Wednesday, March 31, 2004

In the process of being detained, 20 terrorists blew themselves up

On the Daily Show, Richard Clarke said that the Bushies had made many cuts in his book, a fact that has appeared nowhere else that I know of.

So the 9/11 Commission will get to question Rice under oath, but had to agree not to call anyone else from the White House to, say, check on her statements. And they can talk to Bush, but only if Cheney goes with him to hold his hand. And somehow the time limit showed up again. In short, the Commission gave the White House way too much in return for way too little. If the Bushies hadn’t spent a week and half looking so incompetent, one might suspect that this was the plan all along.

George Bush the Elder gives what Reuters calls an “emotional” speech defending his idiot son. “There is something ignorant in the way they dismiss the overthrow of a brutal dictator and the sowing of the seeds of basic human freedom in that troubled part of the world,” he said in an idealistic speech to the annual convention of Amnesty International. No, sorry, it was the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, I get those two confused.

Wonder how much he was paid to make that speech?

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT: Statement of the Uzbek government: “In the process of being detained, 20 terrorists blew themselves up.”

Bill “Kitty Killer” Frist, who was so upset about Richard Clarke profiting from 9/11 by writing his book, himself wrote a book on the anthrax scare.

Massachusetts will stop marrying non-resident gay couples, having discovered a 1913 law banning the state from issuing marriage licenses to people banned from being married in their own states. And I don’t have to tell you who those people were.

Yesterday Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, America's deputy director of military operations in Iraq, said that there was only a “slight uptick” in violence. Today, some things were done to American contractors (read: security guards/mercenaries) that McNeil-Lehrer refused to let us see (Arab stations ran the footage without fuzzying it up). Although we did see a lot of very happy Fallujans. See, Cheney and Rumsfeld and so on were right that Iraqis would dance in the streets to welcome Americans...if those Americans are on fire at the time.

I know it’s April 1st, but the story of the chicken-powered plutonium landmine appears in several British sources.

The Bushies illegally used Treasury employees to “analyze” Kerry’s tax plan, claiming it would raise taxes by up to $477b over 10 years on “hardworking individuals and married couples.” I like how the individuals are hardworking (how do they know?), but the couples are just married.

Schwarzenegger reveals that he took the state’s sexual harassment training course and is now much more efficient in his sexual harassment, pinching an average of 15% more butts per day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

In these times, we can't ignore anything

Richard Clarke on the Daily Show tonight (reruns at various intervals through tomorrow evening if you don’t read this today). And Karen Hughes tomorrow. I think we should put pressure on the White House until Condi Rice is a guest there. By the way, Jon Stewart signed a new long-term contract to continue the show, which is becoming weirdly popular for politicians, although Stewart isn’t a great interviewer of the powerful. In one of the more bizarre moves of broadcast journalism, MSNBC a couple of weeks ago threatened not to let Desmund Tutu on their channel if he also did the Daily Show.

An American Airlines flight from Florida to Texas was searched because of a call from a psychic. Said the local Transportation Security Administration director, “in these times, we can't ignore anything.”

The George Bush Conspiracy Generator.

The Onion has a headline today, “Wheelchair-Bound Student Would Have Preferred To Sit Out Pep Rally.” Possibly stolen from a Peter Ustinov obit: in WW2, he asked to join the tank corps, because he preferred to go into battle sitting down.

I saw Ustinov on stage once, in London, starring in one of his own plays.

Just what Berlin needed: talking garbage cans.

The nationalist lunatics are back in charge of the asylum that is Serbia. The government has decided to pay a salary to Milosevic and the other war crimes defendants; also legal expenses and so on.

Speaking of genocide, documents just released under the FOIA show that in 1994 Clinton was aware that one was being planned and under way in Rwanda, that he had accurate intelligence about exactly what was going in as 800,000 died while he did nothing, although he has always claimed ignorance. Wonder what the American papers will say about this?

Monday, March 29, 2004

Supporters of God’s wrath

From the Sunday Times: “Police stopped a driver in Huerth, Germany, and discovered that he was wearing only a dog collar. Asked his name, the motorist replied: "Woof!" He was later banned from driving.” How do they know that wasn’t his name? Sounds like a nice German name. And if they wanted to know his name, why didn’t they just check his tags?

Watched 60 Minutes again, to see Condi Rice squirm (you know what else looks like rice squirming? maggots). Never before has one person gone on so many news outlets to talk about why she can’t talk. Evidently it says somewhere in the Constitution that a sitting national security adviser can’t testify, or possibly can’t take an oath, or possibly can’t tell the truth, because, as I believe it says in Article 15, paragraph 6, “You can’t handle the truth!” The obvious way out of that little constitutional dilemma is for her ass to be fired.

I continued watching for the following piece, an, ahem, whitewash of Judge Charles Pickering, the theme of which is, Why are liberals attacking this nice man who isn’t even really a racist, but came to the defense of cross-burners for other reasons entirely. Reminded me of why I never watch 60 Minutes.

Ireland has banned smoking from all public places, including bars. Irishers who need to combine their vices are slipping over the border into traditionally tolerant, um, Northern Ireland.

Paul Bremer has closed down an Iraqi newspaper for publishing false news (which it did), and encouraging violence against the occupying army & puppet government (which it did not). Let’s stop for a moment to contemplate the awesome level of irony in Bremer, who would not now be in Baghdad if not for false reports issued by Bush, complaining about false news. Specifically, the false news is that a police barracks was blown up by a US helicopter. Of course if that were true, we know that the US would be lying about it, and that the US never talks about the Iraqis that it kills. Really, if you’re unwilling to give your own version of events, you can hardly complain if the press gets it wrong, now can you? Bremer also cites an article that criticized him as following the example of Saddam. By keeping the Iraqi people hungry, not by silencing the opposition--even Bremer doesn’t rise to that level of irony. I think. Although he does respond, “This report is false and the CPA is doing its best to provide food and medical help for the Iraqi people and to repair the infrastructure of the country and put the fundamentals of political, economic and individual freedoms in place.” OK, I won’t use the word irony again, but this is surely a matter of opinion, not true versus false. Robert Fisk notes that the paper was a weekly with a circulation of only 10,000, but that its closing has provoked great wrath, and you know how good the Iraqis are at great wrath.

Oh dear: immediately after writing that, I read an article that troops in Basra fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd associated with a group called “God’s Wrath.” The Telegraph has a photo caption, “Supporters of "God's Wrath" clash with British troops in Basra.” I’m sorry, that phrase is just funny--supporters of God’s wrath.

A Guardian columnist says that gay marriage (Blair is considering civil unions) is off the table because it would lead inevitably to gay divorce, “and the upholders of "family values" would become irretrievably confused over whether these were destroying the very fabric of society. (Divorce: bad! Homosexual partnerships: unnatural! Divorcing homosexuals... emergency! Will not compute! Help, hair on fire!)”

Sunday, March 28, 2004

An enemy of God and Islam

The University of Mass. Amherst says it is surprised at the protests among international students over a new $65 per semester fee to pay for the costs of the federal government spying on them.

John Kerry is having surgery on his shoulder, which he injured picking up a baby.

The LA Times has a story today saying that the US claim of Iraq having portable weapons labs was based on a single source, a defector the US never spoke to directly, or knew who he was. It’s on the front page. Does this sound familiar? If so, it’s because your single source--namely, me--told you about this on February 8 (I read it in the Independent, which also credited the source for the “45 minutes” claim). The LA Times adds details, though, including that the source was the brother of an aide to Chalabi. And they quote Scott Ritter, who destroys his own credibility as an arms inspector by reporting that he committed the cardinal sin of intelligence work by telling his source what he wanted to be told--“So we outlined the gaps in our understanding of the Iraqi program, including the mobile bioweapons labs. Basically, we gave them a shopping list.”

But is it art?: “Artist Dyes Iceberg Red in Greenland.”

YOU’RE SO VAIN, I’LL BET YOU THINK THIS SONG IS ABOUT YOU, part 2: AP story: “John Kerry cited a Bible verse Sunday to criticize leaders who have ‘faith but has no deeds,’ prompting President Bush's spokesman to accuse Kerry of exploiting Scripture for a political attack. Kerry never mentioned Bush by name during his speech.”

Similarly, the new Hamas leader calls Bush an “enemy of God and Islam.” No kidding.

Friday, March 26, 2004

What would Jesus confess to?

My last email had the subject line “mean and nasty people,” which was evidently enough to get it bounced by Chris’s work computer, which thinks everything is about sex.

Bill “Here, kitty kitty kitty” Frist, on the floor of the United States Senate, today accused Richard Clarke of lying under oath, because he (supposedly) “told two entirely different stories under oath” (Condi Rice, of course, continues to refuse to take an oath). Later, Frist had to admit he didn’t actually know what Clarke had actually said the first time, but he wants the testimony declassified so he can conduct a fishing expedition. At least Frist wasn’t under oath, or that little discrepancy between his statements today might be a problem, huh?

Someone has searched all the public statements by both Bush and Cheney from their inauguration until 9/11/01, and found not a mention of Al Qaida or bin Laden.

