Saturday, February 28, 2004

The three main fools of the 21st century

There’s something particularly amusing about Bush’s Friday Afternoon Massacre at his bioethics panel, and packing it with anti-abortionites. I don’t know what Randy Cohen would say, but I think that most ethicists would say that the ethical thing for an ethicist to do when the panel he or she is on has been ideologically purged and packed, is to resign.

The Iraqi Puppet Council reverses its introduction of sharia law. Bremer had not bothered to veto it in the two months since the first vote, as opposed to his abrogation of their decision to allow back all Iraqis expelled from the country over the last few decades except for Jews. The NYT didn’t say how long that decision took, but I’ll bet it was less than 2 months.

Colin Powell, who has been calling for negotiations in Haiti at the same time as he is suggesting that Aristide step down in order to ensure that there are no negotiations, is now referring to the insurrectionists as “the resistance.” (Later: it’s worse. They’re now actively blaming Aristide for the violence).

From the NYT: “President Bush has approved a plan to intensify the effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, officials say.” Oh, so they weren’t trying before. That would certainly explain it.

A woman in a wheelchair who John Edwards patted on the head says that he lacks disability etiquette. Speaking of which, oh holy shit:

From News of the Weird: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, who is widely believed by United Nations officials and Far East experts to be tolerating the starvation deaths of perhaps millions of his countrymen, launched a nationwide campaign in January to improve national health by eradicating smoking, whose practitioners, said Kim, are one of the "three main fools of the 21st century" (along with people ignorant about music and computers).

Friday, February 27, 2004

Why are you here?

Does anyone have an opinion on Prop 56? I don’t know if the provision reducing the anti-democratic 2/3 majority to pass a budget to a somewhat less anti-democratic 55% is worth voting for a prop. with that ridiculous provision of not paying legislators’ and the governor’s salaries if the budget is late, ensuring that only rich legislators had the luxury of voting their consciences.

Interesting story (well, I thought it was interesting) in the NYT about walk buttons. It seems that in NYC, 3/4 of those buttons do absolutely nothing, while most of the remaining buttons have to be pushed or you don’t get a walk signal. Reminds me (but not the NYT reporter) of a story a couple of years ago that many of the fire hydrants in NYC are also non-operative, but they keep them for the parking ticket revenue.

Didn’t watch last night’s debate (I think I’ve suffered enough already), but understand that Larry King’s first question to Kucinich was “Why are you here?” Larry King, mind you. Larry Fucking King.

Reporters should try that out on Scott McClellan, Bush’s hilariously inept spokesmodel, who said today the reason Bush won’t spend more than an hour with the 9/11 Commission, or with more than two members of it, well, it has something to do with separation of powers. Cuz Georgie is all about the checks and balances.

In Britain, says the Indy, “A couple who were forced to sell their house at a loss after learning it might contain body parts of a girl murdered by her father have lost their fight for compensation.”

An even more uplifting British story yesterday was of a 64-year old man who was mugged in a hospital, where he was visiting his sick wife. So he wasn’t there when she died, because he was being treated for his injuries.

Evidently in 1982 Reagan got the CIA to sabotage the Soviet Union’s natural gas pipeline through rigged software, creating a huge explosion.

The House passes (but the Senate won’t, so it’s academic) that bill making harming a fetus a separate crime. The anti-abortion side which passed this piece of excrement said it has nothing to do with abortion, but voted down an alternative that would have accomplished the same thing but without the symbolism by increasing penalties for injury to a pregnant woman resulting in the loss of the fetus. If this sort of symbolism wasn’t important to the social conservatives, they wouldn’t be bitching so much about the sodomites usurping the sacred institution of marriage when they could settle for civil unions.

Blair’s buds are still attacking Clare Short. While Blair refused to confirm or deny that GCHQ spied on Kofi Annan, Home Secretary David Blunkett said that his security clearance was higher than hers and he hadn’t seen... [excuse me while I go look that up] hadn’t “been shown” any transcripts. Ok, that pause was me realizing as I typed that Blunkett, who is blind, might have been playing rather unclever word games. Now I’m not sure. I might not have been thinking along those lines but for the Phillip Knightley piece in the Indy today on how Britain and the US can each say that GCHQ/NSA don’t spy on their own citizens because each side spies on each other’s citizens for them.

The Pentagon is creating a “news” “service” in “Iraq” and “Afghanistan”--sorry I mean Iraq and Afghanistan, providing text and photos of the uplifting side of military occupation, because they don’t like the negativity of the civilian press, which focus too much on car bombs and the deaths of soldiers. First, c’mon, soldiers’ deaths barely make the papers these days. Second, THE MILITARY is complaining that attention is being paid when members of THE MILITARY die.

Saying something pompous about national security

And some suggested Kerry slogans, from Wonkette:
• "Vote Kerry: He Led America To Victory In Vietnam!"
• "John Kerry: Pretending To Fight Against Special Interests Since Very Recently"
• "If There's A Rich Heiress America Can Marry John Kerry Will Find Her"
• "John Kerry: Al Gore But Without The Charisma"
• "Kerry For President: He Barely Even Knew Jane Fonda"
• "57 ways to kick Bush's ass."

Clare Short on Blair’s response to her revealing British bugging of Kofi Annan: “Either he has to say it's true, we are bugging Kofi Annan's office, which he doesn't want to say, or he's got to say it's not true and he'd be telling a lie, or he's got to say something pompous about national security.” Short could, but no doubt won’t, be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

The Bushies are going to go on and on attacking Kerry as a hypocrite. You heard Bush himself do it, now there’s this from the latest email to my cat: “The NEW John Kerry has slammed NAFTA, saying he would vote against it. The OLD Kerry praised NAFTA as a path to the future... The NEW John Kerry slams the Patriot Act. The OLD Kerry, who helped write the law, praised the Patriot Act as key to the War on Terror...” And on and on like that. How about this: The OLD George Bush had his pilot’s licence yanked; the NEW George Bush pranced around on a flight deck. The NEW Bush talks about marriage being a sacred institution; the OLD Bush spent the first 20 years of his marriage in bars, snorting cocaine off a hooker’s butt...

From each according to his abilities... : the greatest gap in wealth between the urban rich and the rural poor is in Communist China.

From the Daily Telegraph: “A Frenchman found himself in New York's notorious Rikers Island prison when an attempt at toilet humour backfired. After alarming a stewardess over the time he spent in the toilet on an American Airlines flight from the Dominican Republic, Franck Moulet joked: "My shit don't explode." But, with his poor English and thick accent, the hostess thought she heard him say: "Shit, it does not explode." Convinced he was a terrorist, she alerted the authorities in New York and M Moulet, 26, was charged with raising a false alert and found himself in Rikers Island for a week before being allowed to fly home.”

And this: “German prosecutors said yesterday that a student had been investigated for theft for plugging his laptop into an electrical socket at a train station and using 20 euro cents (13p) of electricity.”

The chairman of Smith & Wesson is forced to resign because, like the president of the Hair Club for Men, he is also a client. Asked why he never mentioned the 15 years in prison for several armed robbery sprees, he responded, “Nobody asked.”

The Russian foreign minister, in an outrageous display of mock outrage and evidently unclear on the meaning of the word terrorism, accuses Qatar of obstructing the war on terrorism for having arrested 2 Russian secret service agents for assassinating the former president of Chechnya with a car bomb.

Sharon said three weeks ago that he planned to pull Jews out of Gaza. Now he is seizing more land to add to settlements there, including Netzarim, a settlement of 60 families for whose benefit the movement of 10s of thousands of Palestinians is restricted. They are not allowed to use the main road through Gaza. The army is allowed to shoot anyone who looks at Netzarim through binoculars.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Does God have more influence than Oprah?

I thought about going to the opening of Mel Gibson’s Jesus Christ Beyond Thunderdome today, when all the religious kooks were going, and heckling, but I thought better of it.

Someone suggested this slogan: “Keep America Free From Ass-Fucking: Bush 2004.” Or: “Don't Switch Horsemen Mid-Apocalypse.”

According to the governor of West Virginia, Kerry “can legitimately say, 'I carried an assault weapon,' and I hunt. That could go a long way toward offsetting the gun issue.” Really? Does hunting gooks count?

The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee: “American elections make the case against Iranian-style "Islamic democracy" a little harder. Which is more democratic: rule by moolah or mullah?”

