Sunday, November 30, 2003

Other expertized advices

Afghanistan has resumed enforcing an old Taliban law against married women (girls) going to high school. They might give the other girls the low-down about s-e-x. Thousands have been expelled.

Neil Bush’s contract with Grace Semiconductors specified that he provide them business strategies, information and “other expertized advices.” Oh yeah, that’s a Bush.

The British Yellow Pages have decided to scrap the category “sword makers.” Responds one sword maker, “I suppose it’s been coming for years. We’ve been going downhill since the 19th century when duelling was made illegal.”

Northern Irish elections gave a typically bloody-minded result, with parties on both extremes surpassing the moderates. Ian Paisley is happy, and that is never a good thing. The SDLP is thinking about giving up altogether and becoming a branch of a southern Irish party.

A Post story about something I’ve mentioned before, the growing phenomenon of politicians, including the chairs of the Senate and House armed services committees, defending that lt. col. who threatened to murder an Iraqi POW in order to scare him into providing information (the people who defend him don’t admit that he threatened to kill the POW, but what message is shooting off a gun next to his head intended to convey?).

There’s also a piece here and in the NY Times either Saturday or Sunday, which convey the consensus that Bush’s latest plan to hand over power to Iraq by June, is deader’n a dodo. What’d that take, two weeks? Which is still longer than most of our strategies in Iraq have lasted, so well done.

The astonishing thing is not the 7 Spaniards and 2 Japanese and 2 Americans killed in Iraq a few hours after General Sanchez bragged that attacks were down, it’s that yet another US official made yet another stupid pollyannaish claim that was sure to be followed by some sort of rocket attack, because they all are. (I’d have used Sanchez’s exact words, but they are to be found nowhere, which to my mind is another example of the press sparing such jackasses the embarrassment they have earned.)

By the way, I spent many emails last spring making a running joke of the absence of Iraqis dancing in the streets to greet our troops, as we were promised. From today’s LA Times: “Video footage from the scene, broadcast throughout the Arab world, showed rejoicing youths dancing alongside the burned remains of the four-wheel-drive vehicles. Many of the celebrants brandished parts of the vehicles.” (You can tell it’s a Los Angeles reporter when he makes more of a dead motor vehicle than a dead person. They do love their cars.) Anyway, dancing, finally. I’d have made a comment about how they just needed the right lyrics, but again, the newspapers didn’t give Sanchez’s exact words.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

The turkey has landed

9:47 pm a racoon scratched at the door. I did not share my humble repast with it, nor teach it how to plant maize so that it might survive the difficult winter ahead, but rather chased it off, as the Indians might have been well advised to do with the Puritans.

A LITTLE TOUCH OF MORON IN THE NIGHT: Dubya makes a surprise Thanksgiving visit to the troops in Iraq. Haven’t they suffered enough?

Oo, the Indy headline is The Turkey Has Landed. Less literary than mine, but I like it.

Bush told the troops, “We did not charge hundreds of miles through the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins.” We? You just came for dinner. The only bitter cost you paid was a little jet lag.

Bush was visiting the 82nd Airborne, which the Times points out has a less than stellar record, having killed 18 unarmed protesters in Fallujah in April and 8 Iraqi police and a Jordanian guard in September. So don’t fault Bush for not venturing out of the airport: just eating with these guys must be pretty dangerous. I imagine they only manage to get the fork into their mouths about half the time, while stabbing themselves and each other repeatedly. Probably at the end of every meal, three or four have to be evacuated with severe mashed potato-related injuries.

(Later: the Guardian adds that yesterday an Iraqi general died while being “interrogated” by the 82nd.)

Sharon reneges on his promise to Bush to dismantle settlement outposts. Evidently some of them are necessary for “security.” You know, the amount of shit done in the name of “security” this year throughout the world may have reached some sort of record.

The Chinese are setting Mao’s Two Musts to rap music. I think that’s called sampling. The Two Musts are “to preserve modesty and prudence and to preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle.” Oh, sorry, that’s now “to preserve modesty and prudence and to preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle, bitch.”

While looking for more Neil Bush tidbits (and found one: one of his businesses outsourced to Mexico; his ex-wife’s lawyer asked him if that wasn’t an example of Ross Perot’s giant sucking sound), I came across a German site that says Bush Sr and John Hinckley’s father were in business together, and that John’s brother and Neil were scheduled to have dinner the day after John tried to kill Reagan. That’s almost too weird to be true.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Fatwas, Nixonburgers, the King Herod of the Labour Party, the orgasmotran, and turkey and gravy flavored soda

A fascinating, must-read (but long), WaPo article on how the US’s plans to impose a constitution of our making on Iraq failed. Hint: fatwa.

As punishment for the Wall, Israel’s loan guarantees will be cut slightly. Actually outright grants won’t be cut at all, and the actual effect on the Israeli budget may amount to at most a couple million. In other words, this was not a punishment intended to change their behaviour or be anything other than cosmetic.

Another Neil Bush detail: in December 2001 Jiang Zemin threw him a private dinner, at which Jiang “serenaded him with a military song.” I think Neil would have preferred a hooker. Speaking of presidential brothers, I of course remember Billy Beer, but a restaurant chain named “Nixonburger”?

Today was the state opening of Parliament. The Queen made a mistake reading the speech, referring to the National Health Service as the National Hunt. That’s one way to cut medical costs. One of the bills Labour wants is to force asylum-seekers to leave the country by eliminating their benefits, and taking their children from them (for their own good of course, because their parents would no longer be getting benefits, you see). Writes Home Secretary David Blunkett, “I have no desire to take children from parents and put them in care unless it is an absolute last resort.” Oh well, if it’s the absolute last resort, that’s ok then. He adds, “I did not come into politics to be the King Herod of the Labour party.” And yet...

In Britain, an 80-year old woman was writing her will when burglars broke in. She fought them off with a World War I ceremonial sword.

Shevardnadze says that the West betrayed him after he “rescued the world” from the brink of nuclear armageddon by ending the Cold War. Evidently he thinks he should have been allowed to keep a country as, you know, a tip.

An unlikely story: “Trials of an implant that promises to give women an orgasm at the push of a button have stalled because of a lack of volunteers to test it.”

The town of Corleone, Sicily, is thinking of changing its name. Possibly to Soprano.

Turkey and gravy flavored soda.

The LA Times recently ran a story I missed on Wal-Mart. Today a columnist, Steve Lopez, wonders, why does a polo shirt cost $8.63? “Because of the way Wal-Mart does business in America and beyond: A. Your Uncle Ed's factory went under and he's on the dole,
B. A couple dozen merchants got rocked by the ripple effect,
C. A nail was driven into the coffin that used to be a quaint downtown,
D. That Honduran mom made $7 for 10 hours of toil,
E. A Chinese company is probably plotting to underbid the Hondurans,
F. Wal-Mart execs padded their mega-million-dollar portfolios,
G. And our taxes are going up because Wal-Mart employees who can't afford health insurance are dragging themselves into the county emergency room.

If that's the cost to you and me and everyone else, that polo shirt ought to be $5.99 and not a penny more, or we're being seriously ripped off.” He thinks the woman in the Honduran sweatshop is not pulling her weight.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

I got the inside scoop on sea urchin longevity right here

Scandinavia, you gotta love it: Norway’s vehicle registration dept has refused to register the prime minister’s new bomb-proof car, because it is too heavy, increasing its stopping distance.

On the other hand, a Sydney, Australia airport screener insisted on frisking the New Zealand prime minister, even after being told who she was.

Heh heh heh: “A Ku Klux Klan member was badly wounded when a bullet fired in the air during an initiation ceremony in Tennessee came down and hit him in the head. Gregory Freeman, 45, was charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment after Jeffery Murr, 24, was left critically ill. About 10 people had gathered for the ceremony. The initiate was blindfolded, tied with a noose to a tree and shot with paintball guns as Freeman fired a pistol.”

From the Department of Fun Facts to Learn and Then Instantly Forget: Sea urchins can live for 200 years.

I’m undecided whether to consider the events in Georgia to be an American-backed coup or not. Many Georgians are none too sure either. Certainly Russia, which has been funding separatist movements, and the US, are in competition for “influence” in Georgia. And both have troops stationed there. The US will pay for the new parliamentary elections, in 45 days. Today the new prime minister phoned BP and the UN--quite possibly in that order.