Evidently MSNBC reported that 58% of all exercise done in America occurred on tv infomercials, without realizing that it was an Onion parody (this once happened with the Chinese news service, which never quite got the concept of parody even when it was explained to them slowly).

Some clown in, where else, Texas, confessed to having murdered his girlfriend after seeing The Passion of the Christ. And someone else in, where else, Florida, confessed to a bank robbery after seeing the movie. Also, a couple of people have had heart attacks watching it.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Mean and nasty people

Times headline on Blair’s meeting with Qadafi: “Democrat and Dictator Unite Against Terror.” Blair is which one again?

As I understand it, at the annual radio & tv correspondents’ dinner, George Bush put on a show. “Is my integrity under this cushion? Where did I put my believability?” Ha ha, I’m kidding of course--even George knows he never had integrity or believability. No, he made jokes about not being able to find Iraqi WMDs. This reminds me of another time he tried to make a joke. I don’t remember where or the exact details, but he made a joke about there being arsenic in the drinking water, which was stolen from the movie Erin Brockavitch. Except he missed what made that scene (moderately) amusing: the PG&E officials were claiming that their plant hadn’t polluted the ground water, and at that moment Julia Roberts tells them that the water in their glasses came from the site. When the joke is made by Bush, the man who wants to put arsenic in drinking water, it’s not funny but creepy. In the same way: I am allowed to make jokes about Bush lying, he is not. I want that clear.

So we’re nearly at the end of a whole week where the Bushies did nothing except try to destroy the credibility of one man. (And by the way, Richard Clarke is a right-winger who would happily start wars and bomb and assassinate all over the world, so I’d appreciate it if the left would stop making him out to be a great humanitarian and public servant.) The smear probably wouldn’t have taken, even before the wildly popular “we failed you” apology, which wouldn’t be a big deal, except he is apparently the only person in Washington willing to make any apology (on McNeil-Lehrer today Rumsfeld was asked if that made him do any soul-searching; I didn’t hear his answer since I was laughing so hard at the idea that Rummy has a soul). Imagine Fox News going to the White House to ask it to waive the confidentiality of a briefing Clarke gave them. And they waived it, even knowing that the Valerie Plame thing is still being investigated. Unbelievable. The short-term gain for this briefing, like that memo they dredged up, has to be so slight anyway, claiming that there’s some horrible contradiction in his not telling his bosses exactly what he thought of them, which would only seem like a contradiction to someone who has never actually had a boss.

Thing is, as Clarke pointed out, they had his book for 3 months before they allowed him to publish it, so they had an awfully long time to prepare a rebuttal, and this is the best they came up with. Clarke: “These are mean and nasty people, when it comes down to it.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

He's not the Road Warrior, he's a very naughty boy

Just watched the coverage of the 9/11 hearings by Nightline and the Daily Show. Once again, the latter had better political analysis, and even better editing, interspersing Condi Rice and Scott McClellan, who attacked Richard Clarke in literally the same words. If the Bush admin had coordinated half as well in attacking bin Laden as it has against Clarke...hell, if it did anything as efficiently as it does character assassination...

What’s wrong with regular tv news is its he-said-she-said-edness, so that regular news anchors wouldn’t express incredulity, like fake anchor Jon Stewart can, at Cheney’s claims that the anti-terrorism tsar was “out of the loop” on terrorism, or the absurd claim that Bush couldn’t have pressured Clarke to frame Saddam because he wasn’t even in the situation room on Sep. 12, 2001--what on earth are they saving the situation room for? Stewart also pointed out the extent to which they are attacking Clarke personally rather than addressing his accusations.

I like the thing about how Clarke’s just trying to sell books. The problem is that there is an issue there, just not that one. His publisher is in the same media conglomerate as CBS, which explains the long interview on 60 Minutes. To what extent is coverage by the competing conglomerates affected by that?

Bush, still convinced, perhaps with good reason, that he can utter any lie he likes, says that Kerry voted to raise taxes 350 times. That includes votes not to reduce taxes, and votes for tax cuts that were smaller than R’s wanted, and it includes counting a single vote on a bill with multiple provisions as if it were a bunch of votes, and multiple votes on a single provision.

Richard Clarke, in yet another interview, for Salon, comments on the attacks on him, “the Bush White House assumes that everyone who works for them is part of a personal loyalty network, rather than part of the government. And that their first loyalty is to Bush rather than to the people. When you cross that line or violate that trust, they get very upset.”

Scotland, the culinary center of the universe, has come up with the fried chocolate sandwich: two slices of white bread smothered in chocolate sauce, dipped in batter and deep-fried, then covered in sugar and more chocolate sauce, with vanilla ice cream.

Suddenly, I’m both hungry and a little nauseous.

Although, really, white bread, how unhealthy can you get?

To cash in on the success of Mel Gibson’s little Jesus movie, Monty Python’s Life of Brian is being re-released. Extra points to any theater that runs them in a double bill.

Once again the NYT (Wed.) has the oddity of the editorial page commenting on a story the news section never bothered covering, the new prime minister of Haiti’s consorting with death squad and coup leader types.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

At the end of the end and with all due respect, I absolutely hear what you're saying

Danny Rubinstein, who evidently has the “duh” beat for Ha’aretz, reporting on the bleeding obvious, writes that the assassination of Sheikh Yassin will “apparently” strengthen the extremist wing of Hamas.

Bush today: “And had my administration had any information that terrorists were going to attack New York City on September the 11th, we would have acted.” So they really were waiting for an engraved invitation. With the time and place specified.

And Wacko Warlord Rumsfeld today testified something to the effect that killing bin Laden before 9/11 wouldn’t have stopped 9/11--which the Bushies are now portraying as unstoppable by any means known to man, because the hijackers were protected by their magic box-cutters, or something (Rummy: “the sleeper cells that flew the aircraft into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon were already in the United States months before the attack.”)--and only make it look like 9/11 was a response to Osama’s death.

I hadn’t noticed that the chief sponsors of the Unequal Rights Amendment were from Colorado, whose university demonstrates its commitment to heterosexuality by providing its football players only female prostitutes. Anyway, they’ve rewritten it so as not to ban civil unions. It’s still crap, and it’s still a federal provision telling state judges that they may not interpret state constitutions in a certain way.

Jon Stewart points out that Dawn of the Dead has displaced Passion of the Christ as #1 at the box office, suggesting that if one guy rising from the dead is good, then many people rising from the dead is better.

The Wall Street Journal has a good analysis of the many lies told about what happened and what Bush did on 9/11/01. None of it will come as a surprise to my long-time readers, but it’s nice to have a reminder, and from the Journal, of all sources.

The members of the Plain English Society vote for the most annoying phrase in the English language: “At the end of the day...” Also “I hear what you’re saying” and “absolutely” and “with all due respect”.

How many times now have I reported on the US bombing entirely the wrong country? A helicopter gunship strayed from Afghanistan into Pakistan and fired on a van. (The Reuters report is from Saturday morning. Why am I only hearing this now?)

Monday, March 22, 2004

Honest greed

Last week, which was the week there was all that talk about whether foreigners backed John Kerry, the State Dept’s whatsis for the Western Hemisphere, Otto “Thousand-Year” Reich, told El Salvador who it had to choose as president in yesterday’s elections (“We could not have the same confidence in an El Salvador led by a person who is obviously an admirer of Fidel Castro and of Hugo Chavez.”). And so, El Salvador did as it was told.

If the blind paraplegic sheikh was so dangerous, why did Netanyahu let him out of prison? Well, it was because 2 Mossad agents were caught in Jordan trying to murder a Hamas official with poison. King Hussain threatened to put them on trial, so Israel released Yassin.

The US claims it didn’t know in advance, didn’t give a green light. Which would be worse, that it did or didn’t know?

By the way, the helicopter the missiles were fired from is one the US gave to Israel.

Incidentally, the decision to assassinate Yassin was also a decision to assassinate other people near him, for the crime of being near him. Whatever you want to say about the guy in the wheelchair, someone was killed for the crime of pushing a guy in a wheelchair.

TPM notes that the Bushie attacks on Richard Clarke are mutually contradictory: either everything Clarke wanted was done, or he was completely out of the loop. The latter from Dick Cheney, who needs to explain why the counter-terrorism tsar was out of the loop on counter-terrorism matters. (Is anyone else always reminded, when they hear the phrase “out of the loop” of how Bush the Elder claimed he was out of the loop on Iran-Contra?)

What’s interesting is the retrospective pessimism about 9/11. To wit, Scott McClellan today: “His assertion that there was something we could have done to prevent the Sept. 11th attacks from happening is deeply irresponsible. It's offensive and it's flat-out false.” The bombers will always get through, as Stanley Baldwin said. No wonder the Dept of Heimat Security has time to look out for presidential photo-ops: nothing else they do, evidently, will make a blind bit of difference.

