003

Not true followers of Islam

General William “Jerry” Boykin non-apologizes to any heathens offended by his remarks. "I do believe that radical extremists have tried to use Islam as a cause for attacks on America," he said. "As I have stated before, they are not true followers of Islam." Right, and as you’ve also stated before, followers of Islam are idol-worshippers. So the militants are not TRUE followers of FALSE gods, but rather FALSE followers of FALSE gods, who should try instead to be TRUE followers of their FALSE gods.

Boykin, I don’t think I’ve said before, was also an adviser on the Waco siege.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, the British will bet on anything. Anyway, if you want to bet on the outcome of the BBC’s competition for the UK’s favorite book, the bookies are favoring Pride & Prejudice 4:1, although if it turns out to be Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, the internet will be to blame. Great Expectations is 8:1, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 25:1.

Job opening for our outgoing governor?

From the WashPost: “President Bush said Sunday that he is willing to commit to a written guarantee not to attack North Korea in exchange for steps by the country toward abandoning its nuclear weapons programs.” So Bush made NK nervous with that whole axis-of-evil business, which as we know, but the Northies don’t, was just a rhetorical thing so the entire “axis” wouldn’t be Muslim, made them more nervous by refusing to sign a simple non-aggression pact, and now he wants to bargain about it. Regardless of whether NK should have nukes, if a paranoid nuclear power we don’t intend to attack asks for us to write down that we don’t intend to attack it, why not just fucking do it? They are using an implicit threat of military attack to leverage NK on nukes. Also, Bush is talking about NK disposing of its nuclear program in a verifiable way, which would be ok, even realizing that he means he wants to be given information on NK that the CIA can’t get, except for one thing: NK is almost certainly lying about or exaggerating its nuclear capacity, so we could wind up demanding that they eliminate weapons they don’t have. Sound familiar?

Must-read on massacres by the US Army in Vietnam in 1967 of hundreds of civilians, the killing and torture of prisoners, burning of villages, accessorizing with cut-off ears, etc etc. Six months before My Lai, ten miles away. No one was punished. The army ran a secret investigation years later, even then taking a year to get started. And the whole thing remained a secret, although hundreds if not thousands of Americans and no doubt one or two Vietnamese and the entire hierarchy of the Pentagon knew about it. Soldiers did complain, and were told to shut up. The year before, Ward Just wrote in a book that a Tiger Force soldier had mailed ears of dead soldiers home to his wife. Read the story and think about what else has happened in recent decades that we know nothing about. The story was broken by the Toledo Blade, which will continue through Wednesday. The Post has a good overview, the Blade has interviews and much more detail, and excerpts in MP3 files, which I can’t listen to. A lot of ex-soldiers talked, 137 of them, suggesting they were just waiting to be asked. Here’s a cute tidbit: the 327th battalion was given an order to achieve a body count of, wait for it, 327. Another key fact: the time it took US soldiers to descend into total brutality after setting up in the province: one week.

The racist Swiss People’s Party got 28% of the vote, making it the largest party.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Wherein I out a British prime minister

The newest in doggie accessories: sunglasses. About a hundred bucks for the high-end ones.

Sunday’s elections in Switzerland may return the Swiss People’s Party as the largest party, after a racist anti-immigrant campaign featuring a poster, quickly withdrawn under fire, that said either “The Swiss feel like niggers” (Daily Telegraph), or “Swiss are the negroes of Switzerland” (Time Magazine’s European edition). These are the only English-language references to the poster, and my German isn’t up to trying to find it in the original. I’d also like to see the poster. Anyone?

Almost a year after the Moscow theater siege, the government is still lying about the number who died and the causes of their deaths.

The first governor of Najaf, a holy city in Iraq, because they’re all fucking holy cities aren’t they?, appointed by the US occupation authorities went on trial, very quietly indeed, last week. They could ignore the massive car theft ring he ran, but not so much the kidnappings, at least not when 3 kidnapped boys, sons of a political rival, were found in the guv’s offices--in the Coalition’s hq. I mentioned his arrest June 30, but there’s been nothing in the press since.

The Observer on the great increase in torture by Russian police. Torture is not illegal in Russia.

A book is coming out this week on the Oscar Wilde trial. Evidently the Marquis of Queensberry blackmailed the government into it: while his younger son was having sex with Wilde, his older son had had a two-year affair with the Earl of Rosebery, who by 1895 was the prime minister.

Sick tv project of the week, from Britain’s Channel 4: they will ask American death row prisoners to record a song before their execution, which will be incorporated into a musical.

Bush in the Philippines says that the US liberated the country from colonial rule. (And then wouldn’t leave for nearly 50 years.)

Thursday, October 16, 2003

A plague of Jerry’s

You know, I want proof that Paul Bremer’s nickname was ever actually “Jerry.” I think Bush just got the name wrong, couldn’t admit that they ever gets anything wrong, and his handlers told Bremer that his name was now Jerry.

