Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Fiddler on the border

Tom Ridge resigns because “I wanted to raise some personal and family matters to a slightly higher priority.” He uses color codes for everything, doesn’t he? [Insert your own joke here about how he asks his wife for sex.] At his press conference, he talked about the hardships for his family when he was called by Bush to come to Washington on short notice, and how he looks forward to his son’s rugby games, and he said all this without any recognition that there are reservists and victims of “stop-loss” orders in Iraq without the ability to say “I just want to step back and pay a little more attention to some other personal matters.” (If that criticism seems strained or unfair, well, I’m not the one who keeps insisting this is a “war” on terrorism.)

Carlos the Jackal has gone on hunger strike against prison conditions, the poor baby. He has done this before; on 11/13/98 I wrote: “Carlos the Jackal is on hunger strike. What do jackals normally eat, anyway? Carrion? In a French prison that would of course be carrion with a really superb sauce and exactly the right wine.”

The Israeli military is now claiming that they didn’t order the Palestinian to play his violin at the checkpoint (they initially said they made him do it to prove there were no explosives in the violin, a story disproved by a photo of the event, showing him playing just a couple of feet away from the soldiers), that in fact he just started up spontaneously. The violinist says not. They told him to play “something sad.” We still don’t know what he played--honestly, reporters these days.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A basic human right all of us should treasure

The Dept of Homeland Security is forcing employees to sign pledges not to disclose non-classified information. See if any 20th-century English authors come to mind as you read this statement by dept spokesmodel Valerie Smith (if that is her real name): “The nondisclosure agreements do not limit the dissemination of information in any way.”

Did you all come up with Orwell? Of course you did, how could you not. Now see if you can read another part of Ms. “Smith”’s statement without laughing bitterly: “The notion that the agreement would be used to cover up evidence of wrongdoing is baseless.”

The Iraqi elections will be fought by 200+ political parties. Each one will have its own logo, although the WaPo reports that “some logos have been prohibited, including a Koran with a halo around it, a mass grave and a Kalashnikov rifle.” Um, was that party for or against mass graves? If anyone sees a website with any of these party logos, please pass it on.

A WaPo editorial argues against postponing elections, “the only peaceful means for establishing an Iraqi government with real authority,” in the same paragraph that it says those elections will require “continued U.S. and Iraqi military operations to clear insurgents from Sunni towns”. The WaPo must be using some arcane definition of the word “peaceful” with which I am not familiar. Oh dear, we’re all thinking about George Orwell again, aren’t we?

Speaking of “War = Peace,” numerous blogs have mentioned this site, selling t-shirts in support of the Marine who shot the unarmed POW in Fallujah, and other overpriced t-shirts to buy for the sociopath who has everything.

Well, as long as we’re in full-Orwell mode, here’s what the British home secretary David Blunkett said today about mandatory identity cards (which will involve a £2,500 for those who resist, and a £1,000 fine for moving without telling the government): “Strengthening our identity is one way of reinforcing confidence and people's sense of citizenship. Knowing your true identity and being able to demonstrate it is a positive plus [double plus good?]. It is a basic human right all of us should treasure”.

I missed this: in this month’s election, Tom Parker, an aide to Roy Moore, was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court. He is known for his love of the Confederate flag and recently attended a party commemorating Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (but not, as the Associated Press says, the founder). This in the same election where the state failed to pass a referendum removing segregationist language from the state constitution.

The cleansing in Fallujah of terrorist elements is continuing

Allawi: “The level of criminal operations has receded and is continuing to drop following the operation in Fallujah ... The cleansing in Fallujah of terrorist elements is continuing and we are preparing for the residents to return to their city”. Isn’t it... special... when the interim acting puppet prime minister of a country refers to the killing of his fellow citizens, even citizens he doesn’t like, as “cleansing”?

I’m not sure if that interview was conducted before or after a bomb killed a bunch of policemen. I’ve wondered in the past why after the third, or fourth, or fifth time a car bomb killed people standing on line to join the Iraqi police or military, they were still made to stand on line in the street, but it seems that even after they join up, they still have to stand on line to get paid.

Last week, the “coalition” launched a new military campaign in the “triangle of death,” called Operation Plymouth Rock. How very seasonal.

Oxford Concise Dictionary: “Leader: a short strip of non-functioning material at each end of a reel of film or recording tape for connection to the spool.”

And worth every penny

I thought it was a little odd when Israel meekly agreed not to interfere with Palestinians in East Jerusalem voting in the PA elections. But in fact they are obstructing voter registration.