And me with a birthday coming up:
(At first glance, I assumed it was a joke)

Lots of good targets in Iraq

I watched 60 Minutes for the first time in years to see that counter-terrorism guy. First, what’s with all the reaction shots of Leslie Stahl? Second, loved the bit about Bush wanting pictures of Al Qaida leaders so he could cross them out as they were killed. Anyway, we now have a pretty clear picture of the Bushies having been completely blind to the terrorist threat to the point of the “president” not having bothered to get a briefing on the subject and downgrading counter-terrorism from a cabinet-level position, and Wolfowitz saying not to bother with bin Laden, and Rumsfeld having been willing after 9/11 to ignore bin Laden in favor of attacking Iraq for no reason except he always wanted to (“There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.”). This is exactly the scenario that got the Spanish government booted, except that the Bushies were persuaded for PR reasons to invade Afghanistan before going after their real target. If Kerry can’t use this to his advantage, he doesn’t deserve the presidency, and I may have to refer to “President” Bush without the quotation marks.

Here’s a hint on how to do that: “There was no reason for us to become involved in Iraq recently. That was a war based on lies and misinterpretations from London and from Washington, claiming falsely that Saddam Hussein was responsible for [the] 9/11 attacks, claiming falsely that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And I think that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair probably knew that many of the allegations were based on uncertain intelligence ... a decision was made to go to war [then people said] 'Let's find a reason to do so'.” Jimmy Carter.

Under the provisions of the Palestinians With Disabilities Act, Israel had no choice but to kill Sheikh Yassin, the quadriplegic founder of Hamas. Took 3 missiles. They must be so proud.

But were they home-made missiles, like the bullets in the bizarre assassination attempt in Taiwan, if that’s what it was. Slate mentions a WashPost article that says President Chen did this before, 14 years ago appearing at election rallies with an IV claiming his enemies had tried to poison him. I can’t find any such article, not in the Post or via or Lexis-Nexis. Has anyone else heard such a thing? The whole story gets weirder and weirder. Today they had to release footage of the president being operated on, to prove it actually happened.

A Nigerian woman goes into labor aboard a flight from Lagos to London. That must have been a fun flight (actually, it turned around and went back). The airline: Virgin. The jokes: painfully obvious. The kid’s name: Virginia, who will be able to fly free on Virgin until she turns 21.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The only sign language I know is a word I can't repeat here

This will surprise no one here, but the Bushies are trying to prevent the use of generic drugs for AIDS in the Third World, and will waste taxpayer dollars by buying the expensive stuff. What hadn’t occurred to me as an advantage of generics is that sometimes you don’t have to take as many pills. The AIDS cocktail consists of pills the patents for which are held by 3 different companies, so you have to take 6 pills. If it’s generic, they can combine it, and you only have to take 2.

In Melbourne, a bicycle thief turns out to have been a fetishist. Or something. His house was packed with 1,000 bicycles.

British Sign Language is being revised to remove its incredible racism, with someone monitoring what goes out on tv programs for the deaf. The Sunday Telegraph: “The abandoned signs include "Jewish", in which a hand mimes a hooked nose; the sign for "gay", a flick of a limp wrist; and "Chinese", in which the index fingertips pull the eyes into a slant. Another dropped sign is that for "Indian", which is a finger pointing to an imaginary spot in the middle of a forehead.” Astonishingly, the deaf lobby is complaining that this is discrimination, interfering with deaf culture. The new sign for Jews mimics a menorah (although deaf Jews prefer something imitating stroking a beard), and the gay one is an upright thumb on one hand in the palm of the other, wobbling from side to side, whatever that means. The sign for Germans is a fist held to the forehead a finger pointing up--the shape of one of those World War I Prussian spiked helmets. Now in China, the sign for a Westerner is the shape of round eyes.

Repulsive, so I’m linking to it:

Yasser Arafat says The Passion of the Christ is not anti-semitic. So that’s ok then.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Iraq sure do got a purty mouth

It’s a scandal: Saddam Hussein siphoned money off the UN Oil for Food program. Who does he think he is, Haliburton?

The guy in charge of protecting federal workers from discrimination, Special Counsel Scott Bloch says it’s ok to fire them for being gay, but not for conduct like going to a gay pride rally, although mostly because that’s not definitive proof that someone is gay. So at least there are standards for proving that someone is gay before canning their ass, although I’m not clear what those standards are. Since Bloch was previously on the Justice Department’s Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, I’m guessing that if the federal employee floats...

SQUEAL LIKE A PIG: Today was the anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Bush says, “For Iraq it was a day of Deliverance.” Always knew Dubya reminded me of someone: just put a banjo in his hands...

I briefly mentioned that Coke was trying to market bottled water in Britain (95p per half liter bottle) that turned out to be tap water (0.03p), albeit purified. Actually, they fucked up even the task of putting Thames water in bottles at a 3000% mark-up: the purification process introduced a carcinogen in illegal quantities. The product has been pulled from the market after 2 weeks.

Donald Trump has applied for a trademark for the phrase “You’re fired.”

The Dept of Homeland Security has posted a new job opening: “liaison to the entertainment industry.” Salary up to $136,000 plus benefits.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization

Francoist Spain--fascist Spain, if you will--was treated by the US as an ally, invited into NATO etc etc, without a word of criticism about the, you know, fascism. So maybe we should just shut up about appeasement already.

Also: do we have to call it “Freedom fly” now?

Kerry’s new slogan: “I have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization.”

What’s actually going on is that Spain is a stand-in for John Kerry. The message is that anyone who disagrees with Bush out loud is encouraging or “appeasing” the terrorists. Here’s a quote from Bush from today: “By speaking clearly, consistently and meaning what we say, the more likely the world will be more peaceful.” Was that line directed at Spain or Kerry? Kerry, but could be either, couldn’t it?

Evidently there really is a Karen Ryan, that was not an actress. But neither is she a reporter; she’s a PR flack. In fact, she often voices PR pieces disguised as news segments, just as she did this time for Medicare, for corporate clients. Which I think is actually worse.

Scalia, refusing to recuse himself from a case against Dick Cheney, writes in a 21-page explanation: “I never hunted in the same blind with the vice president.” I believe that’s what Bill once said about Monica.

Atrios reminds me that while Kerry won’t say which furriners would prefer him to Shrub as president, a year ago the Bushies were talking about some countries being secret COW countries.

The US upgrades Pakistan’s status to “major non-NATO ally” so we can sell it more weapons, like depleted-uranium shells, ignoring Pakistan’s nuclear testing, threats of war with India, it being run by a coup leader, protecting Al Qaida, selling nuclear technology to everyone with a MasterCard...

By the way, the one fact I never see in US media: not only was A. Q. Khan pardoned, but he was allowed to keep all the money he made selling nuclear technology illegally.

In the Russian presidential elections, 94.99% voted for Putin in Chechnya.

Man, you stop paying attention to Kosovo for a second, and...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

We wanted animal rights

Scummy Republican dirty trick, so despicable even I didn’t expect it from them: blaming John Kerry for 9/11. Evidently he was told that security at Logan Airport was crap. The author of the following has evidently been on, where else, Faux News.

Going after public officials who break the law and license gay marriages is one thing (Wonkette: but the guy who married my parents is still at large), but ministers? When measures were described as being to “ban” gay marriage, I always thought that was over-statement. Actually though, arresting ministers (2 Unitarians in upstate NY) may be the logical next step, if you’re going to mix up state and religion so thoroughly. Of course, by the same logic you should be able to require that Catholic priests perform interfaith marriages and marriages by divorced people and so on. The crime the 2 ministers (both women, I now notice) committed is performing marriages under authority vested in them by NY state, and doing so without a license. This just shows what happens when you turn ministers of religion into agents of the government and license their activities, and why marriage needs to be made a totally civil function.

Quote from a former Guantanamo detainee: “After a while, we stopped asking for human rights. We wanted animal rights.”

Several more Baptist missionaries (the branch whose former leader described Muhammed as a paedophile) have been killed in Iraq.

Article detailing how Chalabi’s group gaslighted the American media.

And Henry Waxman has a report detailing Bush admin lies about Iraq. He even graphs them month by month. Download the pdf here.

Employees of the Dept of Heimat Security, who have nothing more important to do, have been told to look out for photo ops for Bush. Tom Tomorrow: “Homeland Security, working to keep you safe from terror--one photo op at a time.”

Speaking of Potemkin photo ops, there was an event which the Post headlined “U.S. Displays Nuclear Parts Given by Libya.” No story I’ve seen suggests that they showed anything more than a bunch of pipes, and some crates which they claimed contained important stuff.

The Columbia Journalism Review is tracking down tv stations that ran the fake news segments provided by the federal government hyping Medicare, complete with fake reporters. 6 so far.

Something I missed in Bush’s sanctimonious International Women’s Week speech: he mentioned a woman who had just been released from prison by Libya. Turns out, though, the chick’s actually a dude.

Spain is giving citizenship or residency to spouses, children and parents of those killed or injured in the Madrid bombings, showing a generosity the US never did. 1/4 of the dead were non-Spanish.