The Supreme Court rules 7-2 that states don’t have to pay for the training of ministers. No points for guessing the 2. Scalia: “The indignity of being singled out for special burdens on the basis of one's religious calling is so profound that the concrete harm produced can never be dismissed as insubstantial.” Boy, you’d really have to have, I don’t know, religious faith or something, to endure such torment. Fat Tony also says the decision could deny publicly funded drug benefits to priests and nuns. Scalia is getting stupider with age. The plaintiff in this case experienced such harm that he switched sides, becoming a lawyer (well, half switched sides, he was double majoring in pastoral studies and, um, business administration. I don’t think either God or Satan appreciate people hedging their bets like that.). 37 states don’t fund religious instruction, at least to people planning to become ministers, so which are the 13? That would be too hard for reporters to look up, so we don’t know.

Bush’s statement on the Unequal Rights Amendment yesterday, which I linked to, was 776 words long (compared to the 207 words Putin took to fire his entire cabinet), not one of which were “gay,” “homosexual” or “ass-bandit.” It could be fun in the coming months watching him attack the rights of homosexuals without ever acknowledging their existence.

Tanzania decides not to take that bribe in order to house black refugees Britain doesn’t want.

Britain drops its prosecution of GCHQ employee Katharine Gun, who exposed that the US asked the Brits to help spy on UN Security Council delegates. So now we’ll never know how the British responded, he says facetiously. (Later: yes we will: Clare Short, who resigned from the government over the Iraq war, says she saw transcripts of Kofi Annan’s conversations). Also, at trial she would have demanded the gov’s legal advice on whether the war was legal, which Blair doesn’t want out, for some reason.

Israel raids banks, steals $9m it claims is terrorist money sent by Iran and Syria (the sum varies wildly according to your source).

Alan Greenspan said that Social Security benefits need to be cut for future recipients--who should develop an irrational exuberance for the taste of cat food--rather than taxes being raised. Why is he expressing an opinion on this subject? John Kerry wants to reappoint Greenspan.

Bush evidently agreed to allow the 9/11 commission more time because he knew his surrogates in Congress would kill the extension for him. They even pretended that Bush’s chief of staff called Dennis Hastert to plead for the extension and was turned down. I mean come fucking on. And Condi Rice has refused to testify in public. Bush and Cheney are also refusing to testify to the whole commission.

In an international BBC poll, 56% of Britons believe God is more influential than David Beckham, 75% of American respondents said he has more influence than Oprah Winfrey and 94% of Indians placed him ahead of the batsman Sachin Tendulkar. Britain was the most atheistic of the countries surveyed, maybe because of all the rain, and has the lowest rate of church attendance. That also translates into only 31% believing that theirs is the only true god, compared to 51% in the US and 96% in Indonesia.

Secretary of War Rumsfeld is in Afghanistan (and he brought his wife), where Puppet Prez Karzai declared the Taliban defeated. Evidently all the violence is from common criminals. “Now every act committed by a Kalashnikov is not an act done by the Taliban or al-Qaida.”

The Netherlands plans to make immigrants take a test on the Dutch language and fine them every year they fail.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The most fundamental institution of civilization

President Bush appeared on Al Hurra ("the Free One"), his new Middle East Television Network, and said that he is "the first American president to have articulated a Palestinian state."

If articulated is the right word.

Speaking of His Articulateness, today Junior announced himself in favor of defining marriage as between one illiterate alcoholic man and one glazed-eyed wife. Evidently marriage is “the most fundamental institution of civilization,” which is why most Republicans get married two or three times (personally I’ve never been institutionalized). And the institution is millennia old, although a few marriage licenses in New Mexico and San Francisco will evidently change it “forever.” I’d like everybody to stop and ponder that “forever.” It’s not just that gay people marrying somehow damages the marriages of straight people (I think this is a variant of the one-drop theory by which race used to be defined in this country), but that change will be permanent. Read the statement, it’s remarkably badly written (although it made Bush have to try to say “jurisprudence,” which is always fun to watch).

I was going to make a joke about the proposed amendment (which, by the way, would tell state supreme courts how to interpret state constitutions, which is I think a first)(this is necessary because the amend restricts rights rather than expands them; normally you don’t mind if state constitutions are read to give broader rights to, say, privacy) also including a provision by which homosexuals only had 3/5 of a vote, ha ha, but then it occurred to me that there is a precedent for that, beyond the slave thing, I mean. In 1882 polygamists were disfranchised by a bill pushed by a senator from, ironically enough, Vermont, who later also successfully advocated disfranchising all women in the Utah territory. Nobody is mentioning it, but the constitution of Utah defines marriage in the way Shrub wants; it was a prerequisite of statehood.

And King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia (age 81, father of 14), who recently supported gay marriage, announces that he is not gay. In case you were wondering.

Followup: the mother of the Uzbeki who was boiled to death has been released.

The Saudi education ministry issues a code of conduct: girls who don’t pray or do date boys may be suspended from school. But at least all their teachers aren’t terrorists like ours are.

Britain is trying to bribe Tanzania to take Somali refugees Britain wants to expel, and keep them in refugee camps. And it plans to start forcibly returning Iraqi refugees in April.

As I write/surf, Gary Bauer is on Nightline saying that gay marriage in SF opens up a can of worms. I’m telling you, everything said about this issue sounds dirty.

There is a move afoot to recall atty gen. Lockyer for not sending in the national guard to stop gay marriages.

Fun historical facts: the GI Bill was the first federal program to explicitly exclude homosexuals from its benefits.

The US finally announces it will try two Guantanamo detainees. You’d think they’d start with the most obviously violent types to justify the policy of detention. Instead, a couple of bodyguards, with a charge of accountancy thrown in. No violence, no involvement in terrorism. One is supposed to have made recruiting videos. Big fucking deal. The “worst of the worst”?

Oh, c’mon, he got a nice last meal out of it without even having to die, what more could he want?

Monday, February 23, 2004

You don’t hear the president in the Oval Office railing against the special interests

Noam Chomsky has an article on the op-ed pages of the NYT, on the Israeli wall, which is one of the signs of the apocalypse. You could look it up.

More fun with the Monkey in Chief.

Governor Terminator on why gay marriage is so dangerous: “All of a sudden we see riots and we see protests and we see people clashing. The next thing we know is there are injured or there are dead people, and we don't want to have that.” There has yet to be so much as an arrest. Maybe he’s confused it with his next movie, says Bill Lockyer’s spokesmodel. The Gropinator goes on to suggest that if SF can do this, other cities will give out licenses for assault weapons or to sell drugs. Where will it all end?

The Bushies put out an internet ad accusing Kerry of being a hypocrite because he speaks against special interests but has taken more lobbyist money than any other senator. Actually, he ranks 92nd, but His Fraudulency’s campaign people say it doesn’t matter that Bush far, far, far outstrips Kerry in this, because “You don’t hear the president in the Oval Office railing against the special interests.” No, all you hear from the “president” in the Oval Office is “Wheeee!” as he rolls around naked in large piles of cash.

Anti-immigrant hatred continues to grow in Europe, from anti-headscarf laws to bans on entry by Muslim clerics (Denmark) to loyalty oaths, etc. The semi-good news is that racist groups are dying as their message gets absorbed into the mainstream parties. Ironically, Jean-Marie Le Pen has been refused permission to run in regional elections in Provence, because he can’t prove residency.

Secretary of eddukashion Rod Paige calls the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.” None of the news stories so far mention Woody Allen’s film Sleeper, in which we are told that “The world came to an end when a man named Al Shanker got a hold of the atom bomb.” Shanker was a combative head of the teachers’ union in NY.

Rumsfeld went to Iraq. He told Iraqi police recruits “We're looking forward to Iraqis taking over the security of your country.” Meanwhile, a suicide bomber takes out another police station, in Kirkuk. During the war, Kurds took over Kirkuk, including the police, intending to add the region and its oilwells to Kurdistan.

The US tells Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First that there’s just no room for their observers at any Guantanamo “trials.” Fox News, on the other hand, has assured seats.


Iran is claiming a turnout of just over 50%, having resisted the urge to claim a turnout of 99.999%, but without much more believability. There are not gonna be a lot of women MPs, but there will be a fair number of nuclear scientists, one of whom is a twofer, also being one of the students who took over the American embassy in 1979. Expect negotiations over nuclear weapons to become a little more difficult.

Al Sharpton calls Ralph Nader an egomaniac.

From the Sunday Times (London): “A PENTAGON intelligence guide to Iraq that was distributed to American troops six months before last year's war indicated that they faced little danger from chemical weapons. Although it devotes 11 pages to poisonous snakes, spiders and plants, the 380 page manual spends just two pages warning soldiers of the possible peril from weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is scarcely more than the section on noxious gases from burning oil installations. A copy of the Iraq Country Handbook, marked "for official use only", was bought last week for £5 by a Sunday Times reporter in a Baghdad market.” The publication date was September 2002. It says that it is “possible” that Iraq "retain a small offensive chemical warfare capability", compared to Bush’s state of the union statement 4 months later that Iraq had enough anthrax "to kill several million people" and chemical weapons that could "kill untold thousands".