In his Thanksgiving Day proclamation, Bush praised those who helped the needy: “By seeking out those who are hurting and by lending a hand, Americans touch the lives of their fellow citizens and help make our Nation and the world a better place.” But that was then. The NYT reports that Bush donors are being asked to give yet again to fund his inauguration to the tune of 40+ million dollars, which is a lot of hookers and coke. Is it actually appropriate in a democratic republic to have a $40 million inauguration? And does that include the accessories?:

Sunday, November 28, 2004

How to shed those extra holiday pounds

Ukraine seems to be moving towards a re-run of the presidential election, which is fine as far as it goes, since it is impossible to determine the true result of the last one. But what are the conditions required for a new, fair election? Yushchenko’s people are demanding that Yanukovych not be allowed to fight it as sitting prime minister, and that the electoral commission be purged. Meanwhile, the regional legislature of Donetsk has voted 164-1--repeat, 164 to 1--to hold a referendum on autonomy for the region before on Dec. 5, before any possible presidential election re-run. Clearly the regional fissures won’t go away no matter which Mr. Y becomes president.

Zimbabwe has land-reformed itself into a basket case, and millions have fled the country’s poverty and fascism (a term I don’t use lightly, except when I do: Zim has re-education camps, secret police, racist rhetoric, the forcible disbanding of every independent institution, etc). The government’s newest solution to its inability to run the farms it seized from whites: “obesity tourism.” Lure rich fat white tourists from, say, the US, to “provide labour for farms in the hope of shedding weight while enjoying the tourism experience. ... The tourists can then top it all by flaunting their slim bodies on a sun-downer cruise on the Zambezi or surveying the majestic Great Zimbabwe ruins.”

Saturday, November 27, 2004

He’d also like Santy to bring him a pony

Bush refuses to criticize the pork-laden spending bill, but does say, “I hope the Congress will give me a line-item veto.” Moron Boy evidently doesn’t know that Congress can’t do that, that the last time they tried it was struck down by the Supreme Court (in 1998) as unconstitutional. How can he not know that?

What’s wrong with this picture: the WaPo buries the story about the alleged assassination attempt on Bush on p.24, in World in Brief. Dunno which page it’s on in the NYT, but they don’t seem to take the story seriously either, noting that the Colombians made the claim “without offering details or proof.”

The attempted coup plot in Equatorial Guinea, in which Margaret Thatcher’s idiot son Mark is implicated, was known in advance by the British and American governments, neither of which told the...whatever you call residents of Equatorial Guinea (2 stories in the Observer).

Michael Kinsley states the obvious, but he states it well: all the talk about “values” is a way of putting a thumb on the scale in favor of one’s own views by making it literally an act of bad taste to challenge them: “a value just seems inherently more compelling than a mere opinion. ... the holder of a value is held to be more sensitive to slights than the holder of an opinion. An opinion can’t just slug away at a value. It must be solicitous and understanding. A value may tackle an opinion, meanwhile, with no such constraint.”

Friday, November 26, 2004

Bush meets Dr. No

A WaPo story about the US decision not to attend an international conference on land mines claims, “At present, the United States does not maintain land mines anywhere in the world.” Actually, we use millions of the things in Korea.

For some reason only the BBC has this: the Colombian government is claiming that it thwarted a guerilla plan to assassinate Bush when he visited there Monday. Me, I wouldn’t trust anything the Uribe gov told me without tons of corroboration. Hopefully this thing gets disproved quickly, so that one day we won’t have President Jenna invading Colombia because “they tried to kill my dad.”

Bush tried to help the Northern Ireland peace process today, which should ensure another 300 years of civil war. Specifically, the most stubborn person in the US (that would be Bush) telephoned the Rev. Ian Paisley, the most stubborn human being on the planet. Oh how I’d love a tape of that conversation.

What, no “defenestration?”

The city of Carmel, California passes an emergency ban on new art galleries. The town has one gallery for every 34 residents, so you can see how that would constitute an emergency.

The German police shoot Santa Claus dead, after he robs a bank.

Sold on eBay for $26: this picture of the Virgin Mary eating a grilled cheese sandwich with an image of herself on it. I think I can guess what the next item for sale will be.