There’s been some complaint from librarians about a doll modeled on one, that puts its finger to its mouth and goes shush. Librarians deplore that stereotype. Yesterday I was driven out of the periodicals and microfilm section of the public library because of loud conversation. By two librarians. Mostly, skilled librarians have been replaced by unskilled machines. I went to the library in the first place because one machine phoned me to tell me I had something overdue; I went in to find the item on the shelf and show it to a human after another machine had failed to register it when I returned it two weeks before. I only had to rant at them for a couple of minutes before they wiped out that charge, plus another one from July when the same thing happened, and another one where I was charged because the person who had checked out a magazine before me had dropped it in a bathtub (I presume). Still, there’s a certain sense of shame when one is charged with a library crime, isn’t there, even when one didn’t actually commit it, I presume because it’s the first responsibility we’re given outside of the home. I’ve been reading a discard--every so often my library tosses several hundred books in the parking lot and you can just take them, including hard-covers from as recently as last year--with one of those see-through wrapper things only libraries use, and I feel guilty every time I underline something. I hope you’re not waiting for this paragraph to have a point.

Mark Hertsgaard has a good piece in Salon which says that Bush needs to admit that he might have been wrong, or his presidency is in trouble. He’s right that Bush’s method of governing has become visibly brittle and inflexible. He is so committed to the idea that the world will react to his initiatives in exactly the way he expects it to, that there is no Plan B, and he starts floundering. The arrogance with which he exercises power makes him very vulnerable to looking bad when the least little thing goes wrong, and the things that have been going wrong are not the least nor are they little.

Another problem that will become more visible when Bush shifts completely into campaign mode is that he has no popular surrogates to campaign for him. There are creepy, cranky old men (Cheney, Rumsfeld), tone-deaf zealots (Rice, Ashcroft), discredited fig-leafs (Powell), and no one else the average voter has even heard of, because Bush likes to take all the credit. Bush pretty much only speaks to military audiences or Republican fundraisers, and the lesser lights don’t dare appear in events open to the public. Cheney had to go to the Heritage Foundation to find a congenial audience that wouldn’t care that everything he told it about Iraq has been controverted. Laura Bush has begun to campaign for him, really for the first time, because there is simply no one else, and I haven’t seen any indications that she’s America’s sweetheart either. So it’s just Shrub, circumventing the “filter” of people who might contradict him by giving interviews to very local tv stations, the last resort of a politician afraid of too-tough questioning by Larry King.

And he’s raising money, $84 million so far, to put his face on tv right between Will & Grace, Regis & Kelly, etc. Christ, $84 million, that’s $50m beyond shitloads, $30m beyond obscene and $10m past unholy.

Actually, it’s also an insult to democracy for a sitting president to think (possibly correctly) that he needs that much money. It does not cost $84m, plus what they can raise in the next year, to run on one’s record. Is there something to tell us we don’t already know?

Speaking of expensive mis-communication, the Bush budget includes $100m for Iraqi media, to be dispersed by Rumsfeld and DOD. Rummy with a $100 million megaphone. Shudder. The call for private bids actually uses the phrase “fair and balanced.”

Independent headline: “Three Americans Killed in Diplomatic Convoy Blast.” I just don’t see what’s so diplomatic about a convoy blast.

The German who taught his dog to do the Hitler salute has had the charge against him dropped. (Daily Telegraph headline: In Paw Taste)

Several R. Senators just returned from Iraq, reporting on how swimmingly everything is going. D. Senators like Chris Dodd, who wanted to go, were told there were no facilities.

California R’s have decided to try to change the reapportionment process here. In the reverse of R policy in Texas, they want to remove it from the legislature and give it to judges. Subtle, aren’t they? Actually, despite strong D control of the legislature, the R’s have nothing to complain about from the last redistricting, either at the state lege or congressional levels. The voters do, since every seat was drawn as a safe seat for whichever party held it. They have removed the risk from the electoral process; also the politics, issues, interest, democracy. Of course when Californians do get interested in elections, look what happens.

Governor Terminator seems to plan to rule by threatening the legislature with the wrath of the people, by taking every point of disagreement to the ballot in the form of ballot initiatives. A limit to the size of the budget, for example, and massive bond indebtedness to pay for his refusal to consider raising taxes to pay for the existing spending. Well, we could hardly expect him to be bound by legislators operating in a representative democratic system, now could we? I’d make a witty comparison between The Arnold and Napoleon III, but maybe this ain’t the audience.

Here’s a major shocker, in an AP headline: “Halliburton Allegedly Overcharges in Iraq.” Say it ain’t so. Next you’ll be telling me that the Azerbaijani dictator’s son was only elected to replace him by a fraudulent election. This is for gas, for which the army pays Halliburton California prices, which are $1 a gallon more than the average Middle Eastern price. It was a no-bid contract.

Bill Hemmer, whoever that is, was hosting a CNN program and suggested that Bush might be right that the situation in Iraq was improving, but it didn’t get coverage because reporters were scared away by all the shooting and bombs going off. Evidently, this was not said in irony.

Someone else I hadn’t heard of, deputy undersecretary of defense General William “Jerry” Boykin (I swear I read this article after writing my above comments about “Jerry” Bremer), who is in charge of tracking down Osama and Saddam and such, is an evangelical who speaks a lot at churches about how the US is at war with Satan, how Muslims hate us because we’re a Christian nation, how God chose Bush to be president, etc etc. A quick google search shows that except for a brief mention in a Nation article, this wingnut just snuck in under the radar.