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Will you be the difference? Or just pee on the bathroom floor again?

Bush recess-appointed William Pryor to the 11th Circuit, and so, a recap: Roe v. Wade an “abomination,” indicted Barnes & Noble for selling art books, became a lawyer to fight the ACLU, supported Alabama tying prisoners to “hitching posts,” against separation of church & state, for executing the retarded, homosexuality = necrophilia and paedophilia. Bush says D filibuster of Pryor is “inconsistent with the Senate’s constitutional responsibility,” as opposed to Pryor’s statement, “God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians ... to save our country and save our courts.” Here’s a link I sent on him last June. This is a test of Kerry, and one I suspect he’ll fail. Will he say anything, and what? Thing is, if Kerry winds up president, he’ll be facing a Republican Congress with very few scruples about undoing elections which will do its damndest not to let him govern, and I’m looking for any sign he’ll fight back.

The wrong member of the Bush family was put to sleep yesterday.

Ireland is passing a bill to make it illegal for police to tell the press about violations of the cease-fire by paramilitary groups and others in Northern Ireland. By coincidence, the IRA just kidnapped a dissident republican.

In a classic instance of getting paid to solve a problem you created, the GM food industry wants to solve the problem of contamination of organic and other non-GM crops by GM seeds by reviving an older evil idea, the sterile GM seed, which would force farmers to buy new seed every single year.

According to The Times, the CIA just removed its senior officer in Baghdad for incompetence.

Sexy urinals.”

The Nigerian state of Kano, run by idiot Muslims, refuses to join a world polio campaign, saying it is a Western plot to make them infertile and infect them with AIDS. The infertile thing doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, really.

Schwarzenegger calls gay marriage “an imminent risk to civil order.” He doesn’t say how, but presumably it’s worse than the stuff he gets up to.

Doonesbury in Monday & Tuesday’s strips will offer a $10,000 reward for info on Bush’s Nat Guard service.

Few scruples, and did I mention no shame? Here’s part of an email the Bush campaign sent my cat:
From: ""
To: "Turquoise the cat"
Subject: Will you be the difference?
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2004 09:42:42 -0500

It is the year 2000. In the presidential campaign...

New Mexico hinges on 366 votes, Florida on only 537 votes. Iowa is won by 4144 votes, Wisconsin by 5708 votes. Oregon is decided by 6765 votes, New Hampshire by 7211 votes.

In the closest presidential election in modern history, 24,731 people in a nation of 280 million make the difference for 59 electoral votes. An incredible statistic when you consider just 4 electoral votes meant the difference between a President Bush and a President Gore.

The year is 2004. Another presidential campaign is here...

Will you be one of the people who makes a difference this time?

Saturday, February 21, 2004

It's being stuffed down their throats and they don't like it

I’d like to return to the tearaway burqas. I mentioned this particular Janet Jackson-type performance in a USO performance in Iraq as exhibit 1,382 in our series Why Do They Hate Us?, but let’s do a comparison. During Gulf War I, US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia weren’t allowed booze, female soldiers weren’t allowed to drive and were pressured into covering up. This time, we’re an occupying army, and cultural sensitivity goes out the window to the point where we mock their culture in a strip-tease act.

Then there’s this: “Beauty without Borders,” women from the US who have gone to Afghanistan to teach the women how to put on makeup properly. Way down in the article you find out the program is sponsored by American cosmetics companies.

Iran’s mock elections were today and Puppet President Khatami, as he must now be known, not only failed to heed my excellent advice by resigning, but urged people to vote for the theocrat of their choice, and voted himself. Pillock. (Note to Joslyn: that’s me expressing my English origins, of which I have none.) Polling stations were kept open late, to handle the massive crowds of voters. Well, that’s what they said. We’ll see if they’re going to massage the turnout figures. When those figures come out, keep in mind that they will be artificially high because voters get their identity cards stamped, with all that that might imply. And because clerics have ordered them to vote as a religious duty. And the Ayatollah Khamenei said it would be a “slap in the face to America,” which presumably is some people’s idea of a religious duty.

Governor Terminator holds the most expensive fundraiser ever, up to $500,000, to support his campaign for his bonds initiative. The event is held in NY, which is already questionable in its ethics, and at the home of one of the Johnson & Johnson heirs. J & J owes the state $1.3 billion in rebates from some program.

Imagine my surprise: China has backed down from the very vague promises of direction elections in Hong Kong they made before the handover. The interesting thing is that there was no reason for Deng Xiaoping to say this week that only “patriots” would be allowed to run in HK (assuming that word is translated accurately, patriotism for what country? China or HK?), less than 4 weeks before that referendum in Taiwan. Obviously, they want an anti-China backlash in Taiwan, although god knows what they’re planning.

Man Arrested for Watching Porn While Driving.” Why does the porn part seem to bother them more than the while driving part?

Tom DeLay: “Americans have been tolerant of homosexuality for years, but now it's being stuffed down their throats and they don't like it.” (presumably homosexuals aren’t actually Americans, and should go back to Homosexistan or Homosexuvania or whatever it’s called).

And the Gropinator says that on this issue the courts have dropped the ball. Basically, anything that anyone says on this issue sounds dirty. Schwarzenegger sent a letter to the state attorney general: “I hereby direct you to take immediate steps to obtain a definitive judicial resolution of this controversy.” The attorney general is an elective office; the governor has no power to “direct” him to do anything, as the former’s spokesmodel pointed out: “He can direct the Highway Patrol. He can direct 'Terminator 4.' But he can't tell the attorney general what to do.”

Yet another good political blog, She comments on a WaPo story that the Bushies are not only preparing attack ads on Kerry, but have even drawn up scripts for ads against Kucinich, just on the off-chance: “In other words: Ad scripts to campaign against the vegan endorsed by "the creatures of the forest"? Got 'em. Post-invasion plan for Iraqi government? Uhmmmm. . .”

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Not a statistician

Schwarzenegger should really stop running ads during West Wing, he does not come off well. But my favorite political ads this week were an ad against Prop 56 followed, in the same commercial break, by one on the other side beginning with an image of the first ad, then asking who paid for that ad. (I won’t keep you in suspense: the answer is “special interests.”)

The head Australia’s Labor party, Mark Latham, once described the current government, in its support of Bush in Iraq, as a “conga line of arselickers.”

If Bush loses the election (a big if; the election is Kerry’s to lose, I think, but he’s just the man to do it [lose, I mean]), it will have been Howard Dean who loosened the pickle jar. No D was going to win without criticizing Bush, and no D was willing to take the risk. One problem with the D’s the last 4 years has been that they actually believe R policies and even Smirking Chimp Boy are popular, or at least they have acted as if they believed that, until Dean showed the popularity of taking him on.

And the R’s are getting nervous; lying is beginning to make them nervous, and without self-confident lies, they really have nothing to say. Look at this thing with the forecast on jobs. One week they claim in a report to Congress that there will 2.6 million jobs created in 2004. This claim was blithely issued on the false premise that this was still 2003, when they could say anything and it would be swallowed whole. Then suddenly they realized that they’d be in trouble when the jobs proved as much a fiction as Iraqi WMDs. So they ditched it. McClellan wouldn’t admit that the report hadn’t been passed by Bush’s economic advisers, who might fight being falsely blamed in the way that the CIA has, (read another hilarious press-gaggle transcript here.
Scroll down, if necessary, to “Beating Scotty like a rented mule”)
and he sure as hell wouldn’t admit that Bush had anything to do with it. “The president is not a statistician.” Hell, the “president” isn’t a rocket scientist either, and he isn’t the president either. What is he? Rodeo clown, would be my guess.

Looking back at that transcript, and today’s, McClellan keeps talking about “policy.” Bush stands by his policies, discussion should be of policy and not numbers, etc. He actually suggests that focusing on what the policies are supposed to achieve is avoiding the issue (“Some don't want to discuss the policies.”)

Laura Bush says gay marriage is “a very, very shocking issue to some parts of the American people,” but does not say which parts.

The US is releasing some Guantanamo detainees. Coincidentally, the ones it is releasing are plaintiffs whose case about their illegal detention was due to reach the Supreme Court soon. The release of the 2 British plaintiffs (after 772 days), but not the 4 British non-plaintiff detainees, removes the pressure on Blair to declare a position on the case.

I’m told the CBS website headline for that story was “Gitmo Guests Released To Brits.” Guests.

Who says Western-style democracy hasn’t reached Russia? The Guardian: “Vladimir Putin's leading opponent in next month's presidential elections has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating a vicious media onslaught which has compared him to Hitler, made lurid charges about his sex life, and said he is funded by some of the businessmen against whom his campaign is focused.”