The Iraqi puppet government--you know, I’m going to stop calling them that, since Bremer may well be Chalabi’s puppet at this point--has banned the Arab news network Al-Arabiya for playing a tape supposedly from Saddam, and has been removing imams for preaching stuff the Government Formerly Known as Puppet doesn’t like.

Holy Joe Lieberman whines: “I always thought we Democrats were the party of inclusion, not exclusion.” He’s not contesting Iowa, so he decided to skip the debate there, then changed his mind and bitched when they wouldn’t let him. Or maybe they just forgot he was still running.

Franco's unsheathed sword, if you know what I mean

Evidently those soldiers didn’t have their throats cut or beaten with concrete blocks, if the army is to be believed.

Bush meets (away from cameras) with the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and offers his prayers, in perhaps the crappiest trade of all time.

The mother of one dead soldier, not at that event, helpfully pointed out that Bush could have dropped by when he was recently in her state, SC, for a fundraiser. If the D’s had any guts, they’d provide a map to the nearest families of dead soldiers for every future Bush fundraiser.

Governor Ahhnuld has cut the car tax increase. And proposed cutting payments to Medical doctors 10%, which should drive many of them out of the program, ending homecare for the disabled, blind & old, forcing some of those into homes, freezing enrollment in programs that had been and should be entitlements, like aid for the developmentally disabled, etc etc. Oh, and education will be cut; one of the maybe three explicit promises he ever made when campaigning was that it wouldn’t be. And all that accounts for just half of the car tax increase. Good to have those priorities straight.

General Tommy Franks says that if WMDs are ever used against America, democracy and the Constitution will be destroyed. He said this in an interview with Cigar Aficionado magazine.

I guess I knew this story was coming: “Iraqi Donkeys Suffer under U.S. Suspicion”.

On the other hand, the Indian government has set up a holiday camp for elephants.

In the small print of the latest defense appropriation act was money to develop a new nuclear weapon, designed for “bunker-busting.”

A book just out in Spain, The History They Taught Us, 1937-75, is about history books in the Franco years. Evidently Franco himself was a “Herculean hero of robust constitution,” who “came down to Earth in an iron bird to fight the dragon (of communism) with his unsheathed sword.” Jews drink the blood of Christians (well, that’s true. I find it’s quite delicious with a little chocolate syrup). The first thing Franco did was fire 50,000 teachers and replace them with Falangists.

In more recent news, Paul Bremer fired 28,000 Iraqi teachers....

Mayhem in the Middle East.

There’s been no news of Neil Bush for a while. Now there is. As expected, his divorce is stirring up all sorts of stuff. Neil admits to having had sex with women during “business” trips to Thailand and Hong Kong. He says that they just showed up at his door and presumably he just fucked them to be polite (although they may just have been asking if he needed more towels). From the deposition:
Lawyer: Mr. Bush, you have to admit it's a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her.

Bush: It was very unusual.
He denies knowing that the women were prostitutes, or paying them. Also, he’s getting $2m from a Chinese semiconductor firm--a field about which he knows nothing--in association with the son of Jiang Zemin. Haven’t heard more about the story a few weeks ago that the president of Taiwan paid $1m to meet Neil.

Monday, November 24, 2003

A subtle hint in Mosul

The Post says that a good chunk of the money allocated for “homeland security” was spent on anything but that, in part because there are no particular standards for how locals spend the windfall, and in part because it was designed as pork, with money not going to likely terrorism targets, but based on population (i.e., everyone gets something for their district).

The Israeli government has been trying to label Europe anti-semitic lately. Sharon says, in an interview that’s rather badly timed considering that he’s currently hosting the leader of Italy’s post-fascist party, that the problem is an “ever stronger Muslim presence in Europe.” When it was suggested to him that he tends to label legitimate criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic, he said that “These days to conduct an anti-Semite policy is not a popular thing, so the anti-Semites bundle their policies in with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” And criticizing his use of excessive force would be to deprive Israel of the right of self-defense, which is a danger to Jews.

At the risk of being labeled an anti-Semite: Ariel Sharon is a prick.

Shevardnadze is out. “I realised that what is happening may end with spilled blood if I use my rights.” Patrick Cockburn’s excellent story says that Georgia had collapsed into poverty, with many parts of it having essentially seceded. Which explains why the US took the position it did: Shevvy wasn’t able to keep his country stable enough for our pipeline purposes. The US has already recognized the new government, which means I may have to rethink considering the ouster a good thing. Other link.

Croat nationalists have won that country’s parliamentary elections (Later: or possibly not an outright victory). Nationalism has also significantly increased in the last Bosnian elections, and in the Serb presidential elections (which were invalidated by low turnout). Fortunately, nationalism in the Balkans usually just involves singing folksongs.

Two US soldiers were killed by guerillas in Mosul. Immediately, a crowd went through their pockets, smashed their bodies and their car with concrete blocks, stabbed them, slit their throats, and generally, ya know, welcomed them as liberators, just like Dick Cheney promised.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

That night, they tried some things they had never done before

According to the Independent, when Bush met families of dead British soldiers, a three-year old told him “My daddy is up in heaven.” I have no idea how the families were chosen, but to Britain’s credit, one were of a soldier killed by friendly fire.

Congress passed a Medicare bill, and may pass an energy bill, with provisions that could not be passed in a functioning representative democracy: the MTBE immunity, the ban on bargaining to reduce drug costs. On the other hand, there’s ethanol, which takes more energy to produce than it gives off, which is representative democracy at its worst. And honestly, when you first heard about the “donut hole” in the drugs benefit, months ago, did you imagine it would still be in the final bill? They managed to win the vote by the now familiar Republican principle that if the other side wins, it doesn’t count. In this case, they simply kept the vote open for 3 hours while they twisted arms (no vote in the House has ever gone over 90 minutes before, 15 is standard), and members of the executive branch breached protocol by going onto the floor to break legs. They don’t get to bitch about D’s filibustering when they have so little respect for the rules themselves. Also, and the Post reporter should be lynched for writing this without more detail: “In the end, they switched two of the conservatives by telling them of a Democratic legislative plot that may have been either fictional or real.” Oh, ok, another Post article says the rumor is that Nancy Pelosi would revive a D. version via a discharge petition. Clear as mud.

Incidentally, every analysis of the Medicare bill fails to factor premiums in when describing the benefits. For example, rather than having 75% of drug costs after the deductible paid, the “benefit” ranges from being something like $420 worse off than with no coverage, to a maximum of 50%.

Means-testing is fairly minor, but it’s a terrible principle to introduce, and it will worsen over time.

Jimmy Carter has written a novel. With what for Jimmy Carter passes as a sex scene, presented here in its entirety: “That night, they tried some things they had never done before.”

Gee, I like strawberries, but I don’t like skin strawberries, cancer not so much. What to do, what to do.

Georgia (the commie one) is going pear-shaped. Shevardnadze tried to inaugurate a parliament based on the seriously fraudulent elections held a few weeks ago. He was just chased out of parliament by peasants with pitchforks, and may come back with thugs on loan from a warlord or, hopefully, retreat to his new mansion in Germany, forever. Russia looks like staying out, ditto the US, despite or perhaps because our precious precious pipeline goes through Georgia.

Friday, November 21, 2003

What is responsible for that terrorist attack is terrorism

From Reuters: “The U.S-led interim rulers in Baghdad on Wednesday told companies seeking $18.7 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts they should bring their own armed security guards to guard against escalating guerrilla attacks.” By what authority do private companies get to bring armed people into a foreign country?

Remember when the Israeli military released footage they claimed showed there were no civilians nearby when they launched missiles at a car, and it turned out that even the edited footage they released did show civilians, if you looked closely enough? It also turns out they lied about what sort of missile they used, which was larger and more indiscriminate, and may actually be a Flechette, which releases thousands of tiny darts over a large distance, and is illegal under international law, and if you guessed that therefore it was made in the USA, you were right. They also lied about what sort of helicopter they used, for reasons not yet clear.

And remember the British peace activist the Israelis shot in the head in April while trying to protect children from soldiers? He’s still brain dead. Israel was supposed to pay for the costs of repatriating him to Britain. They finally coughed up a check for a portion of the amount (without admitting liability, natch). It bounced.

Robert Fisk reminds me of something I’d noticed in Bush’s London speech and then forgot about: he called on Israel only to “freeze” settlements and dismantle “unauthorized outposts.” Fisk notes that Bush said the “heart of the matter” in the Middle East is “a viable Palestinian democracy,” but he failed to mention “occupation.” Of course this is a mirror of what he’s doing in Iraq. I’ll bet between now and the elections a year from now, Bush never uses the word occupation in any sentence.