The British Council conducted a survey of non-native-English-speakers of their favorite English words:

1 Mother
2 Passion
3 Smile
4 Love
5 Eternity
6 Fantastic
7 Destiny
8 Freedom
9 Liberty
10 Tranquillity
11 Peace
12 Blossom
13 Sunshine
14 Sweetheart
15 Gorgeous
16 Cherish
17 Enthusiasm
18 Hope
19 Grace
20 Rainbow
21 Blue
22 Sunflower
23 Twinkle
24 Serendipity
25 Bliss
26 Lullaby
27 Sophisticated
28 Renaissance
29 Cute
30 Cosy
31 Butterfly
32 Galaxy
33 Hilarious
34 Moment
35 Extravaganza
36 Aqua
37 Sentiment
38 Cosmopolitan
39 Bubble
40 Pumpkin
41 Banana
42 Lollipop
43 If
44 Bumblebee
45 Giggle
46 Paradox
47 Delicacy
48 Peekaboo
49 Umbrella
50 Kangaroo
51 Flabbergasted
52 Hippopotamus
53 Gothic
54 Coconut
55 Smashing
56 Whoops
57 Tickle
58 Loquacious
59 Flip-flop
60 Smithereens
61 Oi
62 Gazebo
63 Hiccup
64 Hodgepodge
65 Shipshape
66 Explosion
67 Fuselage
68 Zing
69 Gum
70 Hen night

Yes, but is it art?

In case you thought that the Virgin Mary & grilled cheese sandwich story was the only news story involving old white bread this week, the artist Antony Gormley is exhibiting at the Tate this piece, in which he chewed (or as he would doubtless put it, sculpted) his own body weight out of 8,000 pieces of bread, preserved in wax.

(OK, I’ve looked at his website, and some of his non-bread-related sculpture is rather good, or at least it is when put in interesting surroundings and photographed)(Oh, he’s the guy who did the Angel of the North, I thought the name was familiar).

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Action on locusts

The Czech Republic approves pensions for former political prisoners, pro-rated.

Headline of the day: “Israel Demands Action on Locusts.” (Locusts are crossing the border from Egypt)

From the Daily Telegraph:
An Italian judge has ruled that an elderly married couple can divorce but should continue to live under the same roof - with the husband’s lover.

The decision by the high court in Pordenone near Venice was made after the wife filed for divorce, and asked for the marital home. But the judge said the house was big enough for “everyone to live in comfortably”.
Jonathan Steele has a cautionary article about Yushchenko personally, and about the forms of intervention by the US and EU in Ukraine’s election. And he’s correct that Mr Y is not the liberal reformer or democrat he’s being portrayed as, but it’s about the democratic process, not the candidate. And Steele’s suggestion of power-sharing is ridiculous.

A bunch of diplomats went to the Thanksgiving dinner of the US Ambassador to the UN food agencies in Rome, which right off sounds like a not-too-bright thing to do. They drew tickets at random, which divided them into 3 groups, 1 of which got a gourmet meal, 1 got some rice and beans, and 1 was shoved out of the house into the garden with a little bit of cold rice.

The Bush admin wanted to more than double federal spending on abstinence-only “education,” but only got a 30% increase. Studies of the programs at the state level have shown that they don’t work, but the Bushies have delayed releasing a national evaluation until 2006, saying that if Congress really loves and respects them, it won’t mind waiting. The assistant secretary of Health and Human Services in charge of abstinence funding is named...wait for it...Wade Horn. Oh, and a HHS spokesman is named Bill Pierce, which could also sound dirty.

I’ve just looked up Mr., um, Horn, and there are bigger problems with him than the funny name. The abstinence thing is part of his larger fatherhood (i.e., anti-feminist) agenda: he really hates the idea of single women bringing up children, and has advocated having the government pressure them to give up their children to be adopted by two-parent couples, for example by denying them housing, welfare and other benefits.

No moral right to push a major European country to mass mayhem

Ha’aretz headline
: “Soldiers Force Palestinian to Play Violin at W. Bank Checkpoint.” At least they didn’t shoot at his feet to make him dance at the same time. Ha’aretz doesn’t tell us what music he was forced to play.

Favorite story of fraud in the Ukrainian election: voters being given pens with invisible ink with which to mark their ballots.

I’ve been wondering about the geography of the political divide in Ukraine (I swear I’ll support whichever candidate restores the The to The Ukraine, it just seems naked without it). This Indy article explains it.

Putin urges on EU countries the restraint he hasn’t shown on Ukraine: “We have no moral right to push a major European country to mass mayhem.” Can’t we do it just for fun?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Wherein I give thanks for a Bush Turkey Day Proclamation to make fun of

Bush’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation is stuffed full of God-y goodness. “We are grateful for our freedom, grateful for our families and friends, and grateful for the many gifts of America. On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge that all of these things, and life itself, come from the Almighty God.” I thought it was from my parents fucking.