A USO performance in Iraq featured cheerleaders and some girl group none of us have ever heard of dressed in burqas, which tore away to reveal skimpier clothing. Oy.

Rebels in northern Haiti have declared independence. The new country is named Artibonite, which sounds like something from the periodic table, an element discovered by a guy named Artie, maybe.

AP: “An Armenian officer attending a Nato peace programme in Budapest was hacked to death yesterday by an Azerbaijani participant with a knife and an axe.”

Reuters: “A German bondage fetishist became so chained up he had to ask the police to free him, the authorities said yesterday. The police called to a house in found a heavily chained man dressed only in black leather and white socks. It was unclear how he became ensnared.” I’m pretty sure black leather and white socks is a fashion no-no.

AP: “An Italian woman, Beretta Molla, who became a symbol for abortion opponents after giving birth despite warnings that continuing her pregnancy put her life at risk, was approved for sainthood by the Pope yesterday. She died in 1962 a few days after giving birth.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Heroes in error

Doesn’t Bush’s campaign slogan, “Steady Leadership in a Time of Change,” actually mean “We never learn”?

A NYT editorial notes that despite his talk about forcing democracy on the Arabs, Bush today met the dictator of Tunisia. Well, to be fair, he’s been elected with more than 99% of the vote 3 times, and you can’t have more democratic legitimacy than that.

Bush spoke to National Guard troops yesterday. The White House said it was a coincidence that this event, scheduled months back, came up right during the talk about his own Nat Guard service. Actually, they lied, assuming that no one would check, as indeed the NYT, WaPo & AP did not. The event was scheduled last week.

Ahmad Chalabi says that even though every bit of the “intelligence” he supplied about Iraqi WMDs was false, it’s ok because Saddam is “gone.” “What was said before is not important”; “We are heroes in error.” [Boy, I’m spoilt for choices for a subject line for this email. I’m telling you, they’re just like buses.]

Speaking of Chalabi, it seems his family & cronies are getting oodles of Pentagon cash, including to provide “security” to the oil industry, or to put it another way, the Pentagon is supporting his private army. On top of that, Chalabi personally evidently got $2m for setting up the deal.

Not being familiar with the oeuvre of Johnny Cash, I didn’t pass on this story yesterday: “The family of the late Johnny Cash is outraged at a plan to use his 1963 classic song, Ring of Fire, to promote a haemorrhoid ointment.” But today the Telegraph reports it under the headline “Piles of Cash Rejected.”

The US is evidently now trying to get Aristide to step down before his term ends in 2006 as a way to appease the death squads (yes I know Aristide is very far from perfect, but he is the elected president and c’mon, do we not remember the death squads and the Duvaliers?). While the Bushies aren’t “excited” about intervening militarily, they are actually deploying the Coast Guard and Navy to turn back refugees trying to flee the civil war.

“Last week, drug company lobbyists said veterans could face higher drug bills if the Legislature cuts the prices West Virginia will pay for prescription drugs. “If West Virginia imposes price controls on us, we have to make up that decrease somewhere else,” said Mike Bolen of Pfizer Inc. “We would have to raise our prices on the veterans who have sacrificed for their country.”

Shrub on gay-marriage licenses in SF: "I am watching very carefully, but I am troubled by what I've seen." Oh, just go rent porn like everyone else, George.

Fun fact to know and forget: California was the first state to repeal a ban on interracial marriage, in 1948. I assume some other states never had one in the first place.

After the doctored Kerry/Jane Fonda photo, the Guardian is holding a competition for the best doctored election-related photo.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

No enthusiasm

Bush runs his campaign finances exactly the opposite way he runs the country’s finances. In the former, he has all the money in the world, but doesn’t spend it unless he really has to. There has been recent low-level rumbling about his calling events that are obviously election-related non-political, so that the taxpayers get stuck with the bill. For example, he met with workers in Florida to talk about tax cuts, workers described by the NYT as “carefully selected.” Hey, if the only people allowed in are those who agree with you, that’s a political, partisan event. By definition. If you want all the taxpayers to pay for it, let them all in.

I’ve mentioned kite-flying in Pakistan before, where the idiots use metal wires. Anyway, Lahore’s annual kite festival was just held. There were 12 fatalities: 3 electrocuted when the wires hit power lines, a little girl’s throat slit by one wire, the rest fell off roofs or were hit by cars while running to retrieve kites.

The Netherlands passes a law aimed at gently encouraging 26,000 asylum-seekers, including many from Afghanistan, Somalia and Chechnya, to leave the country by herding them into “departure centers.” Says the immigration minister, “We have careful procedures in the Netherlands. This cannot be compared with Jews who were put on a train to the gas chamber.” It can. It will. It should.

On Haiti, Colin Powell: “there is frankly no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence.” Boy, when even the Bushies have “no enthusiasm” for invading a country, you know all the joy has gone out of this administration. Evidently it didn’t pass the “Little Rummy” Test, by which all foreign policy decisions are now made: if Secretary of War Rumsfeld gets an erection just thinkin’ about it, we invade. Powell wants a “political solution,” by which he presumably means negotiations between Aristide and the death squad leaders, more and more of whom are now openly appearing on the streets of captured cities. Let me repeat: there is a coup in progress and Powell wants negotiations.

Hugo Chavez says the US is trying to overthrow him, and supported the 2002 coup attempt. No kidding. This week, the US deputy assistant Secretary of State for western hemisphere affairs, Peter DeShazo, visited Venezuela’s election authorities to tell them not to invalidate petitions for Chavez’s ouster because of “technicalities.” (A quick reminder: hanging chads, butterfly ballots. “Technicalities,” indeed!)

A Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News wire service story headlined “Dean's Campaign Hit with Another Blow after Wisconsin Loss” was accidentally posted to the web early this morning, confirming, if you needed it confirmed, that these stories are all written before the elections are held, with the numbers filled in later. The story began “Like a plummeting comet, the once-soaring Howard Dean campaign...”

To answer my own question, SF is charging $83 for the fake gay-marriage licenses. A superior court judge refused to block the issuance, citing an extraneous semicolon in the court order demanded by a conservative group. Really.


Molly Ivins: Kerry “is now undergoing the pluperfectly idiotic political experience of being called the candidate of special interests by Republicans! Oh, this is so rich, how can you not rejoice?”

A report was just released on Wal-Mart (of interest here because of the proposition on the March ballot to ban them from this county), which says that its workers are paid so little that a typical Wal-Mart with 200 employees costs taxpayers $420,750 per year in free school lunches, housing and medical subsidies, etc etc. We know that Wal-Mart hands its new employees instruction sheets on how to file for welfare benefits.

Daily Telegraph: “ A group of armed men angered over increasing activities of foreign-funded charity organisations set fire to seven girls' schools in northern Pakistan, the government said.”

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister and richest man: “With taxes that are too high it is morally acceptable to evade them.” The left is outraged, but at least he’s not hypocritical: if the laws don’t apply to him, why should they apply to anyone?

Oops: re the story in my last about Schwarzenegger planning to cut a hole in the capitol building roof: never mind.

One of the sitting Iranian MPs banned from running for reelection is President Khatami’s brother.

Monday, February 16, 2004

The Sun of the 21st Century

Happy Generic Patriotic Holiday. I hope you appropriately celebrated the combined birthdays of Washington, Lincoln, Cupid, Jason (of the Friday the 13th movies), and Kim Jong-il, who turned 62 and is now called “The Sun of the 21st Century.”

Khatami is an idiot. He is encouraging the electorate to vote in the illegitimate Iranian elections. Vote for whom, I’m not quite sure.

Is San Francisco charging a fee for those gay marriage licenses, and will it give the fee back when the licenses are overturned in court?

By the way, little-known fact: the first political party in California to endorse gay marriage was Peace and Freedom, back in 1988 when I was involved with it. Guess who proposed it, if proposed is the word I’m looking for?

An article on rich countries’ increasing refusal to send troops to UN peacekeeping missions. Of the 40,000 UN troops now on 13 missions, barely a thousand come from the 5 permanent members of the Security Council. This is comparable to rich white folks sending black kids to Vietnam, or paying substitutes to die in their place in the Civil War. Poor countries like Bangladesh are willing to let their people be used as cannon fodder because they get $1,000 per month per soldier. Under Bush, exactly 7 US Marines were sent to one operation, in Liberia, which is the equivalent of tipping a bad waitress a nickle.

Governor Terminator has acted on an issue close to his heart: he plans to rip part of the roof off the state capitol so people can smoke cigars there, unfettered by California’s public smoking laws. No word on whether there’ll be a special groping room.

In Shrub’s latest snub to the French, he’s not telling them whether or not he’ll show up for the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

US occupation authorities have had to admit that the attack on the Bastille, sorry the police station in Fallujah, was not by foreign (read: Al Qaida) militants, as Paul Bremer claimed, but Iraqis.