The enemy is a guy named Satan

Sometimes, great minds think alike. And then, at other times, Thomas Friedman thinks like me. His column today (Thur.) also talks about Bushies being afraid of speaking before non-picked audiences. I didn’t know that even the Heritage Foundation wasn’t allowed to ask Cheney any questions.

On the same page, Maureen Dowd says of Rep George Nethercutt’s comment that reconstruction in Iraq “is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day” puts the casual back in casualty.

Also giving with the happy talk, the Commerce Secretary visits Iraq and calls for investors to ignore the violence. See if you can detect any sarcasm in this NYT story (excerpted): “At a heavily guarded warehouse at the Baghdad airport, which ordinary Iraqis cannot enter without American permission, Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans said on Wednesday that violence in Iraq is isolated and that foreign investors should seize opportunities here. .... Mr. Evans said, "You have to look beyond these isolated incidents that are occurring." Asked what advice he would give potential investors, he said, "Tell 'em to come here like I did."” They would, but they can’t afford to have a whole army protecting them.

The Texas Court of Appeals says that a motorist giving another motorist the finger is not illegal. There was an actual jury trial in this case.

Cute Michael Kinsley piece on Bush’s news habits.

The British report on GM test crops says that they lead to the disappearance of wildlife. Especially butterflies. And flowers. In part from the extra-strength pesticides, in part from the lack of seeds for animals to eat. And Monsanto is pulling out of Europe, which pleases the Europeans no end.

The right-wing Daily Telegraph denounces the fear-mongers, under the contradictory but no doubt irresistible headline “Frankenstein Knows Best.”

At an Islamic conference, Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad said: “1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today they rule this world by proxy.” “(Jews) invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong; so that they can enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power.”

The Chinese have put a man into space, and I can’t think of a good tasteless joke about it. It was supposed to be good for Chinese stature and pride, and was up until the minute a tv interviewer asked him to confirm the old chestnut about the Great Wall being the only man-made thing that can be seen from space. No, actually it can’t.

I mentioned William Boykin yesterday, the guy at the Pentagon you don’t want showing up on your doorstep to talk about Jesus. Rumsfeld says he has a right to speak his mind. Whether he has a right to speak it to a religious group while wearing a military uniform--a detail I didn’t have yesterday--is another matter. We do know that 500 soldiers stationed in Iraq were given the right to speak their commanding officer’s mind. Boykin said that Muslims worship an idol, and not “a real god.” Even without this, why would you put him in charge with the operations to capture Saddam, Osama, etc, when what Rummy calls his “outstanding record” is one of being in charge of failed operations: rescuing the hostages in Iran in 1980, the raid on Somalia in 1993, the search for Pablo Escobar... Incidentally, 2 days ago I joked that Scalia was recusing himself from the pledge of allegiance case because he thinks he is god. So evidently does Boykin, who said that god chose Bush to be president.

Tanzania has banned imports of used underwear.

“Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories" quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used.” I give the URL because when I read that I thought it was a joke.

There are riots in Azerbaijan over the fraudulent election letting Aliyev’s son succeed him. That could never happen here. The riots, I mean, not the fraudulent election letting one leader’s son succeed him.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Texas R’s passed their little redistricting, and it’s so blatantly partisan and yes, racist, that they may have over-reached themselves. Midland has a congressional district and the capital Austin doesn’t, and the districts are all funny shapes. So it might be thrown out in court. Especially since the panel that the D’s are appealing to is the one that drew up the current districts.

The Supreme Court is to decide whether “under God” can be in the pledge of allegiance. Scalia is recusing himself, presumably because he thinks he is God, or possibly that he is above rather than under God (actually because Fat Tony has publicly expressed himself on this issue).

The Onion says “Schwarzenegger Elected First Horseman Of The Apocalypse.” Actually, Der Arnold becoming the highest-paid “actor” in the world was the first sign of the apocalypse, so I think it’s just greedy for him to have become a second sign. Incidentally, asked after the election about his promise to reveal all about his sexual escapades after the election, he said “Old news.” A Voice reporter calls him the Human Hummer. I have also heard Teflon Terminator.

Evidently Bush is on a partial fast, not eating sweets as long as troops are in Iraq. Sounds silly, but given his extremist religiosity, I’d go with creepy as a more apt description.

As was his attempt to reassure us about his Iraq policy: “The person who is in charge is me.” Do you feel reassured now, I know I do.

The real James Bond died today at 90.

From the Guardian: “A German who trained his dog to raise his right paw in a Hitler salute is to appear in court tomorrow, German prosecutors said last night.” A black (ahem) mongrel (ahem) sheepdog, no prizes for guessing its name.

Monday, October 13, 2003

An orgy of legislation

Guests at a wedding in Serbia celebrated in the time-honored manner, shooting guns in the air. They shot down a plane.

As we know, when Bush promised cheap AIDS drugs for Africa, he didn’t actually mean it. At the WTO the US insisted on making any country that wished to import or export cheap generics jump through many many hoops. But Canada plans to try. The Guardian (oh, originally a Nation story) asks whether the US will use NAFTA provisions to stop them. Last week the Senate approved Bush’s choice for head of his AIDS initiative, a former CEO of Eli Lilly, one of the Canada plan’s enemies.