What am I saying, of course he won’t, it’s a four-syllable word.

What Shrub did say: “What has caused the terrorist attack today in Turkey is not the president of the United States, is not the alliance between America and Britain. What is responsible for that terrorist attack is terrorism, are the terrorists.” His insight just takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Fisk again: “We have a kind of fatal incomprehension about those against whom we have gone to war; that they are living in caves, cut off from reality, striking blindly - "desperately" as Mr Bush would have us believe - as they realise that the free world is resolved to destroy them.” In fact, today’s bombings are about as stage-managed and calculated and not a lot less subtle than Bush prancing around that aircraft carrier or his trip to his favorite colony to visit the queen. Blair and Bush show off their alliance, protected by 14,000 cops; Al Qaida, or whomever, shows the consequence of that alliance by attacking British interests in some area where they aren’t so well protected.

That's a long story

Billmon on the reprehensible new Republican ad touting Bush’s “policy of pre-emptive self defense.” Make sure to read (or view) the ad, which is also on the link. The line I liked best was “Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists.” Note the use of the word attacking two times, to equate legitimate criticism with assassinations, pre-emptive self defense (wars), and indefinite detention.

In Britain, Bush visited a “special” school. A 12-year old “special” student stumped him with a “special” question about Iraq. He said, “That’s a long story. I will have to tell you about that at another time.” The same student asked Blair about his heart difficulties (which we now know he lied about), and got the same answer.

Bush visited Tony Blurr’s constituency in Sedgefield, had the fish and chips (which he ate with his hands and dunked in ketchup), mushy peas, and the alcohol-free ale, in a 4-hour visit that cost County Durham £1 million for security. So there goes the health clinic. And so the visit to Britain, to celebrate the establishment of democracy by spending a lot of time with a hereditary monarch, comes to an end.

This Sunday, The Simpsons are going to England. Blair’s people worked very hard to make sure that no tapes of the episode reached Britain during the state visit. Tony Blair’s voice will appear, but not the Archbishop of Canterbury’s (yes, they asked him, he’s a fan, but he’s not stupid). And not Posh and Becks.

Remember those Japanese soldiers who never heard about the war ending? The Japanese government thinks there are some still out there in the Philippines and is going looking for them. An article in The Times on this also mentions a farmer in Honduras who fled into the jungle and hid for 32 years after the 1969 border war with El Salvador, which was over in four days.

The Post says that Evangelicals are upset that Bush said that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. It is, of course, ridiculously easy to upset Evangelicals, and a lot of fun.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Duty sometimes requires the violent restraint of violent men

I haven’t mentioned the Canadian-Syrian dual national who the US pulled off a plane when he was changing planes in the US on the way home to Canada, and deported to Syria to be viciously tortured for 10 months, in yet another spit in the eye for Canada, not to mention the guy himself. The Post says that it was approved by the deputy attorney general, who said that returning him to Canada would be “prejudicial to the interests of the United States.” They told Syria he was Al Qaida, just to make sure he was tortured. The US said that it could deport that guy to Syria because it promised not to torture him. Washington Post (a day after the above link): “Spokesmen at the Justice Department and the CIA declined to comment on why they believed the Syrian assurances to be credible.” Although to be fair, the Post was asking questions of Justice and CIA spokesmen, who aren’t exactly the most credible sources themselves.

Turkey will allow a full five hours per week of tv & radio broadcasting in Kurdish. So generous.

I received a rather good Nigerian email scam today. This one purports to be from the mistress of the late Qusay Hussein.

AP headline: “CBS Pulls Michael Jackson Music Special.” Oh is that what they’re calling it now.

I mentioned yesterday a lt-colonel being investigated for hitting an Iraqi prisoner and shooting a gun next to his dead, threatening to kill him if he didn’t talk. I also mentioned that there is a movement to put him up for sainthood. For a hint of that, click here.

Robert Parry writes that while the Bushies all managed somehow to avoid Vietnam, many of them were involved in the 1980s in directing efforts against leftists in Central America. The piece is Guatemala-heavy, and a good reminder of the CIA-death squad connections of that period. I don’t think Parry really makes the case he is trying to make, that those experiences are shaping current Iraqi policy, but I think the case could be made.

Bush read out rather a good speech in Britain. In fact, I suspect a British ghostwriter. “The inhabitants of Iraq’s Baathist hell, with its lavish palaces and its torture chambers, with its massive statues and mass graves, do not miss their fugitive dictator.” He also cited Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, Tyndale, Wesley and William Booth. Do you think they make an attempt to explain to him who these people were, or do they just put it in his hands and say “Read this. No, dummy, read it out loud.”? Doesn’t it risk making him look like the total stooge he is when he has to read speeches whose content is so obviously beyond him?

He also said that if we denied the Middle East the blessings of democracy imposed from the outside by overwhelming military force (I’m paraphrasing), it would “remain a place of stagnation and anger and violence for export.” Comment 1: So it only matters if they export their violence. Comment 2: How do you export stagnation? Comment 3: Just so long as their first export is still oil. He added that to say they were unready for having democracy imposed from the outside by overwhelming military force (I’m paraphrasing) was “pessimism and condescension and we should have none of it.” Yes, he went to England, England mind you, to speak out against condescension.

Behind him, just as in America, was a wall with words appearing over and over, in this case “United Kingdom.” Just in case the locals didn’t know what country they were in? Well, that must happen a lot. Bush always wears a little American flag pin in his lapel, just in case he gets confused.

The Times describes the scene outside: “If the world inside Banqueting House seemed black and white, out on the street it was mostly luminous green, as thousands of police in fluorescent jackets lined Whitehall for the policing equivalent of Shock and Awe. Japanese tourists filmed police filming a handful of hairy protesters on bicycles who filmed them back with hand-held camcorders, while the whole thing was filmed by 24-hour news channels. This is called total surveillance.

“Two policemen with a crowbar were prising up the manhole covers and peering anxiously into the sewers. Nearby, I found an American secret serviceman with no neck and the giveaway rubber spring hanging from an ear. He was staring with suspicion at a sign on the building next door which read: Swyddfa Ysgrifennydd Gwladol. I didn’t have the heart to tell him this was not some coded terrorist message but the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales.” [I’d have used that for my subject line, but I’d probably be hauled in for questioning by the Office of Homeland Security.]

The Guardian, meanwhile, assures us “All is calm, inside the bubble.” “lest he even breathe the same air as the protesters outside, he was ferried by limousine from the back door of the palace round to the front.”

Speaking of talking total tosh, here’s Colin Powell’s response to the (fired) Mexican ambassador to the UN: “Never, never, in no way, would we treat Mexico like our back yard or a second-class nation.”

There’s a reality show on Russian tv called Hunger in which 12 young Russians have to scrounge, beg, steal and possibly prostitute themselves on the streets of Berlin. None speak German. They get voted out by viewers, Big Brother style. The winner gets $1,000 a month for life.

Yet another Bush nominee to the bench has been blocked, but it’s by Republicans. Leon Holmes says it doesn’t matter whether there’s an exception for rape in abortion laws, because rape never leads to pregnancy. The theory is that the R’s don’t want to give him an up or down vote, because it would be down.

The Israeli military lied again.

Serves me for clicking on a headline “Teacher Suspended for Milk Lesson.” But if you want to...

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Unbanned in Boston

The UN war crimes tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia has started to race through its backlog of cases by plea bargains, under pressure from the US. Because the principle in disposing of cases of systematic rape, killing of civilians, etc etc, should be not wasting too much time and effort.

Just in case anyone believed that Bush speech about bringing democracy to the Middle East, he names as next ambassador to Saudi Arabia, wait for it, a Texas oil lobbyist.

We here in Kallyfohrnia have a new governor. If you wake up tomorrow and the land mass of North America suddenly ends at Nevada, you’ll know the reason. He immediately rescinds the car tax by executive order, because you have to do something unconstitutional on your first day. His big plan for the budget turns out to be $15 billion in bond indebtedness (which means $15 billion in interest, buying exactly nothing). Ya know, anybody could have come up with that idea.

The Bushies just cancelled the only public event he had, which wasn’t very public, invited guests only. So the British people are paying millions for security, and all that disruption, just so that Bush can meet the queen and try to erase the impression he made on her the last time.

The Mass. Supreme Court rules that marriage cannot exclude homosexuals. Bush says that he will “defend the sanctity of marriage against the queers.” OK, I added those last 3 words, but who else would he be “defending” marriage from? I’d also like Bush just once to be made to define “sanctity.”