An American Christian missionary was shot outside Baghdad in a drive-by, which is very funny. Tragic, I mean tragic.

From Ananova: “Italian police are looking for a woman with huge breasts who has gone on the run after failing to pay for £5,000 implants.” Insert obvious running-bra joke here.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

That’s President slimy, cheapish deafening toadeater to you, mister

“The U.S. Department of Education is declaring about 200 television programs inappropriate for closed-captioning and denying federal grant requests to make them accessible to the hearing-impaired.” In other words, deaf people are also too stupid or something to choose their own tv viewing. Programs censored include I Dream of Jeannie and The Simpsons.

Sadly, I missed Purity Day, which was, naturally, Friday the 13th, evidently to ward off the danger of young people celebrating Valentine’s Day by, for instance, fucking. “The conservative US Christian group Liberty Counsel, which organised the day, said US teenagers should make a "public demonstration" of purity.” A public demonstration of purity? Like what, letting everyone look at your intact hymen? Yelling, “Hey everybody! Look at me not having sex! Look at all the sex I’m not having right now!” I’m sorry, there are some things that should take place behind closed doors, and lack of sex is one of them. BBC link.

Haitian death squad leaders are returning from exile in the Dominican Republic to participate in the attempt to overthrow Aristide. That’s probably not a good thing.

Somebody put Bush’s 2004 campaign slogan, “Steady Leadership in a Time of Change,” through an anagram program:
I'm a hypertense, death-dealing fiasco

I am a deathless deafening hypocrite

I am a tone-deaf, highly-paid erectness

I'm the fanatic, grandiose sleepyhead.

Oafishly indecent pig's ear meathead

Slimy, cheapish deafening toadeater
IS OUR CANDIDATES LEARNING? Edwards is challenging Shrub in the illiteracy stakes. He says in his latest ad: “Keeping our jobs right here in this country -- where it belongs -- that's what this campaign is about.”

You’ll remember the Toledo Blade series last October, picked up by pretty much no one, on a mass-killing spree by a US unit in Vietnam in 1967. The military just announced plans to investigate. Dennis Kucinich has been pushing for an investigation. Rumsfeld was also secretary of defense in 1975, when the last investigation was closed with no prosecutions, but claims not to remember anything about it.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

More than just a feeling

Saudi religious authorities issue a fatwa against Valentine’s Day. And so do I. “It is a duty to shun it to avoid God's anger and punishment.”

But what about Cupid's anger and punishment?

Reporters giving Scott McClellan a richly deserved hard time. This is just plain fun (the Helen is indeed Helen Thomas).

Bush releases more of his records, although reporters can only look at, not copy, his medical records, which is odd because John Ashcroft informed us this very week that there is no right of medical privacy, or is that just for women who have abortions?

A website dedicated to listing what movies actors have died in.

More than just a feeling.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Oh, he gets high, all right

A woman in France marries a guy who died two years before. Evidently that’s legal there.

Amusing Daily-Mail (a British tabloid)-o-matic.

A quote, I swear from a National Guard press release, 1970: “George Walker Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn’t get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed. Oh, he gets high, all right. But not from narcotics.” Right, he gets high from knowing someone else is getting his ass shot off by the Viet Cong in his place. From this article on what we know, which is rather a lot, about how Shrub got into the Guard in the first place.

While a federal judge has blocked the Justice Dept’s demands for the medical records of women who had “partial-birth abortions,” it should be noted that Justice’s brief argued that there is no doctor-patient privilege in federal law, and that with the growth of insurers, there is no expectation that one’s medical history is private. Why after all, just yesterday they released Shrub’s dental records, showing us just how healthy the teeth he is lying through were in 1973.

Some moron--pardon, “senior official”--at the State Dept has been telling reporters that Haiti’s government will have to change, including Aristide stepping down before the end of his term. Such statements encourage the violence in Haiti, obviously, and are especially egregious in relation to an elected president already forced out by one coup and (eventually) reinstated by US troops. Powell sort of took it back today. This is Venezuela, one year ago, all over again. I’m still not sure who the opposition actually are, although the Guardian says the uprising is “led by a former criminal gang and disgruntled ex-soldiers of the disbanded army.”

A while back I mentioned an Uzbek political prisoner who was boiled to death. His mother made this public, giving photos of the body to the British embassy, which confirmed the boiling. She was just sentenced to 6 years maximum security.

Robert Fisk deals with the accusation by neo-cons that anyone who doesn’t believe in their piffle about creating democracy in the Middle East is a racist who thinks Arabs are lesser life forms:
Indeed, when they emigrate to the West and settle down with US or British or French or any other Western passport, they show the same aptitude as ourselves for "democracy". The Iraqis of Dearborn, Michigan, are like any other Americans, and they vote - largely Democrat - and play and work like any other freedom-loving US citizens. So there's nothing genetic about the Arab world's inability to seize democracy.

The problem is not the people. The problem is the environment, the make- up of the patriarchal society and - most important of all - the artificial states which we created for them. They do not and cannot produce democracy. The dictators we paid and armed and stroked ruled by torture and by tribe. Faced with nations which they in many cases did not believe in, the Arab peoples had confidence only in their tribes. The kings were tribal - the Hashemites come from the north-east of what we now call Saudi Arabia - and the dictators were tribal. Saddam, as all the world is told repeatedly, was a Tikriti. And these ruthless men held power through a network of tribal and sectarian alliances.

When we bashed into their country, of course, we told the Iraqis we were going to give them democracy. They would have free elections. I remember the first time I realised how dishonest this promise was. It was when Paul Bremer, America's failed proconsul in Iraq, stopped talking about democracy and started referring to "representative government" - which is not the same thing at all. That was when folk like Daniel Pipes, a right-wing cousin of those neo-cons we can no longer mention, started advocating not "democracy" for Iraq but a "democratically-minded autocrat".

Bremer says there can be no elections before the June "handover" of "sovereignty" - in itself a lie because the "handover" will give the mythical "sovereignty" of Iraq to a group of Iraqis chosen by the Americans and the British. They will - prayers are now called for - later hold the democratic elections we falsely promised the Iraqi people and which the Iraqi Shias are now vociferously demanding. And even if these elections are ever held, most Iraqis will vote according to tribe and religion. That is how their political system has worked for almost a hundred years and that is how the American-selected "interim council" works today.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Trolling for trash

What did he know and when did he know it? Well, does anyone believe Kerry didn’t know that his supporters were running ads using a picture of Osama bin Laden to attack Dean’s credentials?

Speaking of Kerry, Nixon personally wanted to destroy him back in ‘71.

The Organization of American States’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights rules that the US violated international law by not giving DC residents the vote.

Israel kills something like 15 people in Gaza in a military raid that, Ha’aretz notes, seems to have had as its sole purpose “so soon after the prime minister announced his intention of dismantling many of the settlements in that area... to show the Palestinians that the decision to withdraw was not a victory for them or for terror”

The family of the Palestinian prime-minister-of-the-week has been accused of supplying cement to build the Wall.

The US is increasingly trying to pretend that the resistance to US occupation of Iraq is Al Qaida. It is not, and I don’t think even Judith Miller is falling for that CD-ROM outlining the connection which the military allegedly found (although they’ve given out several stories about how they found it). Every suicide bomber to date has been a native Iraqi. The AQ claim presumably would provide an ex post facto rationalization for the war. If anyone believed it. And the fact that it’s getting so little play is a sign how little credibility the Mayberry Machiavellis have left.

Reminds me: the story about N Korea testing bio-weapons on political prisoners doesn’t look so well-sourced. Sorry.

Iraqis are claiming the bombings of the last 2 days were done by the Americans to give them an excuse to stay. Which is also unlikely, of course, but you do have to wonder why would-be members of the Iraqi police and military--without which there can be no US pull-out on July 1--were given absolutely no protection but left to line up in the street.

I sorta thought the CIA was getting a bum rap and being set up for a fall, and other Raymond Chandler language, but then I read this. CIA analysts thought intel came from multiple sources when it didn’t, thought it came from good sources when it was third-hand gossip. This is pure amateur hour.