Oo, a history lesson: “Almost four centuries ago, the Pilgrims celebrated a harvest feast to thank God after suffering through a brutal winter.” No, they would have thanked God for SURVIVING the winter, not for the suffering; they were Puritans, not masochists thanking their dominatrix. Also, did the Puritans settle in South America? because up here, winter usually comes AFTER November (and the 1621 wingding was actually in October).

“By seeking out those who are hurting and by lending a hand, Americans touch the lives of their fellow citizens and help make our Nation and the world a better place.” You’ll notice that nation gets an initial cap but the world doesn’t.

“We are grateful to the homeland security and intelligence personnel who spend long hours on faithful watch. And we give thanks for the Americans in our Armed Forces who are serving around the world to secure our country and advance the cause of freedom.” Yes, don’t forget to thank the Lord Jesus for the Department of Homeland Security and the spooks of the CIA.

Why the killing of intelligence reform, and proper subject-verb agreement, matter

NYT headline: “Data on Deaths From Obesity Is Inflated, U.S. Agency Says.” Let me explain this again: one datum, two data. Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk. Also, “inflated?” Is that a pathetic attempt at a joke?

Liberal Oasis reminds me of a subject I had meant to write about but forgot: this week Hastert killed the intelligence bill (whose worth I’m still agnostic on, by the way), refusing to allow a vote on it because although it would have passed with the support of D’s & R’s, it did not have a majority of Republicans. Commanding the support of a majority of Congress is no longer enough, for Hastert. The corollary of this is that Democratic lawmakers can just stay home, their opinions no longer count. This is a new reading of the constitution, a small but significant revolution.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it’s a three year old, needs to be killed

From the Guardian: “An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old.” He is charged with conduct unbecoming an officer and illegal use of his weapon, i.e., emptying a 10-round magazine into her. When this incident happened, the Israeli military claimed that her book bag was mistaken for a bomb. In fact, the tapes show they thought no such thing, knew she was a little girl (they thought even younger), who was heading away from, not towards the army post. The officer who went to check on her reported back “I confirmed the kill,” meaning not that he checked her pulse, but that he shot her ten times, adding “Anything that’s mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it’s a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over.” Over, indeed.

Gearing up for a probable spring general election on the slogan: “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid,” Tony Blair announced his program in today’s Queen’s Speech: authoritarianism, authoritarianism, authoritarianism. Compulsory identity cards, compulsory drug testing of arrestees, with prosecutions for “possession” for those with drugs in their bloodstream, trials without juries for alleged terrorists, a British FBI. The only thing they’ve left out--so far--is color-coded alert levels. They think that “Middle England,” like “Middle America” and “Middle Earth,” just want security, and believe that if a terrorist tries to shoot them, the bullet will bounce off their ID cards. And just to ramp it up a little, “someone” leaked a story, almost certainly untrue, that the gov stopped Al Qaida flying planes into London skyscrapers a while back.

Various municipal and regional governments in Ukraine are lining up behind one or the other of the two Mr Y’s. Doesn’t look good. The US has finally decided to pick a side, warning the Ukrainian government not to certify the elections until investigations of the massive voter fraud, and warning the government “not to use or incite violence, and to allow free media to report accurately on the situation without intimidation or coercion.” Would have been nice if they’d said anything about violence, fraud and free media before and during the elections. Now, it’s a little late. This is the problem with being the sponsor of unfree elections in Afghanistan and Iraq: we have set the bar for “democratic elections” so low that we are not credible advocates of democracy in places like Ukraine. (Good set of Ukraine photos here.)

Russia has made particularly strong statements against American and European “interference” in the elections, although Putin himself went to campaign for Yanukovych. Mr Y and the other Mr Y are being described as pro-Russian and pro-Western, as if the Cold War had revived, stripped of any ideology, centered on power and trade and nothing more.

An online casino bought a 10-year old grilled cheese sandwich with an image of the Virgin Mary for only $28,000, with no mold, proving its divine nature, and a bite taken out of it, proving that the Virgin Mary is delicious.

I get to be part of the solution

It’s great to live in a country where anyone can grow up to become president, and then have their horrific assassination turned into a video game, “JFK Reloaded.”

Soldiers at Fort Lewis, Washington
, training to be guards, have been playing Guantanamo Reloaded, throwing chocolate pudding and lemon-lime Gatorade (to resemble bodily fluids) at each other. Said Lt. Col Warren Perry, “I feel good about this mission. I get to be part of the solution.”