Among the many laws signed by incredibly lame duck Gray Davis includes one prohibiting companies retaliating against employees who refuse to break state or federal laws. Did you know that was legal up until now? One requires people who own or possess kiddie porn to register as sex offenders, which is stretching the term. Soda is banned from school vending machines. School restrooms should be clean. Schools previously called “low-performing” in state laws will now be called “high priority,” in order to build morale (Ralph Wiggum: “I’m special!”). It is now a crime punishable by 1 year in prison to record a movie in a movie theater; talking, cell phone use, teenagers, over-loud crunching of popcorn, etc etc, are still not subject to the death penalty. Domestic partnerships as of 2005. Transgendered people are protected from housing and work discrimination, which is all very well, but doesn’t that put the state in the business of deciding what clothes are gender-appropriate, in order to decide who is “transgendered”? AB 663 bans doctors and med students performing pelvic exams without consent on unconscious women. The execution of retarded people is banned. Unsolicited email is banned, although I’m not sure how the mailer is supposed to know who’s a Californian.

George Monbiot is suggesting that the US military is being dragged into politics by the politicians. Bush uses them as back-drop. Since June 2002, 14 of his major speeches were delivered to captive military (or veteran) audiences. “The marines were the first to be told about his interstate electricity grid; he instructed the American Legion about the reform of the Medicare programme; last week he explained his plans for the taxation of small businesses to the national guard. The troops may not have the faintest idea what he's talking about, but they cheer him to the rafters anyway. After that, implementing these policies looks like a patriotic duty.” He started this well before 9/11, so it’s not that. The military is now getting spending it’s not even asking for, and if you include the $87 billion and the $19 billion hidden in the Dept of Energy for new nukes, the federal gov is spending more on it than on education, public health, housing, employment, pensions, food aid and welfare put together. “You would expect this sort of allocation from a third world military dictatorship.” “Bush's reverse coup has meant that the Democrats must suck up to the armed forces as well, in order to be seen as a patriotic party. Wesley Clark's campaigning slogan is "a new American patriotism".”

The claim that Israel has submarine-based nuclear weapons may in fact have been a lie.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Dog’s Breath corn dog

Israel has nukes on submarines, thanks to the US. The news seems to have been leaked by the US as a warning to Syria that it had better take any bitch-slapping Israel feels like handing out. (Later: Ha'aretz says in almost as many words that the LA Times story on this was planted by the Mossad, in an article on how the Syria-is-acquiring-WMDs stories in the American press have been managed by the spy agency.

Also, last week bombastic loudmouth John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, said the US doesn’t care about Israel’s nukes because Israel isn’t a “threat” to the US. I’d like to see the job description for under secretary of state for arms control.

The Indy reports that the US is copying Israeli collective-punishment tactics in Iraq, bulldozing the crops of farmers who don’t inform on the Resistance.

Australian PM John Howard, recently censured by the Senate, as I reported, is also under criticism for recalling Parliament just to hear a speech to be given by Dubya, at a cost of well over $1m. He won’t be pleased to hear that White House briefing papers given the press refer to him as John Major. They also say that Canberra is major-league boring (really)(I mean they really say that, although I’m sure it’s also true that Canberra is boring). The only restaurant it recommends is fast food. Evidently in Oz that means the Hog’s Breath Cafe, evidently a chain serving the Dog’s Breath corn dog (

If you don’t believe that Iraq is going swimmingly, there’s probably a letter from a US soldier stationed in Iraq in your local paper informing you of the fact. The military seems to be writing such letters, and asking soldiers to sign them, and sending them to their hometown newspapers. The Olympian noted two such identical letters. For extra fun, in a few days time run the quotes from those letters through to see how many papers fell for it.

An analysis of the Texas redistricting written for US Rep. Joe Barton (R-Deep in the Heart of Texas) says, “This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood.”

Friday, October 10, 2003

Bumps on the road

Here in Kallyfohrnia, Ahnuld is getting a few lessons in how state government actually functions. For example, the Gropenführer does not have the power to reduce the car tax unilaterally (even if he did, he’d find that the Kallyfohrnia voters would still be pissed, because they probably think he promised to eliminate the tax altogether). He also asked Gray Davis politely not to keep filling vacancies and signing bills (like Pete Wilson and every other outgoing governor did). What Ahnuld didn’t know: even if Davis didn’t sign the bills, they’d still pass into law. So steroids-for-brains doesn’t even how the veto power works.

With all the talk in Israeli circles about those pilots who refuse to bomb people, it seems that as a general, Sharon himself refused to obey an order in 1973 to evacuate a settlement (or advised someone else to disobey such an order, I’m not clear).

From the Daily Telegraph: “A man accused of stealing a penis by sorcery was beaten to death in the Gambia yesterday. Police said tricksters appear to make genitals vanish then extort cash for a cure.” (In 1997 I had several stories about this happening in Ghana.)

Bush’s drug czar wants to drug test all school children.

The Australian Senate censures Prime Minister John Howard for lying about the reasons for Oz joining the war on Iraq.