The NYT editorial page is almost exclusively devoted to whether the elections in Spain were a victory for Al Qaida (David Brooks and Edward Luttack) or not (Paul Krugman, in a column worth reading, mostly arguing that Bush has failed to go after terrorism in any serious way). Actually we have just witnessed that most awesome of political events, a peaceful transition of power effected by democratic elections. American (and British) conservatives are acting as if it was treason for people who didn’t like the Partido Popular to vote against it, because Al Qaida didn’t like it either. Doing something because it’s the opposite of what AQ wants isn’t any less an abdication of one’s democratic rights and responsibilities than is the opposite. Last year’s rallies in Spain against Spanish participation in the war were almost as large as last week’s rallies against terrorism, and polls suggest that the war wasn’t much more popular in Spain than the train bombings. The scary thing (attention John Kerry) is that the government was on track to be reelected anyway, and only lost when it cynically lied about a terrorist attack and tried to assign blame to people it wanted to attack anyway (attention George Bush). Also, the Spanish electorate proved capable of telling the difference between the war in Iraq and the “war” on terrorism, unlike Bush and a declining number of Americans.

Now I don’t think for a minute that the Spanish people voted the way they did as a bargain with terrorists to do what the terrorists wanted in exchange for not being bombed again. But even if they did, so what? Here’s a job for someone with Lexis-Nexis and a lot of free time: go through the writings of the clowns now chastising the Spanish and find where they said that restoring democracy or preventing genocide in Rwanda/Bosnia/Haiti/Sierra Leone/etc/etc/etc wasn’t worth a single American soldier’s life. And the Bush admin, which cynically bribes voters with tax cuts at the expense of the poor, ill and disadvantaged can hardly bitch about people voting to save themselves from being blown up. Especially when Spain was participating as a COW nation (why am I still the only one using that abbreviation)(Coalition of the Willing, if you’ve forgotten) in a war that was supposed to end Islamist terrorism, not bring it to Spain for the first time.

Or, to put it more succinctly, as I did yesterday, the critics of the Spanish electorate can fuck themselves.

Monday, March 15, 2004

You can't organize a war with lies

Sedna is not a planet. Pluto is not a planet either. I hope that settles that.

Bill Maher on why Bush should stop campaigning against Washington: “"Washington insider" is by definition a function of one's proximity to the president. That's you, Mr. Bush. You're ground zero. Ever wonder, sir, why everyone stands and they play music when you enter a room? When you're given check-writing privileges by the Federal Reserve, you just might be a Washington insider.”

Bush: “God loves you, and I love you. And you can count on both of us as a powerful message that people who wonder about their future can hear.”

DO AS WE SAY, NOT AS WE DO: Colin Powell, on Kerry’s claim that foreign leaders want him elected: “It's an easy charge, an easy assertion to make. But if he feels it is that important an assertion to make, he ought to list some names. If he can't list names, then perhaps he should find something else to talk about.” WMDs, Colin?

YOU’RE SO VAIN, I’LL BET YOU THINK THIS SONG IS ABOUT YOU: When Kerry made his open-mike comment that “These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen,” you’ll notice the R’s immediately assumed he was referring to them. Self-knowledge is a wonderful thing.

You’ll remember that someone turned the sayings of Rummy Rumsfeld into poetry. Someone else has taken the next step of turning that poetry into songs, having it sung by a soprano and putting out a CD. Listen to the songs here.

A kid in Philadelphia has been summoned to face truancy charges, for not showing up at a school he doesn’t actually attend. The fun part is that he got grades for classes at the school he does not attend. Not especially good grades, which is something, although he got a B in gym.

Spain’s next prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, says of Bush and Blair, “You can’t organize a war with lies.” Um, sure you can. Evidently it’s considered a really big blow for Bush that Spain has moved from New Europe to Old Europe. And to those on the right (Andrew Sullivan, Tim Hames in the London Times, etc), who are calling this a win for bin Laden, go fuck yourselves. That’s all the refutation they deserve.

PS, it wasn’t Bush who called PM Aznar “president” this time, it was Condi Rice.

An article in new website we need yet another political website, sigh--argues that since the media let Bush get away with an ad with a flat-out lie, that Kerry plans to raise taxes $900b, we can expect more lies.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Kind of folklore

Oh sure, I could say that Vladimir Putin was the president of Freedonia and you people wouldn’t blink twice, but show an unfamiliarity with a Muppet character...

The right-wing Spanish government loses the election badly. I’m still unclear (everyone is, really) how that happened. Was Aznar punished for his role in a deeply unpopular war in Iraq, and if so, was that because of the war itself or the Al Qaida response this week? Or was it because Aznar lied, and withheld evidence, to misattribute the bombings to ETA instead? All good reasons, of course, and that’s without going into the People’s Party’s domestic record, but I think we’d like to know here in the US whether it was the war or the lying. Turnout was 74%, up from 65% in 2000. The new PM’s grandfather was a Republican army officer killed during the Civil War.

On the other hand Russia today buried whatever remnants of democracy it had. It will be interesting to see how high the “none of the above” vote was. Turnout easily reached the 50% mark, thanks to giveaways of free haircuts, grocery discounts, movie tickets, vacation raffles, concerts, etc etc. Boy, I voted this month and all I got was a slightly sickly feeling.

I read a NY Times profile of John Kerry, from 1971. I’m not clear exactly what his story today is on how he joined up, but then he said in as many words that he was trying to stay away from being shot at. Which is why he joined the Navy, Vietnam not being a particularly naval sort of war up to that point. Unfortunately for him, 2 weeks before he got there, they decided to start sending the swift-boats he’d trained for up rivers (instead of patrolling safely off-shore), just to prove that there was nowhere Americans couldn’t go. And thus the 3 war wounds, which gave him the prerogative of asking to be sent home, which he did. There’s not much hint of the buddy-buddy, band of brothers, war nostalgia he’s exhibiting these days.

Jimmy Breslin reports on the massive engineering project of making sure that George Bush’s shoes never touch dirt.

Secretary of War Rumsfeld today says that it’s “kind of folklore” that anyone in the Bush admin said that Saddam was an immediate threat. Bloggers, start your google engines!

He also said that Bush ordered Powell and he not to get involved in the election campaign. That was on CBS. On Fox, Powell got involved in the election campaign.

Evidently the Republican candidate for Senate for Illinois used to be married to Star Trek Voyager’s 7 of 9. And there’s something in the child-custody court papers he doesn’t want made public.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

This will be your only present soon

Many of the older internet users will have fond memories of a website in Switzerland where you could plug in text and have it translated into “jive.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Dialectizer, which does that and more. Here is the 1st paragraph of George Bush’s weekly radio address, rendered into Redneck:
Good mo'nin'. This hyar week, ah met wif intrepreneurs an' wawkers in Ohio an' Noo Yawk, an' talked t'them about how we are stren'thenin' South Car'lina's economah. On over th' past three years, South Car'lina's economah has faced a series of challenges: stock market decline, recesshun, terro'ist attacks, co'po'ate scan'als, an' th' unsartinties of war. Mah administrashun cornfronted them challenges squarely, an' acked boldly. We redooced taxes on families an' small businesses, we encouraged noo investment an' we is seein' th' results.

Good mo'nin'. Dis week, ah' met wid entrepreneurs and wo'kers in Ohio and New Yo'k, and raped t'dem about how we are strengdenin' America's economy. Slap mah fro! Ova' de past dree years, America's economy gots faced some series uh challenges, dig dis: stock market decline, recession, terro'ist attacks, co'po'ate scandals, and da damn uncertainties of war. Ah be baaad... Mah' administrashun confronted dose challenges squarely, and acted boldly. Slap mah fro! We reduced taxes on families and small businesses, we encouraged new investment and we's seein' de results.

Good mornin'. Cor blimey guv! This week, I met wiv entrepreneurs and workers in Ohio and New York, right, and went on ter ffem about 'ow we are strengffenin' America's economy. Over the past free years, America's economy 'as faced a series of challenges: stock market decline, recession, terrorist attacks, right, corporate scandals, right, and the bloody uncertainties of war. Yer can't 'ave a knees-up wivout a joanna. Me administration confronted them challenges squarely, and acted boldly. We reduced taxes on families and wee businesses, we encouraged new investment and we're seein' the results.

Elmer Fudd:
Good mowning. Dis week, I met wif entwepweneuws and wowkews in Ohio and New Yowk, and tawked to them about how we awe stwengthening Amewica's economy. Ovew the past thwee yeaws, Amewica's economy has faced a sewies of chawwenges: stock mawket decwine, wecession, tewwowist attacks, cowpowate scandaws, and the uncewtainties of waw. My administwation confwonted those chawwenges sqwawewy, and acted bowdwy. We weduced taxes on famiwies and smaww businesses, we encouwaged new investment and we'we seeing the wesuwts. Oh, dat scwewy wabbit!

Pig Latin (suddenly it makes sense):
Oodgay orningmay. Isthay eekway, Iyay etmay ithway entrepreneursyay andyay orkersway inyay Ohioyay andyay Ewnay Yorkay, andyay alkedtay otay emthay aboutyay owhay eway areyay engtheningstray America'syay economyyay. Overyay ethay astpay eethray yearsay, America'syay economyyay ashay acedfay ayay eriessay ofyay allengeschay: ockstay arketmay eclineday, ecessionray, erroristtay attacksyay, orporatecay andalsscay, andyay ethay uncertaintiesyay ofyay arway. Ymay administrationyay onfrontedcay osethay allengeschay uarelysqay, andyay actedyay oldlybay. Eway educedray axestay onyay amiliesfay andyay allsmay usinessesbay, eway encouragedyay ewnay investmentyay andyay e'reway eeingsay ethay esultsray.