Yet more on Bush & the Nat Guard, and I’m almost getting bored of the subject. Seems he asked for a transfer to Alabama after he actually moved there. Bushies have taken to responding to questions on the subject by throwing hissy fits and refusing to answer (Powell, McClellan)(David Brooks on McNeil-Lehrer was also pretty funny). McClellan: “I'm not going to engage in gutter politics. I'm going to focus on what we're doing to make the world safer, to make the world a better place.” He accused reporters asking for Bush to fulfill his promise on Sunday to release all his records of “trolling for trash,” a Safire-like bit of alliteration that suggests a stonewall prepared in advance. A former assistant deputy assistant gopher of defence (or something) almost takes the position I suggested several days ago the D’s take, and gives it a spin I hadn’t thought of: the government spent $1 million to train him to fly (1969 or 2004 dollars?), and he didn’t show up for his flight physical. But at least we now know what Bush’s teeth looked like in 1973. Historical note: in 1992 Bush the Elder criticized Clinton for having failed to release his military records.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Human beings are human beings

Good Paul Krugman piece in the New York Review of Books on the Bush dynasty.

A cute 2 paragraphs in an AP story:
The White House has not been able to produce fellow guardsmen who could testify that Bush attended guard meetings and drills. "Obviously we would have made people available" if they had been found, McClellan said.

Sen. John Kerry, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, is regularly accompanied by a "band of brothers" of military veterans who served with him in Vietnam.

The French Parliament passes the ban on religious symbols 494-36 (the No’s and abstentions came from the Communists and a Catholic party), or to be precise, “signs and dress that conspicuously show the religious affiliation of students.” Sounds like a loophole to me. My advice: every student should go to school wearing the symbols of other religions than their own. Boys should wear burquas. Girls should wear yarmulkas. Make schools that try to enforce this law have to enquire into the religion of their students, to find out if they are showing their own religious affiliation or someone else’s. Let the Thought Police be the Thought Police, I say.

Telegraph: “Japanese police have arrested Nobuhiko Takahashi, a 42-year-old undertaker, on suspicion of murdering his aunt so that his ailing company could carry out her funeral. In the event a rival firm of undertakers did the work.”

Reuters: “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asked about Tuesday's car bombing in Iraq that killed about 50 people, said there are murders in every major city in the world "because human beings are human beings."”

He also said he couldn’t remember Blair making the 45 minute-claim.

The “partial-birth abortion” ban has led inevitably to John Ashcroft trying to subpoena women’s medical records (although it has been stopped by a district judge--possibly just for that district, though?).

Cognitive dissonance: NYT headline: “US Tightens Grip on Groups Offering Ways To Visit Cuba.” Quote from Treasury Sec John Snow in that story: “Castro’s regime has crushed freedom”. Like what, the freedom to travel?

McNeil-Lehrer has long been dedicated to the proposition that on every issue there are two sides--and no more than two sides. Today in the introduction to a story on Bush’s National Guard record was the phrase “Some Democrats claim...” that Bush was AWOL. Contrary to Bush’s line on Russert, this issue is not “political,” and contrary to McNeil-Lehrer, it’s not a he-said-she-said thing.

There will be a Simpsons movie.

You know the saying that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain? My addendum is that if you vote for a candidate purely because he’s not George Bush, you don’t get to complain about him unless he actually literally becomes George Bush.

In California justice news, the man that Governor Ahnuld was going to execute without even a clemency hearing, Kevin Cooper, got a stay, when the needle was practically in his arm, the first 9th Circuit stay in decades not immediately overturned by a cranky Supreme Court. He will now get the benefit (or not) of DNA evidence, to see if the blond hairs in one victim’s hand came from Cooper, who is black, and whether blood stains contain preservative (i.e., were planted by the police).

And the lawyers for 3 12-year olds arrested at their schools in Orange County says the humiliation of that arrest is punishment enough for sending a homeless guy to jail for 8 months for attacking them. He hadn’t, but they needed an excuse for being late getting home.

Howard Dean tells children to drink from the toilet.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Raise your hand if you love Jesus or want some more peanuts

From Guardian op-ed columnist Gary Younge: “Now ignorance seems to be their only defence. George Tenet says the CIA "never said there was an imminent threat". Well, somebody did. Tony Blair says he did not know that Saddam was incapable of firing long-range chemical and biological weapons. Well, somebody did. President Bush now says he wants "to know all the facts". What did he want to know before? "The absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus," says Powell Sr. "It changes the answer you get." Wrong again. If the question is "Should we have gone to war?" then the answer is still no. What is changed is that with each dissembling statement, the public is listening just that little bit more closely.”

And a good sharp analysis of Bush’s words on Iraq in the Russert interview here.

An equally good analysis of his lies about his budgets here.

You should read both. It’s not just the lying, but the way that Bush lies, that’s interesting. These 2 articles don’t just expose Bush’s words as fiction, but review them as fiction.

A guru is trying to copyright 26 yoga positions.

Kerry’s first wife was the twin sister of his best friend at Yale. That’s rather creepy, in a Brideshead Revisited sort of way.

Scottish feminists are planning to boycott a topless barbershop planned for Paisley, named A Bit Off the Top.

Creepy internet business of the day.

Creepy regular business of the day: “A BRITISH-based company is selling MP3 players which can be attached to an assault rifle. The "AK-MP3" player is built into the ammunition clip of a Kalashnikov and can be swapped with the real magazine.”

Shit, spoke too soon. Creepier business of the day: “On March 4 last year, with the military campaign just 15 days away, the United States agency for international development asked three American firms to bid for a unique job; after Iraq had been invaded and occupied, one company would be charged with setting up 180 local and provincial town councils in the rubble.” Except only 1 company applied, Research Triangle Institute, which normally does drug research but figured it could give nation-building a whirl.

Israel’s far-right Tourism Minister Benny Elon has asked Christian missionaries (I can’t find what brand of Christian, unfortunately) to convert Islamic militants. And to stay away from Jews.

They can fly there on American Airlines, where a pilot asked Christians to hold up their hands and explain their faith to everybody else. No story on this, and there have been many, says whether anyone actually followed instructions.

I can’t quite work up a joke based on someone telling Jesus on the cross to return to an upright position...

Probably just as well.

A British woman was stopped at Athens airport when metal detectors detected metal: her chastity belt.

New, interesting details on Bush’s military “service”.

Haiti has descended into violence and chaos, in case anyone cares.

Oh, right, they don’t.

Never mind.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Worked it out with the military

The Independent says the British governments single source for the 45-minute claim was an Iraqi exile who’d left Iraq years before. His source was someone in the army. So MI6 knew a guy who knew a guy.

Did you know that John Kerry has a cousin who once ran for president? Of France? He’d been Mitterrand’s environment minister. Kerry doesn’t talk much about his French relatives, or that he speaks French fluently and has a vacation home in Brittany.

Musharraf says he’ll let Dr. KHAAAAAAN! keep the money he made from illegal weapons trafficking.

Iraq Body Count says that Iraqi civilian deaths (its methods are cautious, so this will be low) have reached the 10,000 mark.

Iran is going ahead with the fixed elections. The few reformists allowed to run will not do so. But neither is the government refusing to hold the election. The ayatollahs have said that they aren’t allowed to, nor to resign, and officials who don’t participate in the election machinery may be prosecuted. Which is why they should resign, of course. I was unsure before about whether President Khatami needed to resign, but you can’t have a legitimately elected president alongside an illegitimately elected legislature. Ideally, he should resign the day before the elections, or maybe the day after.

And what the fuck is Prince Charles doing in Iran at this particular moment in history?

Switzerland votes (56%) for a referendum to jail paedophiles for life.

Israel assassinates a Palestinian militant leader (little-known fact: Palestinian militants have no followers; they’re all leaders) and the statutory 11-year old boy.

I thought I’d have something to say about Bush’s Meet the Press interview, but there is nothing to say about the hour-long string of clichés Russert let Shrub get away with. [Ed.: not that that ever stopped you before] [Me: I have an editor?] [Ed.: No.] It’s not that Bush was being particularly slippery, but that Russert, who is normally known for “gotcha” journalism--catching interviewees in discrepancies with their past statements that might or might not be of any real significance, but gosh they do look dramatic on the teevee--folded. He even let Bush get away with saying that people are “denigrating” National Guard service, as opposed to questioning whether Bush actually performed all of his National Guard service. (Although one denigrator would be Colin Powell. From his memoirs: “I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed... managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units ... Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country.”)

And there’s this, which should go over real big with Vietnam vets: “Well, I was going to Harvard Business School and worked it out with the military.” And since Bush has never done one of these interviews before and may well never do so again, this was the last chance to ask him about it.

Bush is moving slowly along the path to admitting there were no WMDs (the Independent headline uses the word “defensive,” the right-wing Daily Telegraph says Bush “reneges” on Iraq). “He had the capacity to have a weapon ... and we thought he had weapons. The international community thought he had weapons. But he had the capacity to make a weapon and then let that weapon fall into the hands of a shadowy terrorist network.” Of course that capacity hasn’t been proved any more than the WMDs themselves, and the STN (shadowy terrorist network) bit is just silly. He also said that Clinton believed the same things as he did, but hasn’t Clinton been just real quiet about this whole thing, and isn’t it time he be made to say something? Say in front of the commission [the “Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States”--CICUS, pronounced “kick us”, Billmon notes], which Bush refused to commit to testifying before himself, although he allowed as how he might “visit with them” (what is he, a 65-year old Southern woman?).