Article on the White House website: “Mrs. Cheney Tops the National Christmas Tree.” So the stick up her ass is huge, but it’s festive.
His father threw up on the Japanese prime minister, and now he’s preparing to urinate on the Mr. Koizumi. They have real issues with Japan, don’t they?

Nuclear issues are not polite dinner conversation

The Indy on Iraqi Kurdistan, trying not to get fucked over again.

Tom Burka gets Bush’s duplicity on the intelligence bill exactly right: “I am very disappointed that I stopped the intelligence bill from making its way of out committee and I vow to work harder to see that that bill goes farther before I once again make sure that it never becomes law.” More.

One story about the Istook Clause (allowing Congressional committee chairs and their designees full access to income tax records without privacy protections) is that the IRS itself wanted it. That’s just one cow pat in the storm of bullshit, but if it’s true, there might be a reason: every few years the R’s in Congress have hearings into abuses of power by the IRS, which is one of the reason they now only audit poor people who can’t fight back. In those hearings people testify about how they were victimized, and some of those people are major tax shirkers trying to pressure the IRS to drop their cases, and the IRS can’t fight back with the truth, because those records are private. So that’s why the IRS might want this.

But Josh Marshall has the larger question right: “What does it say about the majority’s management of the legislative process in Congress at present that it’s been two and half days since this line item was discovered and no one has been able to determine who wrote it or who put it in the bill?”

What if the whole Iraqi resistance is just a fiendish conspiracy by Iraqi cabbies to drive up the price for a trip to Baghdad airport, reported as now costing more than $5,000.

At the international conference on Iraq, Colin Powell accidentally wound up seated at dinner next to the Iranian foreign minister, suggesting that Egyptian caterers are as sneaky as Iraqi cabbies. Sample dialog:
“Would you pass the salt?”

“We possess salt for peaceful purposes and will never give it in to the demands of arrogant imperialists that we give it up!”
We are told that they did not discuss nukes because, says a State dept flak, quoting Martha Stewart: “nuclear issues [are not] polite dinner conversation.”

Meanwhile, Bush, who was not at dinner at the time, did talk about Iranian nukes, working the word verify or verification into every single sentence. That “word of the day” calendar is really paying off for him. Now if he could just verify the actual pronunciation of nuclear...

Then Bush went to Colombia, protected by 15,000 troops, more than were involved in the invasion of Fallujah, and said that Colombia now had much less murder and kidnapping than it used to. He promise to continue giving the country lots of money in order to combat drug traffickers, or possibly terrorists (he pretends not to know the difference, or that right-wing groups also traffic in drugs).

Monday, November 22, 2004

Places of atrocities

A WaPo article on the alleged finding of sites in Fallujah where hostages were held goes into irony overload in quoting US military types:
“They had a sick, depraved culture of violence in that city.” Lt. Col. Daniel Wilson, an operations officer with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

“These thugs depended on fear and control.” Maj. James West, Marine intelligence officer

“places of atrocities”. ditto
Incidentally, have you noticed how no one is talking about how important it is to capture/kill Zarqawi anymore?

Sunday, November 21, 2004


A group of Greek lawyers will sue Oliver Stone if he releases his film depicting Alexander the Great as gay.

After two incidents at the Asia-Pacific summit in which Bush and the Secret Service trampled on local law enforcement, and a state dinner was cancelled when they insisted they would put Chilean diplomats and plutocrats through metal detectors, Bush still fell for it when they gave them this, snicker, example of local, muffled guffaw, fashion to wear. It’s unclear if Putin was in on the practical joke.

The London Times: “Onlookers speculated that Mr Bush appeared particularly pleased with his because it is ideal for concealing his radio-controlled prompting device.”

I would hope that the Senate would take my word

Iraq’s parliamentary elections are now scheduled for Jan. 30. A BBC caption notes, “Violence in hotspots like Falluja threatens to disrupt the poll.” But no one ever asks if the poll threatens to disrupt the violence, the one utility we’ve succeeded in getting to run on time (little Mussolini reference there), with great efficiency. Fallujah may not have electricity or water, but it does have hot and cold running violence.

Meanwhile, back in the other imperialist war, the Catholic cardinal of Abidjan and Ivory Coast’s President Gbagbo have accused the French military of decapitating several young protesters. The defense minister of France, where the guillotine was invented, said the “outrageousness” of the claims “strips them of any credibilité.”