But don’t they know that the Iraq situation is “a lot better than you probably think,” as Bush put it on a day in which 3 American soldiers, 8 Iraqi police and a Spanish spy were killed. “There will be bumps on the road,” said Paul Bremer, which some editorial cartoonist will, or should, rapidly turn into an image of a jeep driving over a lot of dead bodies.

Slate on the slush fund buried in the $87b. Not that buried, since it’s more than 1/10th of the total. Includes a blank check for Rummy to spend in bribing foreign countries for military aid in Iraq, and to transfer large sums of money from one bit to another, without Congressional oversight. Which they don’t really want to exercise, because with specific amounts, they’d have to explain voting for X million for Iraqi schools but not American schools, etc.

The Vatican really thought the pope was going to get the Nobel Peace Prize. Heh heh.

So to prove America’s even-handedness in killin’ people, a court in Arizona sentences to death a guy who took revenge for 9/11 by killing a Sikh (Sikh, Ayrab, what’s the diff?). Voices in his head told him to kill the devils. The jury chose to disregard his insanity defense, pointing out that George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld hear the same voices (to be fair, the voices may just be Fox News).

That guy was a Boeing airplane mechanic, which should give you some pause. But even he could have answered the questions on which airport screeners are tested, at least if he, like they were pretty much given the answers in advance, because otherwise how could they answer these:

How do threats get on board an aircraft?

a. In carry-on bags.
b. In checked-in bags.
c. In another person's bag.
d. All of the above.

Another question asked why it was important to screen bags for "improvised explosive devices."

a. The I.E.D. batteries could leak and damage other passenger bags.
b. The wires in the I.E.D. could cause a short to the aircraft wires.
c. I.E.D.'s can cause loss of lives, property and aircraft.
d. The ticking timer could worry other passengers.

At no point were they tested on their ability to find actual dangerous stuff in baggage.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I like to play the leader

Some religious authorities don’t like gay marriage, and some REALLY don’t like it. For example, the Russian Orthodox Church defrocked a priest that performed one. And demolished the church in which it was performed.

Bush’s idea of the way to get the bottom of the Plame Game is to get Justice right on it. Well, after a 12-hour period before people are ordered not to destroy documents. Oh, and the White House Counsel’s office will just hold on to all the evidence for a couple of weeks before it goes to justice. National security, you know.

Today’s Top Five list is changes under Governor Arnie. Maybe it’s too early to find our displacement of Florida as national laughing stock especially funny, but it didn’t seem a very good list. I did like:
6> California Department of Food and Agriculture now classifies steroids as a vegetable.

Ariel Sharon is getting increasingly paranoic about opposition. He accused the pilots who refuse to go on bombing-assassination missions of trying a coup, now he’s accused the Labor party of working with Palestinians to topple the government.

The Guardian: “The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which the HIV virus can pass - potentially exposing thousands of people to risk.”

The Guardian also explains the Schwarzenegger victory to Brits, sort of: “Putting Arnie in charge of the world's fifth largest economy is like making Benny Hill chancellor of the exchequer: quirky but unreal - and not very funny.” More: “myth and reality may continue to collide. For some, Mr Schwarzenegger was a classic out sider, an immigrant-made-good, an heir to the American dream. But in truth he needed the Republican party, big business backing and $21m to beat Mr Davis. These debts will be called in in the normal way.”

For goober results. None of the 135, including the alleged murderer, got fewer than 172 votes. Bad luck, Todd Richard “The Bumhunter” Lewis (position on the budget crisis: “We need to spend less.”), but someone had to come in last. (If I never know what “the Bumhunter” means, it will be too soon.)

Führerprinzip: Last night the Game Show Network ran an episode of the Dating Game from the early to mid-1970s, in which Arnie had to choose between 3 bachelorettes (a word they did not make him try to pronounce). “Ya, girl number three, I am new to this country, can you explain to me what means ‘hanky panky’?” Asked where they would go on a date, one said wherever he wanted. He said that was goot, because “I like to play the leader.” She was the one he chose. They got to go to Hawaii with a Dating Game chaperon. Yeah, that’ll work. A chaperon. To paraphrase Richard Dreyfus in Jaws, I think we’re gonna need a bigger chaperon.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Lo and behold

Today I got another recorded call against the recall, this time from Joe Lieberman. Who would this convince?

The State Dept calls on Israel to “avoid actions that heighten tensions.” And that was AFTER they bombed Syria. I guess the US considers bombing to be a way of releasing tensions. Hell, these days it’s the only way Ariel Sharon can... no, I won’t go there. Anyway, Israel is blaming Syria, and Arafat, natch, for a suicide bombing by a woman who had several family members recently killed by Israel. Not to justify her response, but really we don’t need to look any further for who “sent” her. (Later:) here’s Robert Fisk saying the same thing: “No one asks what these "training bases" are. Do Palestinian suicide bombers really need to practice suicide bombing? Does turning a switch need that much training? Surely the death of a brother or a cousin by the Israeli army is all the practice that is needed.” What seems to have happened is that after the threat a couple of weeks ago to expel/assassinate Arafat, this time Sharon had to do something big, or his buds would call him a weenie, so he bombed a country that had nothing to do with anything. Anyway, Shrub spoke to Sharon, and didn’t criticize the bombing of Syria. (Later:) and said something nonsensical about Israel protecting “the homeland.” (Views right only in Internet Explorer). Go snicker at celebrities.