A trial is going on of a substantial proportion of the admittedly quite small adult male population of Pitcairn Island for sex crimes (where Fletcher Christian and the Bounty mutineers settled). They’re claiming that Pitcairn is in fact an independent country.

Florida suspends
constitutional rights to a speedy trial during the free trade meetings next week.

was selling a toy, made in China, that is supposed to be attached to cribs and makes ocean noises, and also subliminally says “I hate you” over and over. They’ve pulled the product, but refuse to admit to hearing the words.

Here’s a story I missed. A US lt-col. is being given a military hearing (like a pre-court martial)--safely out of the way of publicity in Tikrit--for beating and staging a mock execution of an Iraqi POW to extract information. Evidently, this is all over talk radio, which is defending the guy, who is claiming self defense in that the information he was seeking (the report doesn’t say if he got it) was about a plan to attack him and his unit.

Monday, November 17, 2003

The Brits have upped to 14,000 (or 16,000) the number of police protecting Shrub’s pathetic life, 1/9th of all cops in England & Wales. Never have so many... Presumably they think it’s appropriate to celebrate the alliance that invaded Iraq with a restaging in London suburbs of the sort of looting that followed the fall of Baghdad. I should go over there and pick up a few home decoration items from the British Museum. Anyone wanna help me carry the Elgin marbles? Evidently, Special Branch have a warning that a “mentally deranged lone fanatic with a fixation for George Bush” may be in London. Yes, that would be Tony Blair. Blair [grimly determined face] says “Now is not the time to waver. Now is the time to see it through.” It’s a fucking state visit, not the invasion of Normandy.

From the Guardian’s Zoe Williams: “Condoleezza Rice echoed this weird sentiment, talking about this week's rallies. "Protests are a part of our democratic heritage and our democratic privilege." Meanwhile, her government was lobbying ours for diplomatic immunity for the members of its security service, lest they shoot a protester by accident. Mindless anti-Americans might spot an inconsistency in this line: if marchers have democratic privilege, you'd think that would extend to not getting shot. In fact, her position is watertight - there is a long heritage of democratic protesters, but there's also a long heritage of shooting them while they do it.”

Bush, by the way, cancelled plans to address Parliament, because he would have been heckled.

I don’t know who in this story is stupider: “An American patrol opened fire yesterday on people in Baghdad's gun market, killing three, including an 11-year-old boy, after the soldiers mistook the gunfire of customers testing weapons for an attack, a witness and an Iraqi police officer said.”

The British ambassador to Uzbekistan is back at work. I’ve neglected to mention this story, which is a bit murky. The ambassador, Craig Murray, had the nerve actually to criticize Uzbekistan & its dictator, the arrest and torture of political opponents, the corruption, publicly and at length. The problem is that Uz. is along the American oil pipeline, so it gets a pass, and the US ordered the Brits to pull him out and leak to the press that he was a womanizing drunk. Which he isn’t. And now he’s back.

And the Mexican ambassador to the UN has been recalled for saying that the US treats his country as a back yard. Ambassadors who tell the truth, whatever will they think of next?

We know that Ashcroft stopped the FBI (ATF?) using Brady Act data to figure out whether the 9/11 terrorists had bought guns (Michael Moore mentioned it on CSPAN yesterday). Now they’ve got a new system that prevents the Feebs tracking people on the terrorism watch list who have purchased weapons. And certainly can’t stop them exercising their sacred 2nd Amendment rights.

Nobody likes war, and nobody doesn't like Sara Lee

In the California election, 4.6% skipped the recall question. Except for the 3 counties which used those Diebold voting machines all the controversy has been about. There, evidently, no one skipped it. Oh yeah, that’s not suspicious at all. Paper and pencil, people, paper and pencil.

LA Times on what the claim of 130,000 Iraqis now under arms actually means.

I just ran across a quote from Lord Clanricarde, an absentee Irish landlord during the land wars of the 1880s: “If you think you can intimidate me by shooting my agent, you are mistaken.” Or as Dubya would put it, “Bring them on.”

Creepy creepy creepy.

The Washington Post points out that Bush gave an interview to a low-rent British tabloid--owned by Rupert Murdoch, natch--which features naked women on page 3. Don’t know if they also pointed out--The Sun sure did--that he hasn’t given a one-on-one interview to ANY American newspaper this year. Here’s a quote: “Nobody likes war. See, I understand the consequences of war. I understand particularly when I go and hug the moms and dads and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of those who died.” Yuck. And again I say, yuck.

A tv station asked Secretary of War Rummy Rumsfeld if the mortar attack in Baghdad on the hotel Paul Wolfowitz was staying in might be a wee hint that Iraq wasn’t so peaceful after all. His answer: “It seems to me that doesn't really follow. The fact of the matter is in any major city in the world, there are attacks of various types that take place.”

Serbian presidential elections, for the third time, fail to attract enough voters to be valid. The thing is, this has somehow been going on for something like a year now.

Here’s a cute AP story [link no longer works] about the US renewing diplomatic ties with Equatorial Guinea, despite the facts that “Equatorial Guinea's president had his opponents imprisoned and tortured, had his presidential predecessor executed by firing squad, helped himself to the state treasury at will. State radio recently declared him ‘like God.’” But they have oil.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Freedom is a beautiful thing

A letter to the NYT notes that while Bush’s people talk about him not going to any military funerals because he’s just so busy, since June he has gone to 35 fund-raisers.

Actually, he is planning to visit with families of dead soldiers for the first time next week. Dead British soldiers. Many of whose families said thanks but no thanks. Others will go and ask difficult questions. Heh heh. Bush says about the demonstrations he will encounter, “I'm so pleased to be going to a country which says that people are allowed to express their minds. That's fantastic. Freedom is a beautiful thing.” In other words, Britain turned down the Secret Service’s demand that they ban the demos. A beautiful thing indeed. The Sindy points out that Bush hasn’t visited any wounded soldiers. I said this a few days ago, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in print anywhere.

Still, the UK refused to grant diplomatic immunity to US Secret Service and snipers. Nor will they close the Tube, nor will the US Air Force patrol London with fighters and Blackhawks, nor will battlefield weaponry be shipped in for use against rioters. Nor will Buckingham Palace be completely rebuilt with blast-proof windows and reinforced walls. I include a link in case you think I’m making this up.

Laura Bush, interviewed for British tv, said that for Americans, the British monarchy is a “fairytale.” Insert your own Prince Charles joke here.

Here’s an article on scam-baiting, which is where you respond to Nigerian emails and string them along as long as possible. One of the goals is to get the sender to prove his identity by sending a photo of himself holding up a sign with the name you’re using: Iama Dildo, for example. There are websites for those as well.

Israel responds to synagogue bombings in Istanbul by blaming anyone who criticizes Israel.

From the NY Times piece on the Senate marathon, quoting Rick Santorum (R-Moronville): “we'll have our opportunity someday, and we'll make sure there's not another liberal judge, ever!” And this, on the staginess of it all: “In fact, the Republican cots, which were wheeled into the room on Wednesday morning before a summoned throng of photographers and reporters, were quietly wheeled out, having never been used by anyone. Only Dr. Frist appeared to have briefly napped in a cot, one that was ostentatiously placed not in his inner office, which has abundant comfortable sofas and where one might choose to sleep privately, but near the door to a public hallway where it could be seen and photographed.”

The Iraqis took down two US helicopters with a single RPG today. US death toll: 400. Sorry, 419.

It may be pointless to criticize the current American plan for turning over power to Iraq, since there’s bound to be a new plan in a day or two, but the NYT correctly points out that it would occur before there is a constitution (which looks likely to be such a farce that the US doesn’t want to be associated with it), or even national elections. No protection for minorities, or women, nothing about Islamic law. The Kurds should regard this as yet another sell-out. Of course the US military won’t leave, but they’ll evidently stop using the word occupation. And they’ll keep control of the $20 billion.

Friday, November 14, 2003

French fake dog droppings

I’m having no trouble resisting the urge to turn on CSPAN 2 to watch the 30-hour marathon the R’s are staging, Cry-Baby Expo ‘03, highlighting the failure to give Shrub every single ludicrous judicial nominee he pulls out of his ass. Sadly, the impact of the message of this little stunt--I believe the message is “Do as we say, not as we did”--may be diminished by the leak of the memo from Majority Leader Bill “Kitty Killer” Frist’s office about stage-managing the event for Fox; quote: “the producer wants to know will we walk in exactly at 6:02 when the show starts so they get it live to open Brit Hume's show?”