Swedish chef (huh?):
Guud murneeng. Thees veek, I met veet intrepreneoors und vurkers in Ooheeu und Noo Yurk, und telked tu zeem ebuoot hoo ve-a ere-a strengzeeneeng Emereece's icunumy. Bork bork bork! Oofer zee pest three-a yeers, Emereece's icunumy hes feced a sereees ooff chellenges: stuck merket decleene-a, recesseeun, terrureest ettecks, curpurete-a scundels, und zee uncerteeenties ooff ver. Hurty flurty schnipp schnipp! My edmeenistreshun cunffrunted thuse-a chellenges sqooerely, und ected buldly. Bork bork bork! Ve-a redooced texes oon femeelies und smell booseenesses, ve-a incuooreged noo infestment und ve're-a seeeeng zee resoolts. Um gesh dee bork, bork!

Another option was “moron,” but why gild the lily? Here’s the link, knock yourselves out:
And if you’re still getting any work done, here’s the Random Masturbation Synonym Generator.

The Post jumps in on the story of the actuary who was ordered not to give Congress the true estimates (did I just say true estimates?) for the costs of Medicare. He was told to "cease responding directly to Congress". The guy who threatened to fire him now says it was said in jest. Of course it was. This isn’t just lying, this is a violation of separation of powers, it is the sort of thing that makes our system of government unworkable. In short, if Bush personally knew about this, it would be an impeachable offense.

While elsewhere in DC, the Washington Times actually conducted a survey which purports to show that 60% of respondents think that Kerry would be the preferred presidential choice of terrorists (Bush 25%).

Cal. State Senator “Pete” Knight, who wrote the anti-gay-marriage initiative that passed in 2000, turns out to have a gay son (all anti-gay activists have gay children, following the Iron Law of Irony). I think you know where this one is going...

Be vewwy vewwwy quiet: NATO forces in Bosnia put up posters for Ratko Mladic’s birthday, with pictures of handcuffs, saying “This will be your only present soon.” No word on what NATO sent him on the other 8 birthdays he’s celebrated while they’ve been hunting him down.

Lebensraum: the raccoon population of Germany has hit 1 million, and growing rapidly. They were introduced into the country by Goering in 1934. Meanwhile, native rabbits are dying out.

The Bushies are trying to get Jamaica to expel Aristide, and should really shut up.

So if ETA planted the bombs in Madrid, the right wing benefits in tomorrow (Sunday)’s elections, and if it’s Al Qaida, the left wing benefits. But if the government lies and says it’s ETA when it isn’t, and the left is unwilling to start accusing them of it while the bodies are still being buried, which means waiting until after they lose the election...? The government, of course, has no such compunctions, and has been bombarding newspapers with calls insisting it’s ETA. I’m not sure how close the election was before, but Al Qaida may just have ensured the reelection of another right-wing government.

A quote from Desmond Tutu: “When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said: "Let us pray." We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

Friday, March 12, 2004

Because we are Americans, we don't abuse people in our care

Amusing story in which a reporter tries to get the views of the audience at a Bush campaign stop, only to be told “No speak English.” Well, neither does Bush.

The 2 Russians being held by Qatar for a bombing that killed a Chechen leader have admitted being members of the Russian special forces. And that the bomb was smuggled in from Saudi Arabia, where Russia had sent it by diplomatic bag. Russia, by the way, is still holding the 2 judo people (or Graeco-Roman wrestlers, in today’s Times’ version).

The US says that the impeachment of the South Korean president is a domestic, internal matter and none of our concern. Unlike, say, Venezuela. I mentioned the US is funding opposition parties there--well, it’s also funding the group collecting signatures for Chavez’s impeachment.

Colin Powell, denying the charges of brutality by the British Guantanamo detainees: “Because we are Americans, we don't abuse people in our care.” I assume that’s an attempt at irony.

Utah, which does abuse people in its care, especially if they’re women, is charging with murder a woman who refused to have a C-section. As we all know, the opinions of doctors have the full force of law. The story makes little sense: prosecutors are saying it was a matter of vanity, that she didn’t want a scar. Except she’s had 2 previous C-sections, so she already has the scar. Note that the hospital she went to was Mormon, a fact mentioned in none of the stories, which are all pretending that Utah is a normal state. I’d love to know how this case was drawn to the attention of the prosecutors.

More Bush slogans, via Wonkette:

"I Wasn't Using Those Rights Anyway"

“600 Dead American Soldiers Can't Be Wrong!”

“No, Monkeys Could NOT Do Better!”

and my new favorite: "Don't Settle for the Lesser of Two Evils"

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Letting bad leaders govern badly

Compare and contrast:

Scummy asst secretary of state Roger Noriega on Haiti, 2004 (or possibly the US, 2004): “We're not under any obligation to let bad leaders govern badly.”

Scummy national security adviser Henry Kissinger on Chile, c.1973: “I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.”

Robert Fisk’s columns, while still blocked to most of the non-paying public at the Independent site, can be found pretty quickly these days at, which I suspect exists purely to break copyright laws, but what the hell. For a while someone was posting them to the discussion pages of the Pravda website, which I thought was amusing.

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said that he’d have corrected Cheney’s lies, but he only found out about them 2 months later. Way to keep on top of the news, George!

Evidently the US military has been buying cadavers which were devoted to science, and then blowing them up to test landmines. Which could be fun, I suppose, if you’re, like, high, but probably not what the donors had in mind.

I’d like an explanation for why the 5 Brits released from Club Med Guantanamo are in such terrible physical condition. Possibly we’ll get to read it in a British tabloid--the bidding war has already begun (£200,000 so far for one of them, I hear)(the problem will be whether they tell the truth. One is saying the US troops brought prostitutes in and paraded them naked in front of the prisoners. While I’m less inclined to dismiss that out of hand as being just too silly, it’s still pretty silly). And Fisk asks why the Achille Lauro guy suddenly dropped dead. And I’ve lost track of how many prisoners have been beaten to death already. And these are the ones we hear about. US forces have been seizing Iraqi leaders for more than a year now, and you never ever hear or see them again--including Saddam.

But the good news is that the US military has been cleared, by the US military, in a report they refuse to release, of blame for killing 9 children in an air strike in Afghanistan in December. I feel so reassured. They do assure us that the incident resulted in a change in the rules of engagement. They won’t tell us what those rules of engagement are, what they were, or how they changed. I feel so very reassured.

Chile has legalized divorce, the last country in the Western Hemisphere to do so. Next stop, in 130 years: gay marriage!

Bush’s nominee to be assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services turns out to have himself laid off his workers and opened a factory in China. The nomination may be withdrawn. In favor of a 22-year old Indian in Bangalore who’ll do the job for 1/6th the salary and no benefits, which for some reason will make Thomas Friedman very happy.

Just click here. Do it, I command you!

The Bushies threatened the chief Medicare actuary if he gave Congress the real cost of Bush’s Medicare proposals.

Bush was at the ground-breaking ceremony for a 9/11 memorial. Atrios headline: Bush Picks up Shovel and Actually Makes it Work. Reminds me of a favorite line about his father: he’s a man who calls a spade a shovel-thing.

And speaking of like-father etc, if you haven’t heard the term Muhammad Horton will. (Or google it now)

Astonishingly, the UN Security Council rushes to condemn ETA for the Madrid bombing, with no evidence that ETA was responsible (the right-wing Spanish government, heading into elections, really wanted it to be ETA)(which it probably wasn’t).

Bush made a statement on it. I was holding my breath waiting to see if he’d screw up PM Aznar’s name and/or job title yet again. Fortunately, he didn’t mention him.

Evidently recalls of cars, as ordered by the government, are sometimes issued only in certain states, because the defect relates to, say, cold or high temperatures. And it’s not like automobiles are, you know, mobile or something.

Hugo Chavez releases leaked documents from the US’s National Endowment for Democracy, which is spending $1m a year to overthrow him. Excuse me, I meant to say to build democracy. By overthrowing him. Most of it is seems to be fairly anodyne. They talk about bolstering the party system when they mean funding the opposition. But I’d like to draw your attention to one word in this sentence: “strengthening political parties remains a critical part of any long-term solution.” Did you spot the problematic word? If not, try again, I’ll be waiting in the next paragraph. No peeking.

How many of you got “solution”? Democracy is a process, one which is continuous. There is no solution. If you talk about democracy as a solution, you aren’t really interested in democracy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Not uniquely comporting / toilet ambassadors / when is an hour not an hour

In a really bored mood last night, I watched some of Letterman, with Drew Barrymore, who evidently blew out most of her brain cells in her teens, although she did use the word “excoriate” in a sentence. Dave congratulated her for being the first to use the word on his show. She did not use it correctly.

Putin needs a 50% turnout for his coronation to be valid, as I’ve said before. Officials at all levels have been told to work to that end. So, someone applying for a restaurant license in Moscow was told to ensure 50 voters; hospitals in Khabarovsk posted official notices that no one would be treated if they didn’t fill out absentee ballots.