I suppose we could always just try to derive what amusement we can from Governor Terminator’s accent. Today he was campaigning in Huntington “Beetch”, saying how much he liked “beetches.” Yup, that’s what I keep reading.

Exsscellent: An Italian tv poll shows PM Berlusconi to be the person Italians are most sick of. I wouldn’t ordinarily mention this, but there’s a great picture of him looking like Montgomery Burns’s younger but just as evil brother, here.

France has launched a campaign against noise pollution, with police given the power to confiscate noisy scooters and motorbikes, and so on. Yappy little dogs will remain sacrosanct, of course.

Colin Powell has an op-ed piece in the WashPost trying to spin the Kay report. He even uses the phrase “Lo and behold”. The Bushies are making an awfully big deal about some botulism left in a scientist’s refrigerator for a decade and evidently forgotten by the government. First, (insert pathetically obvious joke about the state of my own refrigerator here), second, knowing what we do about the reliability of the Iraqi power grid even before we bombed the crap out of it, how good could it be, 3rd, whether this is serious would depend on exactly what strain it was. Oh, I could debunk the rest of Powell’s article point by point, but why bother?

Congress finally decides not to build quite so many prisons. In Iraq. It also deleted Bush’s $153m. budget request for garbage trucks at $50,000 each. When you’re through wondering why Iraq would need $50,000 garbage trucks, do the math on how many of them. Also, no money to establish ZIP codes ($13m).

A Schwarzenegger rally drew 10,000 people, a Davis one 35. Said one D. Party spin doctor, yeah but he doesn’t draw as big a crowd as Hitler did.

Whatever means is necessary

R’s have responded to Der Arnold’s little “he said, she she she she she she she she she she she she she she she said” problem by telling the media that Gray Davis has a temper problem and once threw an ashtray at an aide. Like anybody would believe there are still ashtrays in California.

The Turkish Parliament gave permission for its army to march into Iraq, as per the request of the US, which is putting Bush’s political need to start pulling troops out over the need of his puppet government, which is objecting fiercely, to maintain even a hint of credibility. The US claims that the Turks, subsidized as I mentioned before at a cost of $950,000 each, won’t be targeting Kurds, but this is not what the Turkish foreign minister is saying.

An article in the Tues. NY Times says that executions by lethal injection often use drugs that do nothing to lessen suffering, but do disguise it from observers (and seem to be used for that purpose, or at least serve no other obvious function). And they use chemicals that are banned in some places for the euthanization of animals because they are considered cruel.

Bush said “In order for there to be a Palestinian state, the Palestinian Authority must fight terror and must use whatever means is necessary to fight terror.” That’s what I like about Bush, his idealism. Maybe they can put that in their constitution: “We the people, in order to use whatever means is necessary to fight terror...” James Madison would be proud. It should make the constitution a lot shorter, too, since there need be none of that fair trial, search warrant, 5th amendment crap, just “whatever means is necessary.” Or should that be “am necessary”? Jesus, George, six-year olds are better at subject-verb agreement than you are.

In horrendous Supreme Court decisions, we have two today: 1) it let stand the conviction of a pregnant woman for murder for “delivering drugs” to the fetus through the umbilical cord. 2) it let stand Arkansas forcing an insane guy to take drugs to make him sane enough to be executed.

Another good analysis of the Kay Report, again showing that it doesn’t say what the Bushies say it says.

At an economic summit in Thailand later this month, Bush’s food will be tested for poison on mice.

Ariel Sharon says Israel will strike at its enemies “in any place and in any way.” Well, probably not in any way. I doubt they’ll be throwing cream pies at their enemies, for example, a method of protest I’ve always favored. Bush said that Sharon’s moves are “valid decisions. We would be doing the same thing.” Which would make anybody else rethink their position, but probably not Sharon. Israel releases a bombing map of Damascus, what it claims are homes and offices of Palestinian militants. Plan your vacations accordingly.

Haaretz says that in 1973, the US (Kissinger) gave Israel a secret green light to keep fighting Egypt and Syria after the official cease-fire went into effect, even if those countries stopped fighting. And it did.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Any time, any place

My last email/post mentioned pussy cats in the subject line, as you will recall. SOMEbody’s over-zealous work computer bounced it: (reason: 553 5.0.0 Offensive E-mails not allowed at this site.)

The California, if not the federal, Do Not Call list went into effect this week. But just when I thought I didn’t need to screen my calls any more, who calls today but Al Gore, who wants me to vote against the recall.

The US has accepted Serbia’s offer to send troops and police to deal with the Muslims of Afghanistan. The US sees nothing wrong with this.

Yesterday I mentioned an Israeli tank commander being charged with negligence. The NY Times said he was charged with manslaughter. Wrong: just negligence.

Robin Cook, who resigned the Labour government over the Iraq war, says that Blair admitted Iraq had no WMDs 2 weeks before the war started. Might have been nice if Cook had mentioned that before. Resigning over principle is one thing, screwing up your book deal over principle is another matter entirely, evidently.