(Later): well, I gave in and watched some of the windbaggery. Before you schedule 30 hours of talking you should really make sure that you have something to say. Sen. Enzi just said that the words “with liberty and justice for all” in the pledge of allegiance requires the approval of Bush’s nominees.

Orrin Hatch is quoting H L Mencken and The Far Side.

Sharon says that critics of Israel’s use of force against Palestinians are exercising “a new form of anti-Semitism.”

Pakistan bans fashion shows as un-Islamic.

Reuters: “For many days, aides have portrayed California Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger as hard at work in meetings on his new administration which takes office on Monday. It turns out that the actor and his wife Maria Shriver have been vacationing in Hawaii with their four children, a person close to the family told Reuters.” Ah, how Reaganesque.

This week we’ve been getting conflicting estimates of the size of the enemy in Iraq, ranging from 5,000 to 50,000. This all has a very nostalgic, “military intelligence says there were 3,500 Vietcong and our body count this month is 3,300,” feel to it.

When Israel bombed an alleged terrorist training camp in Syria last month, its planes buzzed a presidential palace. Isn’t that sweet?

So if I read a NYT story correctly, Tom DeLay set up a charity for abused children that is a cover for paying for parties at the 2004 Republican Convention. It’s a way of not having to report campaign contributions.

Can you resist the headline “French Fill Lyon With Fake Dog Droppings”?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Americans don't know....

Yesterday I mentioned that Bush avoids actual individual soldiers, especially dead or wounded ones, but I didn’t think to connect it with The Photo last week of Bush signing the “partial-birth abortion” ban with nary a woman in sight (unless you count Rick Santorum).

An interesting Guardian column on the state visit of Bush to Britain. No one there will even admit to having invited him, and he does seem actually to have invited himself. Like the aircraft carrier, he decided pictures of himself and the queen would make him look like a world leader in his campaign ads. Problem is: “Americans don't know shit. They're not going to recognise the prime minister of the Philippines. The only foreign leaders they could pick out are the Queen of England and the Pope.” (That was an American speaking.)

Protesters are planning--and I can’t for the life of me think why no one has done this before--to topple a giant effigy of Bush, in Trafalgar Square.

On the Bush strategy to erode abortion rights.

An Ellen Goodman piece with fewer facts but more outrage.

The Israeli High Court reverses a ban on the film “Jenin, Jenin,” about the Jenin massacre, which is also a reversal of its statement in April that “The right of expression exists in full force even when a differing viewpoint is forbidden due to a legislative arrangement.”

Dunno if the right of expression exists in full force in Greece, but a tv station was fined $100,000 for showing two men kissing.

The Resistance manages to kill a dozen Italian Carbinieri, who were in Iraq to bring the benefits of Italian policing to the benighted natives.

And the US evidently plans to start running away, after all, and turn over power to any Iraqi who wants it. Which I believe is the plan we made fun of France for suggesting two months ago. This is serious chicken-with-its-head-cut-off time, as you can tell by the number of ridiculous plans being bandied about. Hand power to one leader, as in Afghanistan. Who? Ok, speed up election to a constitutional assembly. Which would entail running an election during the middle of a war, and who would man the polling booths, and there isn’t an electoral registrar; there is, in other words, none of the infrastructure that would make an election anything other than a joke.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Words of wisdom from Mahatma Wolfowitz

A must-read Molly Ivins, on the Medicare drug plan, 61% of which will go straight into drug company profits, and pork in the energy bill. Turning coal into coal?

A tidbit in the Post says the Bushies are proposing letting drug companies destroy Medicaid records after 3 years, and with them any evidence of Medicaid fraud.

How did I miss this? War-Monger Extraordinaire Paul Wolfowitz said that “If the Palestinians would adopt the ways of Gandhi, they could, in fact, make an enormous change very, very quickly. I believe the power of individuals demonstrating peacefully is enormous.” Wolfowitz then announced that he would retreat to an ashram after he had started 3 more wars.

Speaking of individuals demonstrating peacefully, Bush is visiting the UK soon, and his security people would like it if the entire West End was shut down for a couple of days. Oh, and they want demonstrations banned, and they especially don’t want demonstrations where Bush might actually see them. And they want immunity for Secret Service agents who might shoot somebody; they want to bring 250 armed agents. When Nixon visited in 1969, the Secret Service brought water.

Because he does need completely subservient audiences, doesn’t he? Does anyone else think that his giving a speech today at the Heritage Foundation was an insult to Veterans’ Day, which is supposed to be a national and not a partisan day? Bush also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, because god forbid he should come face to face with one of the known soldiers stuck at the sharp end of Bushian foreign policy. The fact that he never goes to a funeral of one of the soldiers is well known, and the ban on coverage of the arrival of coffins, but have you noticed that no one from the administration ever visits the wounded either?

A blogger goes looking for the schools in Iraq the Bushies keep claiming they’ve “rebuilt.” Incidentally, this blog, which I haven’t seen before, isn’t bad.

Several German states are working to ban the wearing of Muslim headscarves. The story says that Christian and Jewish symbols won’t be banned. In fact...

Just kidding.

This link looks kind of generic, so it may reach a different story by the time you click on it, but it’s got some really heart-warming pictures of US soldiers interacting with Iraqis, frisking a 4-year old, and I like how one kneels down to tie up the 6-year old girl. (If the link doesn’t link, the story title is “Shocking images shame US forces”.)

Of course, that’s nothing like what we do in our own schools.

Daily Telegraph: Iraqi police officers have been offered the use of a pink Rolls-Royce belonging to the former dictator Saddam Hussein's son Uday, as a wedding car. The deputy interior minister, Gen Ibrahim Ahmad, has authorised the vehicle's use by police officers and ministry officials when they marry. A spokesman said he wanted to honour their work.

After a radical reinterpretation of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde was booed in Brazil, the director mooned the audience.

Monday, November 10, 2003

No amount of money can compensate

Efrain Ríos Montt, 77, a coup leader, former dictator, religious fanatic, and fomenter of genocide, has failed to make the runoffs for the Guatemalan presidency. I blame age discrimination.

Seriously, the first business of the new president has to be purging the courts of the clowns who allowed the candidacy to go ahead in violation of the constitution. Trying Ríos Montt for genocide would be good, too.

Speaking of dinosaurs and elections, and don’t get me started on Haley Barbour, described by the Daily Show as the candidate of Big Drawl, Shevardnadze just stole an election in Georgia. The number of post-Soviet states in which the leader was elected by an even halfway believable electoral process is now zero, if my count is correct.

(Later): Shevardnadze has fled the capital, possibly in advance of a vicious crackdown. Keep an eye on Tbilisi.

The Israeli Cabinet agrees to one of those lopsided prisoner exchanges that show the relative value placed on Jews in relation to non-Jews, releasing 400 live Arabs from various nations in exchange for one kidnapped Israeli drug dealer and 3 dead soldiers.

Al Qaida seems finally to have committed an atrocity capable of pissing off the Arab world (assuming it’s really responsible), without even killing off Deputy Secretary of State Richard “Dude, where’s my neck?” Armitage. Armitage says the bombing is part of an attempt to topple the Saudi monarchy, but fails to explain why that would be a bad thing.

CBS head Les Moonves tells Daily Variety that there was absolutely no pressure on him to censor the movie about the Reagans. He said it was a “moral decision,” not a political or economic one. Speaking of which, CBS’s crappy Hitler movie last spring: the filming was observed by rabbis.

William Saletan in Slate says what I’ve been thinking: “When he seizes on Dean's flag comment to bash Yankees who think they "know what's best for you," Edwards is asking for the Confederate-flag vote on much creepier grounds than Dean did.”

I haven’t said anything thus far about the NY Times report a few days ago that Iraq was offering inspections by the US military, and elections. I still have no idea how seriously to take it, nor how serious the offer was. Since it was rejected outright, we’ll never know either. George Monbiot, who adds that offers to negotiate from the Taliban were also rejected before the war, makes a better case for outrage, giving quotes from Bush & Blair that it was Saddam’s choice, and he’d been given every opportunity to negotiate, when in fact his offers were shot down.

The Institute of Physics, which clearly has too much time on its hands, has condemned the diet of Homer Simpson as being not at all healthy. They say Bart is heading down the same road, and watches too much tv, as opposed to the clowns who watched all the Simpsons videos counting donuts.