William Saletan claims that Bush is in fact a scholar of Plato believing in the Platonic ideal of things like WMDs, so that it doesn’t matter whether there is a physical reality reflecting those ideals, because the ideal is the only real thing. “Bush isn't Clinton. He doesn't change his mind for anything, whether it's polls or facts. And he always tells the truth about what's in his mind, regardless of the evidence.”

A clip of that wonderful moment in the State of the Union address when Republicans applauded terrorism (1.24 MB, 24 seconds).

One of the people running against Putin for president has disappeared.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Getting on Colin Powell's nerves

Boy are the American media getting bored with Iraq. A massive attack on the Kurdish leadership, killing several quite high-ups, then an assassination attempt on Ayatollah Sistani, yawn yawn.

(Later): except the latter may not have happened. I don’t get it.

More muddle-headed thinking on gay marriage, a subject that inspires muddle-headed thinking, from Mass. Governor Mitt Romney, calling for “defense” of marriage acts everywhere: “The institution of marriage was not created by government, and it should not be redefined by government.”

Reading the headline in today’s NYT, “Rumsfeld in Germany to Meet With Allies,” I had the obvious thought: they won’t be allies much longer if Rumsfeld meets with them. Sure enough, Rummy described the German media’s coverage of Iraq as “even more biased than al-Jazeera.”

If Bush keeps calling Saddam a “madman,” isn’t he suggesting an insanity defense?

Jimmy Carter has a blog. It’s very exciting. He is visiting African countries to investigate eradication of the Guinea worm.

Billmon has a bit from John McCain’s questioning, if that’s the word for it, of David Kay, and suggests that McCain on the commission will be less independent-minded than some might expect, as does his denial today or yesterday that Bush could possibly have distorted intelligence, even before hearing any evidence. And everything you need to know about Laurence Silberman is that as a judge he kept Ollie North out of prison, but everything else about his career (smears against Anita Hill, helping Kenneth Starr go after Clinton, saying that Clinton had declared war on the United States, etc) makes him the perfect candidate to spear a whitewash. And Chuck Robb, holy shit, that’s the Democrat? And there’s no subpoena power and the mission is too narrow to be helpful, etc etc etc.

Of course Sharon wants to evacuate Jews from Gaza--and put them in the West Bank. Of course he does.

America being America, a woman has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the 80 million Americans who saw Janet Jackson’s breast. And for the rest of us: “(B)ecause defendants knew that the Super Bowl and Super Bowl halftime show would have a worldwide audience and knew that for much of the world, these events would reflect the standards and reputations of Americans abroad, plaintiff and the members of the plaintiff class have been defamed by the defendants and have suffered injuries and damages to their reputations as Americans.” The lead attorney is a former member of the Tennessee legislature.

What are our reputations as Americans worth? Answers on a postcard, please.

And what makes you think that flashing Janet Jackson’s breast did not in fact perfectly reflect the standards and reputations of Americans?

It’s an ill wind that doesn’t make some bucks for Halliburton.

Colin Powell says that people criticizing the failure to find WMD-RPAs in Iraq is getting on his nerves.

The US plans to let Musharaf get away with his remarkably transparent coverup. The LA Times article notes that some of the stuff Libya had was not stuff Dr. KHAAAAAAN! had access to. Just in case you were taking his lone gunman confession seriously. “Musharraf also incensed international critics Thursday by chastising Libya and Iran for cooperating with the IAEA, thus exposing Pakistan as their crucial nuclear supplier.”

Thursday, February 05, 2004

We will neither be completely right nor completely wrong

Stupid Hollywood remake idea of the week: Bewitched. Nicole Kidman.

The new chair of the FEC, Bradley Smith, says the Post, doesn’t believe in campaign finance law, any of it. Unreassuring quote: “I'm not going to get sucked into this 'Will you enforce the law?' stuff. I just don't want to answer it.”

Followup: a district judge blocked the execution of the guy who defended himself dressed as a cowboy.

Headline of the day, from AP: “3 Accused of Putting Hairpieces on Cows.”

Secretary of War Rummy Rumsfeld says that when he said of Iraqi WMDs “We know where they are,” he actually was referring to suspect sites.

Ralph Nader tells the Post that he is “Still testing the waters” about a possible presidential run. I thought he was no longer a Green?

“Testing the waters”, Green, get it?

Georgia evolves: evolution is back on the curriculum.

Salon has a good review of the state of our knowledge of Bush’s National Guard lost weekend, I mean lost year. Although it doesn’t mention that when he didn’t take his physical, it was the first time there was a drug test associated with the physical. I didn’t know that a reward of $3,500 had been issued in 2000 for anyone who saw Bush show up in Alabama during that year. (While I was reading this on Opera, the advertising window showed a link to “Join the National Guard.”) The current R spin is that he couldn’t have done anything wrong because he got an honorable discharge. Ah, the old “never been convicted” standard. Personally, I’m wondering why, if he wasn’t fulfilling his National Guard obligations, he didn’t have his ass shipped off to Vietnam. In fact, let’s give him a rifle and drop him in Vietnam right now.

Even without knowing all the details (most of which could be easily cleared up if Bush released his full military records), without dark hinting about the drug test such as I made above, without going beyond the proven, Kerry or whoever could blow Bush out of the water. Because Bush made a promise when he entered the Texas Air National Guard, and got a pass on Vietnam on the basis of that promise, that he would be prepared to defend his country (cough) if called upon. By not showing up for his physical and having his flying license suspended, he failed to keep that promise. It doesn’t matter if he was technically AWOL or not, although if he was that’s certainly icing on the cake.

Michael Kinsley has a good piece on D voters trying to pick an “electable” candidate, i.e., one they think R’s would go for. And I’m working on a new joke, brought on by nausea at the idea of watching another debate with the D candidates: the last time there was so much charisma in one room was when Al Gore dined alone.

I thought the reason R legislatures were cancelling primaries this year was to deny publicity to the D’s when Bush was unopposed. As it turns out, Bush is doing quite badly, even when he’s the only person on the ballot, as in NH. When there’s someone else...well, one Bill Wyatt ( “The Other White Meat”--took more than 10% in Oklahoma. A state or two have quickly cancelled primaries since then. He’s against the war and immigration, but his website is kinda fun. He says of the military service people are using as a qualification: “I can start a campaign based on my non-service in the military. I fought no wars and don’t plan on fighting any in the future. I use my brains to avoid conflict. What is this macho crap? Joining the military and shooting people is like going to the fair, they’ll let anybody in and give you a gun, big deal.”

In the exciting world of scientific intelligence, Tom Ridge says that his gut tells him he averted a terrorist attack with the last orange alert scare. And George Tenet of the CIA says “In the intelligence business, you are never completely wrong or completely right. When the facts of Iraq are all in, we will neither be completely right nor completely wrong.” $40 billion a year well spent.

Pakistan’s former chief weaponeer, Dr. KHAAAAAAAN! is pardoned after saying that only he, and certainly not acting with the knowledge of the military, as he said yesterday, sold nuclear technology to everyone with a MasterCard. Man, I thought the Bushies did lousy cover-ups!

Still, that’s the template for all of this week’s attempts at scandal-containment, from Manuel Miranda’s resignation to George Tenet’s attempt to resist being made the scape-goat.

“A 15-year-old Hong Kong boy survived after leaping 20 storeys to escape taunts by his brother for losing in a computer game. He landed on the awning of a shop on the ground floor of his block, Sing Tao newspaper said.”

Jeez, I don’t know if it’s even worthwhile to watch ER tonight, now that the 80-year old woman’s breast has been edited out.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


Without even a driver’s licence.

Ohio’s new “ban on same-sex unions,” as such things are oddly termed, goes well beyond the normal, including allowing Ohio to disregard parental rights granted to a partner by another state’s courts.

Blair, who thinks Bush stabbed him in the back by accepting an investigation, forcing Blair to do the same, is still defending the 45 minutes claim, insisting that his saying that “intelligence shows” that Iraq could launch WMDs within 45 minutes--the very claim that made the invasion of Iraq appear as self-defense--rather than “intelligence suggests,” as people in the, um, intelligence community wanted, was a difference that was “hardly of earth-shattering importance.” Worse, Blair claims that when he made the claim, he didn’t know the 45 minutes only referred to battlefield weapons, which, 1) bullshit bullshit bullshit (and he has been challenged on this by Robin Cook), and 2) again, it removes the claim from the realm of self-defense, although his handlers insist it makes no difference--"Battlefield weapons which are modified to carry WMD are WMD."--as if there’s no difference between an ability to nuke London at a time of his choosing, and an ability to defend himself if he’s invaded. And of course, he didn’t actually have either.