The Senate voted to buy Chimpy a presidential yacht, and Rising Hegemon is having a contest to name it. My entrees:
SS Shock and Awe

SS Mission Accomplished

SS Can’t Get Fooled Again

SS And I Can Start Drinking Again On It And No One Would Ever Find Out And Why Are You Writing That Down?

SS Freeance
I could do this all day. Go add your own.

Ted Stevens thinks that because he has given his word that he would never use his power to look at tax returns and then post them on the internet, they should just pass the bill. “I would hope that the Senate would take my word.” Ted, I don’t actually think you asked for this power or would use it, but I don’t want my privacy dependent on the “word” of anyone. Does the phrase “a government of laws, not men” mean anything to you? If we wanted government by unaccountable hereditary monarchs with unlimited powers we’d have... never mind.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

In America, patience and fortitude will always lose to biscuits and gravy

The WaPo notes, in an editorial I can’t be arsed to link to, that Bush has made almost no use of the power of clemency, despite the fact that we’re all supposed to forgive and forget everything he did before age 40 because, you know, God did. The article worked in some reference to the annual Thanksgiving pardon of turkeys, which reminded me that last week I was at the White House website and saw a link to a page where one could cast a vote in that pardon process. Which sounded like it meant they’d show you pictures of various turkeys and you could vote on which ones to save, a bit macabre, but turned out to be voting to name the pardoned ones. To spare you further suspense, I will just say that “Biscuits” and “Gravy” won, with 19,581 votes, crushing Adams & Jefferson, Salt & Pepper, and what must have been intended as a sop to the Puritans: Patience & Fortitude. I did not vote, because there was no place to write in Shock & Awe.

Gene Weingarten, naming either liberals’ fears about the next 4 years, or Dick Cheney’s secret checklist:
They think that we will begin invading small countries for frivolous reasons, such as that we want their sorghum. They think we will so inflame global hatreds that we will destabilize the world the way a baseball bat destabilizes a flamingo. They think we will become a corporate kleptocracy -- that big businesses will no longer even have to go through the formality of getting tax breaks because the federal treasury will simply mail them cash. That the portraits of the presidents on our money will be replaced by portraits of famous robber barons. That it will be illegal to be black. That Planned Parenthood clinics will be allowed to issue only chastity belts and clothes hangers. That the pledge of Allegiance will include the phrase ". . . under our Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, King of the Patriarchs, Master of the Apostles, Redeemer of Souls, Shepherd of the Only True Way, Vanquisher of Islam . . ." That, in terms of puritanical zeal, we will come to resemble 17th-century Salem, with ritual stoning of heretics or potty-mouths. That we will be forced to use words such as "thee" and "thine." That it will be illegal to have sex unless you are wearing pajamas.

Auditions for the Baghdad Rep production of Chorus Line are not going well.

Get rid of

Bush: “the will is strong, that the effort is united and the message is clear to Mr. Kim Jong Il: Get rid of your nuclear weapons programs”. See, this is why we need a president who can speak the English language, because someone is going to have to explain that by “get rid of” he didn’t mean sell them on Ebay.

The new delicacy in Europe: horse milk.

Somebody tried to sneak a provision into the appropriations bill giving committee the chairs of the appropriations committees of the House and Senate access to anyone’s income tax returns. Ted Stevens, chair of the Senate committee, said it was all a mystery to him how that happened.

Rep. Jerry Weller has married a member of the Guatemalan parliament, the daughter of former dictator and genocidal maniac Efrían Ríos Montt. See this previous post for a rant on the subject.

Partisan stalker

Tom DeLay, who once said he supported the impeachment of Clinton because Clinton held “the wrong worldview,” calls Chris Bell, who successfully brought an ethics charge against DeLay, a “partisan stalker”.

Little known DeLay fact: he was expelled by Baylor U. for drinking and carousing.

A WaPo editorial suggests that Bush & Condi should “Watch Venezuela,” which it accuses of moving in an authoritarian direction. Which may be true, but after Bush supported a coup attempt against the democratically elected president, his administration now has no moral standing to say anything about Venezuela. The editorial, which mentions the coup attempt but not the American support, says, “It is difficult for the United States to respond to Mr. Chavez, in part because he has adopted Mr. Castro’s practice of portraying the United States as an enemy bent on imperial intervention in Venezuela.” Yeah, can’t imagine what reason Castro and Chavez would have to think of the US that way.