Footage of Bush prancing around on the aircraft carrier has finally appeared in the first campaign ad--John Kerry’s.

Speaking of aircraft, the US has escalated its attacks on the Iraqi Resistance, employing airstrikes. That’s new. Also, they shot dead the head of the city council of Sadr City, in a story that I suspect is very interesting, if we ever get to hear it.

Michael Moore (who appears in next week’s Simpsons, and could use a few less donuts himself): “it's only fair that for every kid that dies, Halliburton has to slay a mid-level executive.”

A Louisiana judge went to a Halloween party dressed in black face, with an afro wig, wearing a prisoner costume.

Read the transcript of Scott McClellan explaining how the Bush admin is screwing POWs from the 1st Gulf War because no amount of money can compensate them, so they’ll be compensated with no amount of money. You have to read the whole thing to get the effect, which is hilarious.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

What would a half-woman half-tigress be executed for?

The New Hampshire Supreme Court rules that adultery does not include lesbian sex. They looked it up in a dictionary.

And then they just felt dirty all over, so:

Also, homosexual sex with a servant does not count, according to Prince Charles.

Speaking of dictionaries, the latest edition of Merriam-Webster’s has a listing for “McJobs.” McDonald’s is not at all pleased.

Daily Telegraph: “Fifty people were arrested in Qom, Iran, as police broke up a crowd that had assembled to watch the rumoured execution of a half-woman half-tigress, the Jomhuri-Eslami newspaper reported yesterday. The police tried to persuade the crowd that the rumour was false but as security forces attempted to disperse them they smashed several windows in nearby buildings.” Extra points for anyone who can think of the Siegfried and Roy joke I couldn’t.

The oldest person in the world, and possibly of all time, if it’s true, Hava Rexha, dies in Albania at 123. She was forcibly married at 14 to some guy in his 60s. Who thought that would be the secret to longevity? Can you imagine having to live in Albania for 123 years?

The US has put a $2 million bounty on former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, who is living in Nigeria, which gave him asylum and is not at all pleased at this attempt to sponsor a kidnapping in their country.

States with Republican legislatures--Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and more to come--have decided not to bother having primaries in 2004. Other states have dropped them to save money--Maine, NM, and more to come. Maybe we can have the D primaries decided solely by people who weren’t smart enough to move out of Iowa or New Hampshire. Maybe to Albania.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Progressive pig legislation

The response in the Arab world to Bush’s demand that they democratize has been unanimous: they have all scheduled free and fair elections. “We were just waiting to be asked,” said King Mohammed of Morocco.

Bush has decided that the new “partial-birth abortion” ban will be enforced by--wait for it--the Justice Dept’s civil rights division. Because this is all about the civil rights of the unborn, geddit?

The WaPo on General Boykin. Yes, he is a religious wingnut of the highest order. I like the story about how Jesus fixed his radio.

Christian Science Monitor on the new textbooks the US picked for Iraq.

The R’s have stopped work of the committee investigating what the intelligence agencies knew about Iraq before the war, demanding an apology from the author of a draft memo, that was not sent to anyone, that they dug out of a garbage can. If the CIA had done as good a job spying on Iraq as the R’s have done spying on D’s staffers, there might never have been a war. The memo suggested that if R’s tried to limit the inquiry, the D’s make that fact public.

As you know, the first state to choose in the presidential primaries will be Iowa, which has 5 times as many pigs as humans, thanks to the rise of huge factory farms. Or to put this another way, one of the most important issues in choosing the man who might be the next president: pig shit smell. The Kerry campaign told the Sunday Telegraph, “We take the problem of pig smell very, very seriously.” “Faced with such brazen electioneering, a spokesman for Richard Gephardt, a leading Democratic candidate, points out that he has the longest history of any candidate in promoting progressive pig legislation.” And that’s why I love America.

The Sunday Times (London) hired a former Iraqi general to buy a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (rocket included). It took him 3 days to find one, and it cost $500. He drove it through Baghdad, passing through 3 checkpoints and past the hq of the “Coalition Provisional Authority.” On the reporter’s lap, not in the trunk. They tried to turn it in at a US checkpoint, but the soldiers refused to take it.

I’m told the big new thing in the US for the man who has everything: a urinal in his own home.

Friday, November 07, 2003

A forward strategy of freedom

From the Daily Telegraph: “Making a mobile phone call could soon be as simple as clicking your fingers and putting your forefinger in your ear.” Yes, technology has finally caught up with what crazy homeless people have been doing for years.

The Schwarzenegger people smeared one of the women who accused him of groping her, the day before the election. They misled lazy and rushed reporters into accessing the criminal record of someone with the same name and a different birth date, but the careful wording of their email to the press strongly suggests to me that they knew it wasn’t the same person.

The Arnold’s search for the real groper will consist of hiring a private detective, who would of course be working for him and, since Arnie presumably knows what he did, the only purpose in using a PI is to find out what can be proven, and hence this is not about discovering the truth, but part of the cover-up. Hell, if the PI talks to Arnie’s victims it looks like harassment, if not there’s not much point. That’s probably obvious, but the LA Times etc aren’t saying it. Arnie talked to the Cal. attorney general Bill Lockyer (who a couple of weeks ago dismissed the alleged criminal acts against women as frat-boy stuff and said he’d voted for the alleged criminal) about this. Lockyer told him it wasn’t good enough, then told the press. Arnie accused him of violating attorney-client privilege; Lockyer noted that Arnie isn’t governor yet (he also isn’t governor-elect as the press keeps saying; the election isn’t certified)(also, it wouldn’t matter; the atty gen isn’t the governor’s private lawyer). It’s always nice to have someone else to point your over-sized muscular finger at. Also, it gives him an excuse not to show Lockyer the results of his “investigation.”

Immediately after getting its nominee to head the EPA approved by the Senate, the admin decides to drop 50 Clean Air Act investigations, effectively gutting the act retroactively, and stop protecting all sorts of bodies of water under the Clean Water Act.

Well, I thought the stupidest secret mission I’ve heard of this week involved an MI5 agent who met an asset in a public place, having forgotten to take off her MI5 name-badge. And then Israel beamed a live feed of the control room of a secret missile test to every satellite dish in the Middle East. “Hey, I’m getting officials punching in launch codes! Where’s my porn?” Oh, and the test failed.

Dubya is pretending to be interested in democracy in the Middle East, or as he put it “a forward strategy of freedom.” Arab dictators might have been worried, but he quickly added, “This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And it will yield the same results.” In other words, jack shit. Bush criticized 60 years of Western nations accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East. I’m curious what he thinks started 60 years ago. Anyway he says that all that accommodation “did nothing to make us safe” and that it “would be reckless to accept the status quo.” He used the word “security” more than once, meaning ours, not theirs. In other words, our status quo is to be preserved by undermining theirs. Actually, in a speech reported as if it ended the old hypocrisy regarding democracy, Bush actually continued the old policy of threatening regimes we don’t like with democracy while whitewashing others. In the parts of the speech that weren’t reported, he praised Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Kuwait, Indonesia and even Saudi Arabia for whatever slivers of democracy they have. If the speech was Reaganesque, it reminds me of the “demonstration elections” staged in Honduras and El Salvador in the 1980s.

Finally, in a speech that insisted that Islam was not incompatible with democracy, he didn’t stop himself concluding “May God bless your work. And may God continue to bless America.” Just couldn’t help himself.

Speaking of democratic standards, a few of the new Iraqis being deployed as police are getting from the US a full 3-week course covering ethics and everything else, most are getting less than that. Fortunately, many of Saddam’s old cops are returning to work, and I’m sure he made sure that they were well versed in ethics and the rule of law. And, according to “Jerry” Bremer, “Iraqis bring vital language and cultural skills to the task of fighting terrorism.” Yes, they speak Arabic, and that’s good enough. Bremer: “The Iraqis will be better able to tell who the bad guys are. They are going to be out in the streets, they will recognize the strangers, they will hear different accents, see different customs, see different ways of dressing and be able to help us identify the strangers and particularly the foreign fighters and the terrorists.” In other words: profiling.

The WaPo reports that the White House has decided to stop answering any questions about how taxpayer money is spent that come from Democratic congresscritters.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Winston and me

At the latest Democratic debate, number 534 I believe, Al Sharpton says he’s never used marijuana. Dean has.

One US Army captain tells the LA Times that Saddam’s birthplace, now surrounded by barbed wire & soldiers, hasn’t been made into a gulag/stalag/strategic hamlet/concentration camp at all. “They have a level of security most people don't have," he said. "Once they get their ID cards, they are free to come and go. You could compare it to one of those gated communities.” OK, let’s try it: Tikrit is nothing like one of those gated communities.

