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.

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