I think I’ve commented on this before, but the WashPost has done an analysis of how D’s investigated by Kenneth Starr were denied reimbursement for legal fees, as required by the independent council law, by a partisan panel of judges (the chair of which named his daughter Reagan, for christ sakes). The article points out that R’s in the same position were treated very differently.

I was surprised when Bush uttered the name of John Kerry on Monday. Confirmation of the rarity of this in presidential elections comes from the Post: “In 1992, a search of presidential records shows, Bush's father apparently waited until Aug. 17 before making an unprompted mention of Bill Clinton. In 1996, Clinton made his first unbidden criticism of opponent Bob Dole on July 2. And in 1984, incumbent Ronald Reagan waited all the way until Oct. 12, just weeks before the election, before identifying Walter Mondale”

Atrios notes that while Bush went after Kerry for calling for cuts in the bloated intelligence budget, Attorney General John “Lost to a Dead Guy” Ashcroft was proposing cuts in counterterrorism programs right up to 9/11 (although he did stop flying on commercial airlines, which is something we never heard enough about). Also, the Kerry cuts were $300m per year, which was about 1% of the intelligence budget, but it sure sounds like real money, doesn’t it, especially when Bush says it’s $1.5b, without saying that that’s over 5 years (this was when the NRO ran up a slush fund, then used that slush fund to build itself a whole new HQ, and hoped no one would notice).

DCI George Tenet testifies that some of the remarks by, say, Dick Cheney, do not “uniquely comport” with actual intelligence findings. That’s what you gotta love about government officials: they have more way of saying that something was a lie than Eskimoes have words for snow.

Favorite AP headline of the day: “N.Y. City Man Forced to Give up Monkeys.”

Only in Singapore: toilet ambassadors.

Speaking of toilet ambassadors, here’s a good background piece on Karl Rove:,3604,1165037,00.html

Federal government grants to religious groups are now topping $1b per year. Oh, wait, it’s a lot more, but nobody’s really keeping count.

Honestly, Dubya, the Lincoln bedroom?

White House press briefings are now routinely hilarious. I was going to give the link to Tuesday’s, but I think I’ll paste it in for posterity, despite the length. It’s actually the length that makes it funny, and watching McClellan try to explain how Bush will answer every question the 9/11 commission might have, but do it in an hour (reminds me of a cartoon in which a man going back for more food at an all-you-can-eat buffet is stopped by a burly employee who tells him, That IS all you can eat):
Q: Does the President want to really get to the bottom of the cause of 9/11? If he does, why would he limit his interview with the commission to one hour and for other officials, and, stonewall on documents?

McCLELLAN: I'm glad you brought this up. This administration has provided unprecedented cooperation to a legislative body in the 9/11 Commission. We have worked closely with the commission in a spirit of cooperation. And you only have to go back -- and I would appreciate it if you would report some of the facts of the type of access we have provided to the commission. We have provided the commission access to every bit of information that they have requested, including our most sensitive national security documents. And the commission chairman has stated such --

Q: Well, the commission certainly is not satisfied.

McCLELLAN: -- and as far as the President, the President looks forward to meeting with the chairman and vice chairman and answering all the questions that they want to raise.

Q: Why don't you just open the books and get to the truth? The American people deserve it.

McCLELLAN: Did you not hear what I just said, Helen? Have you not looked at the facts? I think you need to quit reading some of the coverage and look at the facts.

Q: You just said, “all the questions they want to raise.” That means he’s no longer going to limit it to an hour?

McCLELLAN: Well, that’s what it’s scheduled for now. But, look, he’s going to answer all the questions they want to raise. Keep in mind that the commission --

Q: If they’re still asking at one hour, he’ll still answer them?

McCLELLAN: Keep in mind that the commission has already had access to all the information they requested, as I just pointed out, including our most sensitive national security documents. That’s what I’m talking about when I’m talking about unprecedented cooperation. And the commission has also -- yes, let me finish --

Q: The issue is whether he’s limiting it to an hour --

McCLELLAN: Let me finish, Mark.

Q: -- and I’m asking a very simple question. If they’re still asking questions at one hour --

McCLELLAN: I think it’s important to point out the fact. Mark, let me finish. Mark, can I answer? Let me finish. It’s important that we point out these facts when we talk about this issue, because the facts have not been pointed out. The facts have not been pointed out. But the President -- I mean, the commission will be meeting with the President, after having talked for hours on hour with White House and senior administration officials. We’ve provided more than 2 million pages of documents; we’ve provided more than 60 compact disks of radar, flight and other information; more than 800 audio cassette tapes of interviews and other materials; more than 100 briefings, including at the head-of-agency level; more than 560 interviews. Dr. Rice met with the commission recently, and even though only five members of the commission showed up, she sat down and visited with them for some four hours.

Q: I appreciate that. You reported all that when you first told it to us. I’m asking --

McCLELLAN: No, I don’t think it was widely reported.

Q: Forgive me, I take responsibility for what I report, and I reported it.

McCLELLAN: I understand you -- I understand. But I take responsibility of talking to everybody here.

Q: Okay. All the questions that they have, he’s going to answer. If they’re still asking at one hour, is he still going to answer?

McCLELLAN: I just said that the President will answer all the questions that they want to raise. I think that’s important to point out. I mean, it’s important to point out the unprecedented cooperation we have provided to this legislative body. We have worked very closely with the commission.

Q: -- when?

McCLELLAN: Still working on the exact time for that, working with the commission.

Q: Should we expect it soon?

McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, soon. They have to -- they’re going to complete their report by the end of July now, so --

Q: Let me just ask this again. You’re going to -- you’re committing the President to answer every question raised by the panel in that interview with him?

McCLELLAN: The President looks forward to answering all the questions that they want to bring up.

Q: Which might mean that it would last longer than an hour.

McCLELLAN: Look, he looks forward to the meeting. Let’s let the meeting take place. Obviously, keep in mind everything that the commission has already had access to, everybody the commission has always talked to, and now they’re coming to the President to ask some questions of the President -- or the chairman and vice chairman will.

Q: I just want to clarify that you said that the --

McCLELLAN: No, no, I understand.

Q: -- President will respond to all of the questions the panel wants to raise.

McCLELLAN: Absolutely, of course. Of course.

Q: Personally?

McCLELLAN: Of course. And keep in mind that what we’re talking about here is a seven-eight month period. Not eight years. Now, these threats didn’t happen overnight. These threats have been building for some time. But this President has taken action to do everything we can to make sure something like September 11th never happens again. He is strongly committed to making sure that this administration works closely -- continues to work closely and cooperatively with the commission to make sure that if there’s anything else that they can bring to our attention to help us prevent attacks like that from happening every again, then we have that information.

Q: Scott, purely from a PR point of view, how do you respond to a criticism launched by Senator Kerry yesterday who said, “The President finds time to go to a rodeo, but he doesn’t have more than an hour for the 9/11 Commission?” -- wouldn’t you acknowledge that, however well you think the administration, the President, and however unprecedented you think the cooperation is, isn’t he vulnerable to some criticism --

McCLELLAN: Suggest -- look at the facts. I mean, I’ll just point out the facts. Not suggesting; I’m pointing out the facts.

Q: We would never suggest you do anything else, Scott. But my point is, don’t you think that there might be some kind of PR problem for the President when his chief challenger can say, you’ve got time to got to a rodeo, and you don’t have time for the 9/11 Commission?

McCLELLAN: That’s why it’s important for everybody to report all the facts and the type of cooperation we have provided to the commission, and the type of access we have provided to the commission. It is unprecedented. But in terms of those remarks, it appears that he does not want to let the facts get in the way of his campaign. The facts are very clear. This administration has provided unprecedented cooperation to the 9/11 Commission, and provided access to every single bit of information that they have requested.

Q: Not unprecedented, I’m sorry. From Watergate on --

McCLELLAN: Go look at the chairman’s recent comments, Helen. I mean, I’ll be glad to go back through those.

Q: The only reason I won’t accept the word “unprecedented” is because, as I pointed out to you once before, President Ford actually testified in open session before the House Judiciary Committee --

McCLELLAN: Provided access to our nation’s most sensitive national security documents?

Q: Well, it depends on what aspect of --

McCLELLAN: Provide more than 2 million pages of documents? Provided access to hundreds of administration officials?

Q: So, but answer my question. When the President of the United States goes up to Capitol Hill, sits down in public session before an entire, full committee, and says, give me your best shot, how does the President sitting down for one hour --

McCLELLAN: Look at the facts of what we’ve done. Well, no, but keep in mind, you’re looking --

Q: We’re talking about the President’s time.

McCLELLAN: No, no, no, you’re missing the point, that the commission has already had access to everything that they’ve requested, including our most sensitive documents. They’ve already sat down and visited with White House officials and senor administration officials. And now they’ll have an opportunity to come to the President, and ask any question that they want to. The President is glad to answer their questions.

Q: So your view is that all the cooperation you’ve given -- the White House has given up to now makes it so that really an hour of the President’s time should be sufficient for them to get what they need out of him?

McCLELLAN: The President is going to make sure, as we have, that they have all the information that they need to do their job.