Infinitely sillier than the CBS Reagan biopic: Tom Selleck as Eisenhower. Really.

The R’s are saying that the movie is a disgrace because Saint Ronnie has Alzheimer’s and can’t defend himself. So what are we supposed to do, wait for him to get better? It’s not like he, y’know, minds. Still, it’s hilarious that R’s are pretending to believe that the American viewing public would be confused into believing that this was a documentary. It’s even more hilarious that this little debate is about Reagan, who himself couldn’t distinguish between movies and real life, evidently believing on a couple of occasions that he had been a soldier during WW II, rather than an actor playing one.

Bush signed the ban on “partial-birth abortions” today. He was surrounded by a bunch of middle-aged men. I saw a dozen men and literally no women. NO WOMEN! An administration so control freakish about presentation failed to notice, or just plain didn’t care. Hah, just checked the White House web site, and there’s even a picture; 10 angry men. No feminist group could have staged this better to show Republican indifference to women than the White House did it itself.

(Later): I’m not the only person to have noticed. Here’s a, um, variation, on that photo.

Speaking of presentation, a piece in today’s NYT notes that Bush not only has attended no military funerals but never mentions any of the war dead by name. His handlers are quoted as saying that if he mentioned one, he’d have to do it for all of them, otherwise some of the families would feel left out. “He never wants to elevate or diminish one sacrifice made over another,” says communications director Dan Bartlett, sounding like he’d been asked which of the twins Shrub loved the most. One example: Bush never spoke about the downing of the Chinook and deaths of 15 soldiers. Here’s an actual quote from a handler: “If a helicopter were hit an hour later, after he came out and spoke, should he come out again?” Grotesque. When a reporter finally cornered Bush about the Chinook a couple of days later, he couldn’t even acknowledge that it happened during a war, a war which he had ordered: “I am saddened any time that there’s a loss of life.” Any time? I mean, holy shit, he came out against death! And on the facing page of the NYT, there’s a picture of Bush touring the fire damage in California and hugging someone who lost her home. Gosh, if there’s another fire an hour later, does he have to hug someone else? The difference, of course, is that he’s responsible for the war, but didn’t start the fire (probably).

Today I went to a talk at UCB by an old political scientist from Oxford, David Butler, who I’ve previously seen doing commentary for the BBC in election-night coverage. He’s something like 79 and spoke without notes, which is just plain scary. He told a story about having written an article for The Economist in 1950 about the effects of the first-past-the-post system in magnifying the effects of small electoral swings, which caused a bit of a fuss at the time and he was asked to come to Chartwell for a chat with the leader of the Conservative party, Winston Churchill, for four hours. Winnie drank four large brandies, talked about the Dundee by-election of 1908, and performed the Blood sweat & tears speech for him. I’m betting there hasn’t been a week since 1950 that Butler hasn’t told the story. Wouldn’t you? Anyway, I asked a couple of questions at the end, so basically I discussed politics with a man who has also discussed politics with Churchill.

An Israeli lawyer tried to get a court to require his wife to commit to having sex with him twice a day. It said no, which is a word he should probably get used to.

More abortion news: the Austin Area Pro-Life Concrete Contractors and Suppliers Association (!) has intimidated every cement company within 60 miles of Austin, Texas, into boycotting the construction of a Planned Parenthood clinic. One subcontractor received 1,200 phone calls.

Britain is down to 27 surviving veterans of World War I.

Denmark gives Norse priests the power to conduct weddings. Reception and pillaging to follow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003


Paul Krugman’s review of books on the Bush admin by Molly Ivins and Joe Conason. It starts by retailing the recent decision to allow mining companies to dump waste on public lands, which I meant to write about but didn’t. Also, John Ashcroft anointed with Crisco.

Robert Byrd’s speech on the $87b is a must-read on the fall of the democratic process, not just on the now dominant role of conference committee, which I’ve written about a couple of times (for example a provision for audits passed the Senate 97-0, and was then stripped out in committee by a 15-14 party-line vote), but also in the refusal to include a provision that the new inspector general for the occupation gov in Iraq would have to testify to Congress, or even release his reports to it, truly a great victory for the cause of corruption and secretiveness. Byrd, who must be the last Senator with any knowledge of classical history, explains the derivation of “pyrrhic victory.”

An SF Chronicle reporter notices something odd about soldiers wounded in Iraq: they never die of their wounds.

The Voice says that the DEA is going after doctors who subscribe pain meds.

Kind of repulsive: the White House Ramadan page, although it does helpfully deny, right at the top, that Islam is all about the terrorism. Um, in case you thought that. On the main page, the link to it is right below the link to “Ghosts of the White House.” Halloween, Ramadan, same dif’, right?

Which reminds me: Boykin still has his job. I set up a alert on Boykin, and every day I get links to a bunch of stories in newspapers in Muslim countries, and no this is not doing our image a lot of good.

But of course we believe in free speech in this country, except for tv movies that suggest that Saint Ronnie didn’t like gays and that Mystic Nancy wasn’t a warm person.

The Longish March

Patrick Cockburn writes in the Indy: “Another comforting method of downplaying the resistance is to say it is all taking place in the "Sunni triangle". The word "triangle" somehow implies that the area is finite and small. In fact the Sunni Arabs of Iraq live in an area almost the size of England.”

Fearing for my sanity, I avoided all 3 appearances by Rummy Rumsfeld on Sunday morning news programs. But in all 3 he talked about a terrorist group: “There's an organization called Ansar al-Islam, which was in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was there, it was functioning, and Saddam Hussein knew all about it.” But he couldn’t do anything about it, since it was in the Kurdish north, which was an American protectorate in which Hussein had no power. You’ll notice Rummy doesn’t actually (or in the other 2 versions) state any real link with Saddam, but he sure does imply it to the casual listener.

Speaking of sins of omission, the Smithsonian, hopelessly cowed by the right-wing, has a new exhibit of the Enola Gay. Guess which of the plane’s missions it fails even to mention?

The R’s snipped a provision that the D’s had added to the $87b. appropriation making war profiteering a criminal act. The Senate refuses to go on record on the whole bill, passing all that money by a voice vote, because god forbid they should ever be held responsible (we do know that Robert Byrd yelled No).

The Bushies are claiming that Saddam Hussein is behind the latest attacks on US troops in Iraq. Says Jon Stewart: Somebody should do something about that guy...again.

The Sharon government has suggested making all Palestinian citizens of Israel take a loyalty oath before being given identity cards.

So the US has these 13 ancient oil tankers, built in 1945, full of tons of hazardous waste, including PCBs, asbestos, mercury, etc etc. Naturally, it decides to tow them across the Atlantic Ocean to have them recycled in Britain (2 have arrived, 2 are on their way, so far). Before they started their journey, Britain changed its mind. The US (it’s the US government responsible for this) decided to send them anyway, despite being told they wouldn’t be allowed to dock, and maybe just leave them off the British coast.

Linda Tripp (remember her?) lied on her Pentagon security application about having been arrested as a teenager, and somehow she now gets $595,000, plus a retroactive promotion and back-pay at an undisclosed amount, because that being made public is a violation of her privacy rights, which is too much irony even for me. The thing is, the records unlawfully released didn’t by themselves indicate anything. Tripp says, “This government should never be permitted to use Privacy Act-protected information to discredit a political opponent,” but the records don’t show the arrest, because she lied about the arrest. Anyway, now she wants retirement benefits.

Bush says the US will not run from Iraq. Hey, we’re Americans, we not only don’t run, but if we can’t find the remote we’re too lazy to get up and change the channel. Anyway, we wouldn’t run, we will fucking drive, and we will do it in an SUV or better yet a Hummer, because otherwise our soldiers will have died in vain.

Bush: “A free and peaceful Iraq will make it more likely that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow up without the horrors of September the 11th.”

Outgoing Tory leader Duncan Smith says that the media treated him like a paedophile.

A couple of Brits decided to backpack the route of Mao’s Long March. Their conclusion: it wasn’t that long. The history books say 6-8,000 miles, but it was actually 4,000. It took them 384 days, compared with the Communist force’s 368 days. They are in their thirties, and have no lives (obviously).

Monday, November 03, 2003

The Supreme Court allows an execution of someone for a crime committed when 16, on the urging of the Clinton admin.