The AMA is considering going after the medical license of Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher. Doctors aren’t supposed to participate in executions--do no harm, you know--and he signed a death warrant. As much as I’d like to side with the AMA on this one, its job is to police doctors’ ethics only when they’re acting as doctors.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Not just for Christmas

Israel apologizes for its army killing 3 Egyptian border policemen. You’d never know from some of the press descriptions--the NYT writes that “an Israeli tank crew fired on an Egyptian patrol near the border with Gaza”--that the Israelis fired into Egypt which is another country. Also, the Israeli tank being on that particular road was a violation of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Egypt is being very forgiving about the whole incident, which does legally constitute an act of war, including letting the Israelis investigate, although the deaths occurred, as I said, in Egypt.

Putin announces that Russia will soon build a totally awesome new nuclear weapon that none of the other cool kids have, only he can’t say what it is. He also totally has a girl friend, only you’ve never seen her because she goes to another school. Absent from the announcement: any hint as to why Russia needs new weapons, and against whom they’d be aimed.

Worthy charity of the week: http://www.adoptasniper.org/

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Aware of information

On his way out the door, Colin Powell is turning up the heat on Iran, saying it’s working on delivery systems for nukes. Well, gosh, I’d sure hate for the smoking gun on that to be a mushroom cloud--I’ve heard that that’s bad. He says he has “seen intelligence” and is “aware of information that suggests” that Iran is up to mischief. Uh huh. Aware of information would be a step up for most Bushies, but it’s still not a ringing endorsement of the truth of the charge: “This is a date which may well live in infamy, if I have my facts straight.” “J’accuse, j’pense.”

A UN report says that opium production now employs 10% of Afghanistan’s population and is the “main engine of economic growth and the strongest bond among previously quarrelsome peoples”. Isn’t that sweet?

Divorce is legalized in Chile as of today. In the entire world, only Malta and the Philippines have no provision for divorce.

The Scottish Parliament legalizes public breastfeeding in any location where children are allowed, and makes trying to stop breastfeeding a crime. Plan your vacations accordingly. The Conservatives opposed the law, oddly enough using the phrase “nanny state.”

Molly Ivins has more on Tom DeLay and ethics rules. A must-read.

Canadian PM Paul Martin expels from the Liberal Party an MP, Carolyn Parrish, who appeared on a comedy show and stamped on an effigy of George Bush.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The world deserves better toilets

I’m still hoping for more amusing stories than this one to come out of the world toilet summit in Beijing. But it did have this quote:
“People are saying ‘We want good toilets!’ because toilets are a basic human right and that basic human right has been neglected,” said Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organisation, a co-sponsor of the summit. “The world deserves better toilets.”
That did lead me to that organization’s website, which should be viewed if only for the logo. And one may “join us as a toilet ambassador today.” Don’t bother downloading the song, though.

Speaking of toilet ambassadors, the real problem with changing the rules to let DeLay stay in power after he’s indicted is the claim that the prosecution is politically motivated. That claim might be marginally acceptable for the R’s to make against a district attorney, even a judge, but not a grand jury composed of citizens.

Now if there were some way to torture blasphemers using origami....

Following the model of sorryeverybody.com, there’s a new one where Californians offer amends for electing Ahnuld. No, wait, it wants to amend... the constitution ... so he can become president. Dear lord no. Still no sign of him giving up his Austrian citizenship.

From the American Prospect website: “FUN WITH NAMES. You have to hand it to George W. Bush: He has a very sophisticated sense of humor. Naming a ‘Spellings’ (his former education policy advisor in Texas, Margaret Spellings) as education secretary? Next, perhaps someone named ‘Nucular’ to replace former energy secretary Spencer Abraham?”

The Netherlands’ government thinks it has the solution to the religious violence, burning of mosques, etc, that has escalated since the murder of Theo van Gogh: revive the blasphemy laws. The law against “scornful blasphemy” was enacted in 1932 for use against a communist paper which had suggested banning Christmas. Presumably, van Gogh would have been prosecuted for saying mean things about Islam, so there would have been no need to kill him.

In a sillier but less obnoxious response to religious violence, the Thai prime minister has called on Thais to fold 60 million origami birds, to be dropped from military planes on the country’s Muslim provinces. Said PM Thaksin, “The birds will also send the message that Thais of all races and religions love peace.” I did mention that they’d be dropped from military planes, didn’t I?

The strength, the grace and the decency of our country

Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state. It is to shudder. Although to give Shrub credit, Rice is not the least diplomatic person he could have found for the job, but Rumsfeld was busy, doing such a good job fucking up Iraq. Bush said today, “in Dr. Rice, the world will see the strength, the grace and the decency of our country.” Really, that’s what they’ll see?