Q: Scott, just to make sure we’re on the same page --

Q: Scott, I think what’s puzzling everybody is why don’t you just say, instead of saying he’s staying for an hour, why not just say he’s going to sit there until the questions are answered?

McCLELLAN: I said he's going to answer all their questions.

Q: In one hour.

Q: Where is this one hour --

McCLELLAN: I'm not negotiating here from this podium with the commission.

Q: Nobody has asked -- Scott --

Q: -- one hour, is that what you’re saying?

Q: We're asking you to explain why there is this limit of an hour. Why not simply say -- forget the hour; the President is going to stay as long as he’s needed?

McCLELLAN: I think there are a lot of things that I pointed out. Go back to what the commission has already done, and then they will be sitting down with the President to visit with the President. And obviously, we're talking about -- we're talking about a seven-to-eight-month period here that they're going over. They're already going to have much of the information they need. Now they'll be coming to the President to ask some questions of him.

Q: Scott, since it now seems like the time --

McCLELLAN: Putting you next, Mike.

Q: Scott, since now seems like the time is negotiable, the President will now answer for as long --

McCLELLAN: I didn't say that. (Laughter.) Obviously, you work with the commission and you come to an agreement on the format and the setting for it. But I'm just stating a fact -- the President will answer all the questions they want to raise.

Q: I’m sorry, we all think you said it, so you said it. Okay? Is that a deal?

McCLELLAN: Putting words in my mouth? Just report what I said, is what I would appreciate.

Q: What you said doesn't make any sense, Scott. I mean, you're saying he'll answer all the questions --

McCLELLAN: Hold on. Norah has the floor.

Q: All right. Go ahead, Norah.

McCLELLAN: It's not free-for-all Tuesday.

Q: Now that the time limit has changed with the President, is also under negotiation the number of members who will be able to meet with the President? Because you've said -- you just said the commission has already had access to everything they have requested. But, in fact, the full commission is requesting to meet with the President, all the members, not just the chairman and the vice chairman.

McCLELLAN: Look, he will sit down -- he looks forward to sitting down with the chairman and the vice chairman. I pointed out to you that Dr. Rice made herself available to meet with all the commission; only five members showed up. There was another National Security Council official where only, I think, four showed up. There has not been one single commission member who has participated in every interview. I mean, they depend on others to provide them information. And so you have to look back at past practice and keep that in context, as well.

I encourage you all to go out and report all these facts and the American people have a clear understanding of the type of cooperation that this administration has provided to the commission, because it is unprecedented, it is very much in a spirit of cooperation, it is very much in a spirit of making sure that the commission has all the information they need to do their job and do so in a timely manner.

Obviously, when you're talking about legislative, executive branch, there are principles involved on certain matters. But we have bent over backwards to make sure they have all the information they need to do their job.

Q: Just to cross a “t” on Norah’s question, you referred to answering all the questions the panel has, answering all the questions the commission has. I thought that that meant more than the chairman and the vice chairman --

McCLELLAN: The meeting will be with the chairman and vice chairman. That's what ---

Q: Will it be for one hour or will it last --- (laughter).

McCLELLAN: We've been through this. I mean, I'm not looking at -- keep in mind -- I think it's important to report the facts of all the access that they've already had to information, which has been full access; all the access they've had to White House officials and administration officials; all the material that has been provided to them. And now they're coming to the President of the United States. Obviously, the President's most solemn obligation is the protection of the American people, and this President is acting to do everything we can to make sure something like September 11th doesn't ever happen again, by taking the fight to the enemy. And we're talking about -- we're also talking about a seven-eight month period, not an eight-year period. But these threats did not happen overnight, but this President is confronting them to make --

Q: Why does he complain all the time, then --

McCLELLAN: -- because he never forgets September 11th.

Q: Will the President apply a different standard and a different response to the intelligence commission that he appointed when he comes to talk with them?

McCLELLAN: What do you mean?

Q: Well, are these the same rules and arrangements by which he would testify ---

McCLELLAN: You're talking about an executive appointed independent commission --

Q: Right. Are these the exact same ---

McCLELLAN: --- and that's --- obviously, that’s just getting underway. And we're going to work -- the President has directed the administration to cooperate fully with that independent commission. And that's what we will. But you're jumping ahead of yourself at this point.

Q: That’s right, you're setting a precedent.

McCLELLAN: You're jumping ahead of yourself at this point. That commission is just getting underway.

Q: I’m jumping ahead of you, because you're setting a precedent with the President's --

McCLELLAN: The President has directed the administration to cooperate fully with the independent commission.

All right, one last one.

Q: Okay, so he will only testify for one hour -- that's a "yes"?

McCLELLAN: Well, that's what has previously been discussed with the commission. But I'm saying the President, of course, is going to answer all the questions they want to raise. I think that you all should make that distinction.

Q: It's scheduled for an hour; it might go longer.

Q: It might go longer?

McCLELLAN: Again, from this podium I'm telling you that the President, of course, will answer all the questions that they want to raise.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Pegged to reservations

MI5, the British Security Service, is expanding. Sort of. It won’t hire men taller than 5’11” or women of 5’8,” because they stand out in a crowd.

The RNC threatens 250 tv stations, threatening that they will lose their licenses if they run’s ad.

A statistician says there is a 67% chance that God exists. The Grauniad, being a British paper, immediately tried to find out if they could place a bet. No, but the odds are 1,000/1 on the second coming.

The temporary pointless Iraqi constitution was finally signed today, although the Shiites immediately said that they didn’t mean it--their signatures were “pegged to reservations.” See how many of the triumphalist news stories that last phrase makes it into.

The US has increased the number of countries in which its soldiers have killed locals under George Bush by one today: Haiti.

Monologist Spalding Gray did commit suicide.

The R’s are talking about Kerry voting against 27 weapons systems. Most of this was a single vote in 1991. Some of the systems on that list were considered useless pork at the time by President Bush (the Bush whom you can call president without using quotation marks) and then secretary of defense Dick Cheney. Hasn’t stopped Cheney attacking Kerry on these grounds.

Remember Shrub’s Thanksgiving photo-op with the troops? Turns out the Iraqi sub-contractor that provided that meal still hasn’t been paid by Halliburton (and for $87m worth of other meals for the troops).

I haven’t mentioned Cyprus much, but there will be a vote April 20th on a reunification plan. It was originally a different date but had to be changed to one that wasn’t the anniversary of a coup in Greece. Which can’t have been easy to find.

55% of the Dutch prison population is foreign-born.

Afghan Puppet Prez Karzai, on International Women’s Day: “Please, my dear brothers, let your wives and sisters go to the voter registration process. Later, you can control who she votes for, but please, let her go.”

The Republicans on why Kerry is a North Korean stooge, or something (and they caught up with him being related to a French environment minister, which I mentioned weeks ago).
With all the talk about how sacred marriage is, Bush didn’t show up at the wedding of brother Neil, even though it was to his mistress rather than a dude. Jeb didn’t show up either. Whatever happened to that paternity test?

Kerry says he would have supported Aristide. Actually, we have proof that this is not true: he didn’t say a damned word during the coup, waiting for everything to be over before he speaking out. Where was he when it might have done Haiti some good?

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Kerry tried to put off being drafted for a year to study in Paris, and his draft board said no. There’s no real proof of this cited in the story. I smell a Republican dirty trick, especially since it’s the Telegraph, which has a track record of disseminating black propaganda from the CIA, which can then be quoted by American media (though it hasn’t been yet).

New York Life Insurance is to pay out life insurance claims from the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Fun Facts to Know and Forget: manufacturing an average desktop computer and 17in monitor uses at least 530lb of fossil fuels, 50lb of chemicals and 3,330lb of water - a total of around two tons.

Hugo Chavez vows a hundred-year war if the US invades Venezuela. Well, only if the US gets really lost, maybe starts out in Africa... could happen too.

Good description, if you can get at it past whatever the LA Times is doing with cookies that set off my browser’s alarm bells, of how Governor Ahnuld campaigned for his propositions (just like an actor plugging a film, duh).

Also, Nellie Connally, who was in the JFK death car, has a book out: From Love Field: Our Final Hours with President John F. Kennedy. Oh brother.

The firefighters in the Bush ad are actually actors.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

I’ve seen this before, but I don’t think I passed it on: North Korea uses The Diary of Anne Frank in its schools, as a metaphor. Guess who’s Anne Frank, and who the Nazis are?

Jimmy Breslin on Bush’s “unlimited personal cheapness.”

Friday, March 05, 2004

Mary Poppins wasn't good enough?

Yesterday I talked about Bush using 9/11 as another clean-slate moment, like his falling on the wagon. I debated including his coming to Christ (I feel soiled just typing that phrase), but I believe Bush doesn’t consider himself a true “born-again” Christian, because that would entail admitting that he was once wrong, which he is congenitally incapable of doing.

Take a quiz: which America-hating minority are you?

For once, it’s the Poles invading Germany. Polish gnomes, anyway.

According to the Post, the source for the US claim that Iraq had mobile weapons labs was some defector who talked to a foreign spy agency. Bush, Cheney, Powell, etc, bandied it about everywhere and no one in the US knew so much as the name of this alleged source. Now it turns out he’s related to a leader of Chalabi’s organization. Remember when a woman who testified to Congress in 1990 about Iraqi troops ripping babies out of incubators in Kuwait turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador?