Christopher Hitchens, in Salon, suggests having international monitors evaluate how free and fair American elections are. Personally, I not only went to the polls to vote for the empty suit of my choice today, but I walked there, enabling me to feel doubly self-righteous. Since it was two days after Halloween, a holiday which always pisses me off, especially as a former black cat owner, I voted against a parcel tax for the local schools. Take that, you little creeps!

It is with great restraint that I don’t report the crash of the EgyptAir plane off Nantucket in the form of a limerick. Or mention that today’s workplace shooting is identical to the one that happened yesterday in the Xerox office. That would be just too early. By the way, the guy yesterday shot 7 co-workers because he thought he was about to be laid off. I’m just guessing this won’t help his chances of avoiding a pink slip.

I just started writing something else, but suddenly realized that my use of the term pink slip was probably an unconscious tribute to Tom Amiano, whose last-minute write-in candidacy stopped Willie Brown’s re-election. I remember when Amiano, a gay stand-up comic, was first running for school board, and said that laying off teachers would be hard because he’d rather
wear pink slips than hand them out. And now he could be the next mayor of SF, a city like no other. The current DA was running ads for his re-election bragging about how much the police hate him. Where else in the country would that be an effective tactic?

Speaking of elections, Australia is voting on whether to abolish the monarchy. And they may well not do it, oddly enough, because as irrelevant as the Queen is to Oz life, they looked around and realized that no Aussie has the dignity, the gravitas, to be president. The monarchists have been using Clinton and Lewinsky as an example of why presidents are undignified, although since the next King will be Prince Tampon, you have to wonder.

The US has changed its sanctions policy on Serbia, according to the paper. We will no longer require that Milosevic be ousted (Milosevic, by the way, is president of Yugoslavia, not Serbia, but tell the papers that), but that there be free and fair elections, even if Milosevic is re-elected. However, our definition of free and fair elections is that if Milosevic is re-elected, it can’t have been free and fair.

Operationally insignificant

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND: Rummy Rumsfeld has found the cause of all our problems in Iraq and the rest of the Muslim world--Islamic schools (Rummy’s new word for the day: madrassa). He blamed attacks on US forces on the literally ones of foreign Muslim militants streaming, well, trickling, over the border. Rummy was speaking after a Chinook helicopter was shot down over Fallujah. I’m guessing no one reminded him that the bad relations between US forces and the Fallujanians began when they shot up two crowds of people protesting the military’s occupation of the town’s school, and that when they left the school, they left graffiti such as I love pork, Eat shit Iraq, etc.

The US commander in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez, described the attacks as “operationally insignificant,” which should look good on the tombstones of the 18 US soldiers killed today.

Ah, India: “Three people died and 35 were injured yesterday when religious violence broke out after Muslim boys tried to get their cricket ball back from a Hindu temple in India. A provincial official said the boys were beaten up, prompting the clashes in Viramgam, Gujarat.”

Some excerpts from a Tariq Ali article:
One of the more comical sights in recent months was Paul Wolfowitz on one of his many visits informing a press conference in Baghdad that the "main problem was that there were too many foreigners in Iraq". Most Iraqis see the occupation armies as the real "foreign terrorists". Why? Because once you occupy a country, you have to behave in colonial fashion. This happens even where there is no resistance, as in the protectorates of Bosnia and Kosovo. Where there is resistance, as in Iraq, the only model on offer is a mixture of Gaza and Guantanamo.

the resistance is predominantly Iraqi - though I would not be surprised if other Arabs are crossing the borders to help. If there are Poles and Ukrainians in Baghdad and Najaf, why should Arabs not help each other?

As for the UN acting as an "honest broker", forget it - especially in Iraq, where it is part of the problem. Leaving aside its previous record (as the administrator of the killer sanctions, and the backer of weekly Anglo-American bombing raids for 12 years), on October 16 the security council disgraced itself again by welcoming "the positive response of the international community... to the broadly representative governing council... [and] supports the governing council's efforts to mobilise the people of Iraq..." Meanwhile a beaming fraudster, Ahmed Chalabi, was given the Iraqi seat at the UN. One can't help recalling how the US and Britain insisted on Pol Pot retaining his seat for over a decade after being toppled by the Vietnamese. The only norm recognised by the security council is brute force, and today there is only one power with the capacity to deploy it. That is why, for many in the southern hemisphere and elsewhere, the UN is the US.

After Baghdad fell, the Israeli war leader, Ariel Sharon, told the Palestinians to "come to your senses now that your protector has gone". As if the Palestinian struggle was dependent on Saddam or any other individual. This old colonial notion that the Arabs are lost without a headman is being contested in Gaza and Baghdad. And were Saddam to drop dead tomorrow, the resistance would increase rather than die down.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Medieval lesbian strip show and banquet

OR TREAT: Scott McClellan explains why a question about troop levels is a “trick question”: because, like the Mission Accomplished banner, that’s entirely a matter for the military, of which Shrub is only the commander in chief, after all.

US troops surround the town of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s birthplace, with razor wire; no one in or out without US-issued i.d. cards. Some commentator said this was the first “strategic hamlet,” but I suspect the model is Gaza.

2 American soldiers in Iraq have been arrested for converting to Islam and marrying local women, in defiance of orders not to get married.

At an EU-Chinese conference in Beijing, one subject of which was counterfeiting, the Italian foreign minister is caught by journalists buying a fake Rolex.

Paul Wolfowitz says that Iraqis want Bush to be reelected. “When they hear the message that we might not be there next year, they get very scared.” This is the man who once warned “foreigners” against meddling in Iraq.

The Republican Party tried to get CBS to let it vet a miniseries about Ronald Reagan. “[RNC chairman] Gillespie said that if CBS denies the request, he will ask the network to run a note across the bottom of the screen every 10 minutes during the program's presentation informing viewers that the miniseries is not accurate.”

Speaking of not accurate, how is it that a WW II film (Windtalkers) shows a 50-starred American flag and not a single actor or member of the crew noticed? 80 years ago, Erich von Stroheim had the actors playing Austro-Hungarian officers wear historically accurate underwear, so I don’t think I’m asking for too much for the flag to be right.

Safire deals with that annoying thing Bush does, which I’ve complained about before, where he says that people “need to” do something.

The sheriff’s dept for the Columbine area is selling, repeat, selling, videos of the trench coat gang practicing shooting guns.

There’s a lot of talk about Iraqification. What the Pentagon actually means by this is an old Iraqi custom: human shields. They don’t expect Iraqi military or police to do stuff, they expect them to take the brunt of Resistance attacks. We know this because they are being kept short of guns and ammunition, training (Bush talked this week about speeding up training, which is already less than a week), and bullet-proof vests.

Massachusetts’s Governor Mitt Romney is trying to restore the death penalty, including requiring higher standards of evidence for execution than for conviction. What does that say about his toleration for wrongful convictions?

Get ready for Jessica Lynch week, with a tv movie next Sunday, then a Diane Sawyer interview grotesquely scheduled for Veteran’s Day. And she has that book, “co-”authored by one of the NY Times’s disgraced former writers, which is why her publishers wouldn’t let her meet with the Iraqi who told US soldiers where she was and who has his own book coming out. This is a 1940s screwball comedy about someone who was in a car crash but turns into a celebrity as a series of lies about her spirals out of control (remember the amnesia the Pentagon ordered her to have had?). In fact, it’s a specific screwball comedy: Preston Sturges’s Hail the Conquering Hero.

The Baltic states are, according to a London Sunday Times article, specializing in bachelor parties for Brits. “Now the latest “must-do” for a British stag weekend is to fly to the Baltic states and fire machineguns at pictures of the groom. Some, it is rumoured, have even paid locally for the privilege of firing rocket-propelled grenades at live cows.” offers a “medieval lesbian strip show and banquet.”

Tom Friedman may have reached his nadir, talking about aid to Iraq. “Saudi Arabia actually cares more about nurturing democracy in Iraq than Germany and France.” Yeah, ‘cause that aid is all about democracy. Sure it is. The aid conference, like the sudden drive to rehire the Iraqi military, is all about fungibility, the latter replacing dead GIs with dead Iraqis, the former about reducing US expenses. Does anyone think that extra aid from Germany or Saudi Arabia will actually mean more money spent in Iraq? Of course not, the US will just reduce its spending by $1 for every dollar received. The aid is for Americans, not Iraqis.

Also benefitting: rich Iraqis, since Paul Bremer imposed a flat tax, max 15%, on Iraq.

Second garden gnome story this week: a British study shows their presence reduces the value of a house by £500.