“U.S. Rep. Cass Ballenger [R-NC] blames the breakup of his 50-year marriage partly on the stress of living near a leading American Muslim advocacy group that he and his wife worried was so close to the U.S. Capitol that ‘they could blow the place up.’”

If you’re apt to believe Bush when he claims that David Kay’s report says the exact opposite of what it says, read here:

There hasn’t been much talk about David Kay himself. He’s actually been so much an advocate of attacking Iraq for so many years, has made repeated predictions about the nature of Iraq’s arsenal identical to those made by Bushies, sanctified those 2 mobile labs as signs of a biowar program well in advance of the facts, etc, that he actually seems the perfect man to front a Bush cover-up, which is not what he’s actually done.

Headline in the Sunday Times (London): “Arnie Gropes for Those Last Key Votes.” (And the NY Times says “Governor Davis Struggles to Hold His Base”--Arnold, of course, always tries to hold someone else’s base). And the Observer (London) has an editorial titled: “Arnie Did What? And We're Like... That's Amazing!”

The Arnold has continued attacking the integrity of the 11 women, who never even asked him to apologize, and blamed their statements on Davis dirty tricks and “sleaze politics.” There’s a lot of talk about the leftie LA Times too. And there’s this: “Meanwhile a group of young Republican women calling themselves Babes for Arnold are preparing to counter feminist demonstrators picketing his rallies across the state. They will hold banners reading: ‘I am yours, governor Arnold, any time, any place.’”

Friday, October 03, 2003

Then let a father explain to his daughter why her beloved pussy cat has gone

A study that correlates people being wrong about Iraq (connections with Al Qaida, WMDs actually being found, the world supported us) and their primary source of news. Guess where Fox viewers fit? Of people with 1 of the 3 misconceptions, 53% supported the war. Among those with 2, 78% percent supported it, and among those with all 3, 86%. Of those with none of the misconceptions, 23% supported the war.

From the table of contents of today’s Daily Telegraph:
Pets pampered

An authoritative magazine published by the Jesuits lashed out at the culture of pampered pets yesterday, saying animals had no souls or rights. [As the Jesuits like to say, give me the puppy for a year (that’s 7 dog years), and I will give you the dog. I don’t know how exactly that joke relates to that particular story, but it popped into my head.]

Pets face kidnap for debt
The power company that supplies Russia's far eastern port of Vladivostok is threatening to kidnap the pets of customers who fail to pay their bills.
The head of the company says, “Then let a father explain to his daughter why her beloved pussy cat has gone.” There’s no picture, but I assume he was twirling long mustaches while he said this.

Canadian PM Chretien will retire in February. What will he try next? Marijuana. “I will have my money for my fine, and a joint in the other hand.”

An Israeli tank commander is actually going to be charged for “negligence” in the deaths of 4 Palestinians, 3 of them children aged 5, 6 and 13, during the Jenin Massacre. He negligently opened fire on civilians with tank shells and machine guns. Oops. He’s being charged only because someone videotaped as a tank fired a shell at a group of children on bicycles who had just bought chocolate bars. I’d like to use the word negligence sarcastically again, but I’m too pissed off. Let’s take it as read, shall we?

Bush on the slide in his poll numbers: “Sometimes the American people like the decisions I make, sometimes they don’t. But they need to know I'll make tough decisions based upon what I think is right.” Yeah, that’s what’s worrying us. Hell, he doesn’t even get his news from Fox, he gets what Karl Rove tells him was on Fox.

When Valerie Plame’s name was leaked, a snowball was started down a hill. There are public documents which listed her employer as a company called Brewster-Jennings & Associates. So when Rove or whoever also exposed that firm as a CIA front. Although more specifically, that idiot Novak exposed it today, saying he didn’t believe it was real. It is, and no doubt was the cover for other agents.

The Arnold says he can’t remember making pro-Hitler comments. Anyone else in the world would say that they hadn’t, he says he can’t remember. Which means he did, and just hopes that he has the only copies of the out-takes from Pumping Iron. And returning to the sexual assault issue, he does the “a little bit nutty, a little bit slutty” thing: “One wonders what the motivation is. Why am I getting all this stuff thrown at me now? No one complained.” About another incident in which the victim has gone public (there are now 11 women), he doesn’t remember that either. Several of the actresses he’s worked with have come forward to say that he was a perfect gentleman to them. Of course he was, it’s the powerless women he likes to humiliate.

At an event today he dropped a wrecking ball on a car. This had something to do with the car tax. Gubernatorial candidate Gallagher could not be reached for comment.

Where there's smoke there's Arnold rubbing a waitresses' breasts together

Israel decides to extend its wall, but will leave gaps to be filled in at some point when the US is distracted. The US, which had vaguely threatened to withhold a fraction of one percent of the aid it gives Israel, does nothing. Then Israel announces the building of hundreds more units in Ariel and elsewhere, and Colin Powell says the US has “concerns.”