More news from the culture wars: the relevant House committee approves increasing fines on broadcasters who air “indecent” material from $27,500 to $500,000.

Good Jeffrey Sachs piece on Haiti.

3 strikes inmates are now 1/4 of California’s prisoners. 672 of them are serving 25 years to life for simple drug possession, 354 for petty theft.

I mentioned that in Orange County three 12-year old girls falsely accused a homeless man of assault to cover up coming home late. They were, against expectations, given actual sentences. 30 to 45 days (the homeless man spent 8 months inside before being released).

Blair gives a defiant speech saying that everything he did in Iraq was right, and he’ll do it again. Possibly channeling one of those Bush ads, he says, according to the Guardian: “In what amounted to a personal testimony of his reasons for taking the country into conflict, the prime minister said the September 11 terrorist attacks had been a "revelation" that had convinced him of the need to tackle rogue states and "religious fanatics" prepared to "bring about Armageddon".” Armageddon, revelation, and THEY’RE the religious fanatics.

Speaking of religious fanatics, John “Lost to a Dead Guy” Ashcroft is in the hospital with something painful. Do you suppose he did something to piss God off, like give in to the temptation

Or trying to get the medical records of women who had abortions, which a district judge has just refused to allow. The law banning “partial-birth abortions” included language asserting that the procedure (if there is such a procedure) is never medically necessary as justification for not allowing any exemptions for the health of the mother. And perhaps to set up this slimy little blackmail attempt by Justice.

David Bell, the chief inspector of schools in Britain, says that for girls to fulfill in life the potential they show in schools, they need strong role models, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Elsewhere in the papers, Patrick Stewart of Star Trek blames films for violence against women. He says nothing about violence against vampires. Or Klingons.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Really quick, is God on America’s side?

Bush’s new ads are out. One slogan: “freedom, faith, families and facrisice, sorry, sacrifice, got a little carried away with the alliteration, our bad.”

Another: “An economy in recession. A stock market in decline. A dot-com boom gone bust. Then, a day of tragedy.” Election day 2000? The day the Supreme Court announced Bush v. Gore? Oh, right, September 11, 2001. Note that in one of these ads called “positive” by the press, there is the image of a dead body (under a flag), possibly the first dead body to appear in a presidential ad (insert your own joke about Ronald Reagan here). Bush is portraying himself as “optimistic,” while encouraging Americans to be pessimistic and fearful. Really, think about it, if the only qualities Bush has that they’re touting are his dubious abilities as warlord, why would any optimist vote for him?

Bush’s people are defending the use of WTC footage (favorite quote: “We thought it was important to begin with a reminder of what the country's been through” said senior campaign adviser Matthew Dowd. God knows we’d all forget about 9/11 if a day went by without a helpful reminder). They’re saying that 9/11 is Bush’s defining moment; “It's critical to who this president is.” I remember all the talk about how 9/11 gave him the legitimacy the election didn’t, but I don’t remember anyone making the comparison that just occurred to me, that he’s using 9/11 as the same automatic clean slate that his decision to stop drinking was. You know, forget everything he did before he turned 40; now we’re supposed to forget everything we knew and thought about him before 9/11. He’s got to be looking for another clean-slate moment right about now.

The Arnold got his $15b bond measure, because California goes all soft when he speaks to it in that cute foreign accent.

And Wal-Mart won here in Contra Costa, as we always knew they would.

A good but long Columbia Journalism Review article on how the newspapers failed to scrutinize Bushies’ claims about Iraq before the war.

NBC has a story on its website that the guy currently being blamed for attacks in Iraq, Abu something Zarqawi, is someone the US decided not to go after before the war. He was believed to have set up a bioweapons lab, which you’d think would be considered a serious threat. The Pentagon (this was June 2002) could have taken it out with missiles, but it was in Kurdish Iraq, under the US no-fly zone, which meant Saddam couldn’t be blamed for him (which did not, of course, stop the Bushies from doing so), and it would have shown that terrorists operating out of Iraq could easily have been dealt with by the US without going near Baghdad or toppling Saddam. Which is why Zarqawi was allowed to continue: a mission against him would have been “off message.”

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Don't blame me, I voted for...who the heck did I vote for again?

Some of the creeps currently poised to take power in Haiti were protected by the US, which refused to extradite death squad leaders back to Haiti, showing a sympathy for them they didn’t show any refugees from the civil war in the last week.

Let me quote myself on this subject, from June 1996: “The US frees Haitian death squad leader Emmanuel Constant without deporting him back to Haiti, citing concern for the overburdened Haitian courts and prison system, and not having anything to do with his CIA links at all, no sirree bob.” A search also turns up a News of the Weird piece that one Haitian colonel granted residency despite being wanted to serve out a homicide/torture conviction won $3.2m in the Florida lottery in 1997.

Good Haiti article.

The Central African Republic is telling Aristide to shut up about being kidnapped.

Now about the kidnapping thing: the Bushies are trying to reduce this to a single moment, when Aristide left. Were there US Marines with guns pointed at his head? If not, it doesn’t count as kidnapping and the US is exonerated. But Aristide being driven out does not come down to that single moment, but resulted from a series of decisions in which the US was involved. Not sending troops, obviously; visibly not backing up the elected president, which made the insurrectionists understand that no consequences would follow if there were no negotiations, which the US pretended to call for but its actions undermined; and the thing I come to back to, in part because while other facts are contested this one is not: the US demanded that Aristide sign a letter of resignation, so he could not be a president-in-exile, as he was after 1991. The US, its policy being run by long-time Aristide-haters like Otto Reich and that Noriega guy, created a situation where Aristide could either die or leave. Which is close enough to kidnapping in my book.

Florida is so progressive that not only can they teach evolution, they can give practical examples (or would have been had the classroom been higher).

As I write, there are 2 more hours before the polls close and CNN is announcing that Edwards is pulling out. Remember how the networks and news channels promised they wouldn’t broadcast exit poll results and so forth before the polls closed? Jackasses.

And Howard Dean wins Vermont, which you have to sorta admire.

Robert Fisk has a slightly incoherent article that might turn out to be important, questioning all the talk about a Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq.

From the Telegraph: “A Benedictine nun could lose her driving licence after hitting a car parked outside her convent at Krzeszow, Poland, while drunk at the wheel of a tractor.”

Alastair Cooke, 95, retires from broadcasting Letter from America on BBC (and NPR) after 58 years, the quitter.

The prime minister-designate of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica, is talking about partitioning Kosovo. Here we fucking go again.

Baby Doc Duvalier wants to be allowed to return to Haiti. “This is my country. I'm ready to put myself at the disposal of the Haitian people.” And disposal is just what he deserves.

Coca Cola has started marketing bottled water in Britain. Turns out it comes out of a tap.

The British Tory party chooses its first openly lesbian candidate for Parliament. Labour has at least one that I can think of off the top of my head, one of a pair of identical twins who are both MPs, the other of whom is straight, which still sounds like a wacky sitcom to me.

Monday, March 01, 2004

The constitution of Haiti is working

Russia has retaliated against Qatar for arresting its hitmen by arresting 2 members of a Qatari judo team. Can’t make this shit up.

Bush: “The constitution of Haiti is working. There is an interim president, as per the constitution, in place.” Well, maybe the Haitian constitution does actually establish a process involving death squads, coups and US Marines in order to select a new president, something like the electoral college. I mean have you ever read the Haitian constitution? It’s amazing how the US found troops to send into Haiti now, when there were none available last week to support the elected president. Even if you don’t credit the stories that Aristide was forced onto a helicopter at gunpoint by US forces (Later: including from Aristide himself), the whole thing does rather smell.

Even if he had to flee, Aristide should not have resigned. (Later: ah, it was a US condition for getting him safely out of the country. That much is admitted by Powell and McClellan. Let me repeat: the US told him to resign, or die. Aristide also says they threatened to remove his security. And is claiming that he didn’t actually resign. The US says he signed a letter of resignation: so let’s see it.). Bush says “This is the beginning of a new chapter,” using a metaphor derived from these things he’s heard of called books.

The US is talking about setting up a “council of elders” in Haiti. Normally I’d be using the word “puppet” right about now, and feeling a little silly about it, like I’m channeling a Maoist from 1969. For Haiti, I get to use the word zombie. Council of zombies. Granted their counsel might be restricted to “Braaaaains. Must eat braaaaaaaaains,” but it’ll still be better than the United States Senate.

Helpful fact: you kill zombies by filling their mouth with salt and sewing it closed. Saw it on an episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

I asked, about the 5-second delay at the Oscars, whether they were trying to prevent another Janet Jackson or another Michael Moore. Answer: the latter under the pretense of the former. ABC threatened actors with being cut off if they said anything about Bush or the war.

From the Indy: “The Israeli fashion house Comme-il-faut plans to shoot its summer catalogue at Israel's West Bank security barrier this week, the company said yesterday, less than a week after troops shot dead two Palestinians protesting against the network of walls, wire and ditches.”