But to put such matters into perspective, even if an entirely incomprehensible perspective, no one beats Rummy Rumsfeld: “As Dr. Kay has testified, what we have learned thus far has not proven Saddam Hussein had what intelligence indicated and we believed he had, but it has also not proven the opposite.”

They’re planning to broadcast the Oscars with a couple of seconds’ delay this year. Anyone else think they’re worried less about something like Janet Jackson and more about something like Michael Moore?

And over on the BBC, John Lydon, who was a punk singer once [ok, I’ve googled him now and he was in the Sex Pistols, even I’ve heard of them] and is now reduced to doing reality shows, was not voted off “I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here!” this week, and screamed at the at-home voting audience that they were “fucking cunts.”

Speaking of Michael Moore, the superintendent of a Georgia school district with that name has vetoed a high school student’s work-study job as a hostess at Hooters. Hey, as long as she’s not learning about evolution....

When Cheney was chair of Halliburton, it evidently paid $180m in bribes to Nigerian leaders.

Most of those ads the government will take out to tout its Medicare program will be placed by a media firm that also works for the Bush re-election campaign.

John “Dizzy” Edwards’s Top Ten List from Letterman later tonight, so you don’t have to watch it:

`Things Never Before Said by a Presidential Candidate.''

10. ``Vote for me or I'll slash your tires.''

9. ``Forget universal health care - I'm buying every American an XBox.''

8. ``In a crisis, I ask myself, 'What would Tony Danza do?'''

7. ``I'd give you my plan for economic recovery if I wasn't rip-stinkin' drunk.''

6. ``If your last name begins with 'M' through 'Z,' sorry - your taxes are doubling.''

5. ``We're gonna cut the deficit by selling North Dakota to Canada.''

4. ``I have tons of experience from being president of the Burt Reynolds Fan Club.''

3. ``Lady, that is one ugly baby.''

2. ``When I'm president, I'm putting Regis on Mount Rushmore.''

1. ``Read my lips: no new wardrobe malfunctions.''

This post answers the question, is chess the work of the devil?

Britain’s home secretary, David Blunkett, wants to imprison suspected terrorists without trial. Oddly enough, he chose to announce this in Amritsar, India, where in 1919 400 people protesting a similar law were shot dead.

Bush orders an investigation of what Bush knew and when he knew it, at least according to Bush, who said this to the press: “What we don't know yet is what we thought and what the Iraqi Survey Group has found, and we want to look at that.” This is a strategy to blame the CIA for “intelligence failures,” although the biggest intel failure was obviously in Georgie’s surprisingly chimp-like head. Hint to the media: you can’t call it an “independent” investigation if Bush names all of its members; see also, “Iraqi governing council.” It will report after the election, natch. The NYT quotes an R aide to the effect that the Bushies will use the investigation to blame D’s for short-changing the intelligence budget in year’s past, therefore it was Clinton and Ted Kennedy’s fault that Bush lied to us.

Speaking of independent investigations, a headline from the Independent: “Federal Investigation Is Ordered into Janet Jackson's Boob at Super Bowl.”

The NYT tries to get to the bottom of the huge gap in cost projections for Bush’s Medicare program, and fails, really. Pete Stark says the admin refused to give information to Congress (so why did Congress vote without knowing the cost of the program), Tommy Thompson says it did; how hard could this be to prove one way or the other? To some extent the Bushies are getting a bum rap, in that some of the difference in projections is that Congress based its figures on 88% signing up for the drug benefit, Bush 94%. Given how crappy the program really is, I doubt it will hit even the lower figure. So because it’s a bad deal, it won’t be as expensive as the $534b figure we’re now hearing. I’ll leave it up to you whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

The Russian Orthodox Church has ruled that chess is not the work of the devil.

Ariel Sharon announces that he will dismantle settlements in Gaza (no one knows whether to believe him this time), with a goal “that in the future there will be no Jews in Gaza”. That’s Sharon for you: he announces a basically good thing in such a way that you’re not sure whether to think apartheid or “free-fire zone.”

The man who invented Ctr+Alt+Delete retired last week.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Eagles may soar high but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines

Edward Gibbon quotes at the Gibbon-o-Matic.

Favorite AP story of the day: “Pa. Police Dog Suspended for Potential Racism.” Actually, after a police dog has bitten a 9-year old kid, it should never have been put back to work, allowing it to bite another kid. It’s almost incidental that both were black.

Joshua Marshall: “When I look at the federal investigation being launched into the Janet Jackson boob incident, I realize what I like about this administration: they believe in accountability.”

Yesterday Powell said he might not have advocated war with Iraq had he known that there were no stockpiles of WMDs. It would have changed “the political calculus.” There’s that fuzzy math again. Today he backtracked (that’s when you put your rhetoric into reverse and back over the tiny shred of integrity and self-respect you have left), saying that Saddam’s was a “regime with intent”. To repeat: if he had had ham he could have had ham and eggs, if he had eggs.

Chirac is going the way of Berlusconi in making libelous attacks on judges and the whole judicial system in the defense of corruption. Former PM Alain Juppé, convicted of corruption from when he worked for Chirac in the municipal government of Paris (he created fictional workers and fed their pay to the Gaullist party), also refuses to step down from any of the offices he holds.

So when will Bush admit that Cheney is a risk factor?

Interestingly, the Bush budget gives absolutely nothing to his good buddy The Collectinator. In fact, Calif. would see a decrease in federal money, and will reduce the money to help CA. pay for imprisoning illegal immigrants who commit crimes to zero.

Education Sec. Rod Paige says that No Child Left Behind is “more than sufficiently funded.” More than sufficiently?

Speaking of money the federal government owes people, the matching fund for election expenses is broke, even though Bush, Dean & Kerry are all opting out. The poor schmucks who abided by the rules are being paid 46% of their matching funds, with the rest coming after April 15, when it will be too late.

Saw another boring Kerry victory speech. Got a bit better as it went along, and then everyone cut to Wes Clark. I may scream if I hear Kerry use the phrase “band of brothers” one more time in his ongoing attempt to out-flight-suit Dubya.

I think I deserve some points for never making a “Joementum” joke. And now I don’t have to.

Dean is evidently not as electable as John Fontleroy Kerry. Hah, the WP spellcheck doesn’t recognize electable as a word, although it does suggest execrable. I think we’ll all be very sick very soon of hearing the word, which may be the most pathetic ever attached to a candidate by his supporters, if supporters is the word for people who don’t care who they get as long as it isn’t Bush. Still, he’s had his coronation tonight. Dean’s front-runner status was evidently a fiction of somebody’s imagination, like Iraqi WMDs. I assume at some point the media will tell us how they fucked up so badly, anointing as front-runner a man with no electoral support.

WaPo editorial against a Texas execution scheduled for Thursday, a case I hadn’t heard of, an insane guy who was allowed to act as his own, sole attorney. Dressed in a purple cowboy outfit. Tried to subpoena Jesus, John F. Kennedy and Anne Bancroft. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said that it didn’t matter that he wasn’t competent to defend himself, so long as he was competent to choose to defend himself incompetently. Other link.

And Gov. Arnie just denied clemency to someone who hadn’t had a clemency hearing, which has evidently never happened before.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

35 feet

The Iranian government cancels elections, as I said it should. Still, scary.

(Later:) and all the reformists have resigned from Parliament.

North Korea. Gas chambers. Medical experiments on prisoners. Read.

The Observer says that the Bush admin knew there were no Iraqi WMDs last May.

I mentioned the exploding whale in Taipei. Here’s a story with pictures. And a somewhat odd final sentence...

But if you want to see something much more disgusting than exploded whale, here’s Paul Wolfowitz trying to suggest that the US has freed Iraqi women from Taliban-style oppression.

“A Davenport man on trial for three charges of indecent exposure tried to defend himself by having his wife testify that he is not well-endowed enough for a female postal worker to have seen his penis from about 35 feet away. ... The couple’s children were in the courtroom when she testified.”

John Kerry: Botox or not Botox? You decide.

The Columbia Journalism School website asks an obvious question: why has no reporter since the State of the Union Address asked the White House for a definition of “Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities”? The site does make an exception: “For the record, Jon Stewart did ask "Weapons of mass destruction related program activities? What the f--- is that?" on Comedy Central's "Daily Show" on the 21st.” Actually, David Kay coined the term in his interim report last October. So at Wednesday’s Senate hearings, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE-Never heard of him) asked. Kay gave a definition, such as it was, and another senator asked how many countries have “WMD-RPAs”. About 50.

This could take longer than we thought.