The LA Times published accounts of several of the no doubt innumerable times in which Arnold has committed sexual battery on women. Arnold both denied the reports (“trash politics”) and apologized for them, sort of. “Playful,” indeed. Actually, as I re-read it, it looks more and more like a non-apology apology, sorry if you took my grabbing your ass in the wrong way, sorry if you took offense at my little request--described by the Daily Show as a cross between a gynaecological exam and a wine tasting. The Post has him saying, after the “apology,” “Now, let's go from the dirty politics back to the future of California.” Dirty politics? Oh good, now we know who the real victim is here. Poor Arnold, misunderstood even when he isn’t mangling the language, just some waitresses’ breasts. “Women voters should know that I always have strong women around me.” Sure, if they weren’t strong you’d break them.

If you’re not taking this seriously, as relevant to his qualifications to be governor, consider this phrasing of the story, from the Guardian: “Schwarzenegger has admitted that he used his celebrity to humiliate women sexually.” It’s not just boorishness towards women, it’s that he abuses any power he has (and many of these stories were from a time when he was just a C-list celebrity).

Also, some old quotes surfaced today about how much he admired Hitler. Who also abused his power a little, if I may engage in some dirty historiography.

Ok, and maybe it doesn’t seem like much after the Hitler thing, but the man, who started running saying he’d use his own money and be beholden to nobody, has decided to loan his campaign a few million. This is the classic rich candidate’s method of hiding his backers, who can contribute after the election is safely over. This violates Prop 34, which was passed in 2000. 2000 is of course ancient history--we know because the most recent of the gropings we know about occurred then, so it must be ancient history, huh?

Bustamante is now running ads saying that even if you vote against the recall, you have a responsibility to vote for a candidate. Several newspapers, I think including the Times, have recommended skipping the second part of the ballot.

And Davis again reminds us why no one likes him:
"I don’t know if any of you are parents," says Mr Davis to the small gathering of firefighters, teachers and police officers. "But I am, and I have difficult conversations with my children all the time: like when they want to stay out all night. Those conversations aren't much fun, are they? And if your child at that moment could recall YOU, what do you think he would do?" For a second, the Governor of California, the world's fifth largest economy, population 35 million, looks close to tears.
That was from the London Times, which also says something I’d missed before: the only previous governor to be recalled, Lynn Frazier of ND in 1921, was elected to the US Senate the following year, where he stayed for 3 terms.

Some tests of genetically-modified crops in Britain, which were supposed to be pro forma before Blair gives in to US demands that GM be allowed in, have shown that the crops are the major threat sane people always knew they were, killing off weeds, insects and endangering biodiversity.

It’s been 10 years since Boris Yeltsin bombarded the parliament building. Evidently since then it’s become clear that his dirty tricks squad created much of the violence he used as an excuse for his coup.

British foreign minister Jack Straw somehow claims that the war is justified by the finally released Kay report, which says no WMDs have been found in Iraq but Saddam “had not given up his aspirations and intentions.” Orwell imagined a Thought Police; even he never imagined that a Thought Army would invade because of aspirations and intentions.

Thursday, October 02, 2003


Robert Fisk says that the Proconsulate in Iraq is suppressing news of the number of times the oil pipelines are attacked, which is several times a day. In fact, from the start the US had it all wrong, protecting the oil fields, when the sabotage, which Fisk thinks is operating according to a pre-set plan, was always aimed at the export pipes. He also says that half the $20 billion for Iraqi “development” is actually allocated for security. So we’ve got control of the oil, and no way to get it to American SUVs.

And another $600 million to search for Iraqi WMDs. That’s a lot of dowsing rods.

With some members of the Iraqi “governing council” demanding that the US turn over power very quickly, it is interesting that the same council is saying that 6 months is way too soon for them to draw up a constitution. I think what they’re actually saying is they don’t want a constitution to be drawn up by an elected conference, which would then be the only body in Iraq with any sort of democratic legitimacy. The US won’t want elections either, because the Islamists would win and impose sharia. So good luck with that, guys.

In today’s White House press conference, with the reporters still piling on Leakgate--well, they should be rested and ready after that 2½ months of not following up--a reporter pointed out that since Bush says he doesn’t bother reading newspapers or watching tv news, the question of what the president was told and when he was told it is of unusual relevance.

Re “Leakgate,” DailyKos asked for suggestions. I like “the Plame Game.”

Even Philip Agee, whose naming of CIA names led to the 1982 law, thinks that this was kind of scummy. He was principled, this is just revenge. Something I didn’t know, or forgot: Agee sued Barbara Bush in 1995 for defamation when her autobiography said he was responsible for the assassination of the Athens head of station in 1975; he got her to admit he wasn’t to blame.

It seems that the reason the Justice Dept didn’t issue the order for the White House to save documents/email/etc for a day, is that the White House asked for the delay. No, nothing to hide--not any more.

Wesley Clark tells Joshua Marshall that he voted for Clinton. Now someone needs to ask about the elections in between 1980 and 1996.

The LA Times poll that shows Arnold with an 8-point lead over Bustamante, 40-32, also has a grand total of 8% who think he’s actually the most qualified for the job or was more knowledgeable than his opponents in the debate (that’s 2 separate questions, the same result in both). I looked at the poll, and can’t figure why those 40% are voting for him; really, they didn’t ask. They also didn’t ask the 8%: “You’re kidding, right?”