Speaking of the world seeing the strength, grace & decency of our country, I can’t help noticing that we haven’t heard a word from Rummy on the subject of the prisoner execution in Fallujah. Or from Bush. Or from anyone with a familiar name. That incident badly needs a name, to help ensure it doesn’t get swept under the rug. Pending somebody offering a better name, I suggest the alliterative Murder in the Mosque, with apologies to T.S. Eliot. Also, we still haven’t heard from any US member of Congress willing to go on record against the summary execution of wounded prisoners. There was a time when such a shooting bothered people just a little.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Cultural sensitivity

The military responds to the shooting of that unarmed wounded prisoner in Fallujah by taking a firm stance in favor of moral relativism. The Times says, “Pentagon officials quickly let it be known that in a separate incident the same day a Marine was killed and five were wounded by a dead body that was booby-trapped.” So that’s ok then. In fact, many of the Marines interviewed by various press people defend the killing (for example), and none express outrage of even the mildest sort.

The marine commander in Fallujah says, “The facts of this case will be thoroughly pursued to make an informed decision and to protect the rights of all persons involved.” All persons? I can’t wait to see how they protect the rights of the guy who was shot to death.

AP has a story, “Iraqis Remove Corpses under U.S. Oversight,” implying great cultural sensitivity on the part of the Marines for using Muslims to ensure the burial of the dead of Fallujah according to Muslim burial practices. Did I mention the booby-trapped corpses?

AP also brings us this stunner: “Shooting of Iraqi in Mosque Angers Muslims.”

Speaking of cultural sensitivity:
A Nigerian court has sentenced a man to death by hanging for murdering his wife so that witch-doctors could use her organs to bring him riches. Robert Ibrahim Chilaka, 42, killed Cecilia, 25, and took her body parts to the ritualists who promised him one million naira (£4,060) but fled without paying him. (AFP)
Speaking of cultural sensitivity (in as much as campaign corruption is part of Republican culture) House Republicans will tomorrow change their rules so that Tom DeLay can remain Majority Leader when he is indicted for campaign finance violations.

Settlers in Gaza will be richly compensated when/if they are ever removed. They can use the money to move to... the West Bank.

Sec of Ed. Rod Paige resigned, according to his spokesmodel, to “devote attention to a personal project”--remodeling his home.

Google special

I wasn’t sure if I would put up a link to the “unedited footage of marine shooting unarmed Iraqi,” to quote the Google search that led many disappointed punters to this site today, but I’ve seen the video in its bowdlerized (see, I said that word would come up again) form several times now, on the News Hour, BBC, etc, and the act of sanitization annoys me a little more each time, even though I have no desire to watch it. So I just hope you’re all here for the “right” reasons, and here’s the link.

I’m not sure it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favours systematically

US troops are in the process of sealing off Mosul.

Bush spoke to Muslim leaders at an Iftar dinner to celebrate the end of Ramadan: “We will always protect the most basic human freedom, the freedom to worship the almighty God without any fear.” He was then immediately struck by lightning.

Tony Blair: “It is not a sensible or intelligent response for us in Europe to ridicule American arguments and parody their political leadership.” That’s just for people in Europe, right? Because if I couldn’t parody American political leadership, life would not be worth living.

In that speech, Blair pathetically explained to Europeans that Britain was a bridge between the US and Europe, and implied that Bush’s very crassness made him valuable to the Europeans: as a lightning rod for terrorism: “If America were to pull up the drawbridge, retreat from its obligations and alliances abroad, the terrorists would attack the rest of us.”

Jacques Chirac responded by pointing out that Blair has gotten nothing out of his alliance with the US: “I’m not sure it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favours systematically.” Yeah, Jacko, but revenge for that sort of comment is something we still do pretty darned systematically, so unless you want a rerun of the whole “freedom fries” thing, watch it.

Oh dear lord, four more years of being his butt monkey.

Monday, November 15, 2004

“He’s fucking faking he’s dead. He faking he’s fucking dead.”

Cheery thought of the day: since 4 years of fronting policies he wasn’t allowed to help formulate has left him with no credibility, Colin Powell has a choice: either remain “loyal” and watch his memoirs go straight to the remainder bin, or say what he really thinks about Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz etc.

Powell will be replaced as chief diplomat by the least diplomatic person in the White House. Condi grew up in the South and has convinced herself that she had to be twice as good as everyone else to succeed (what does that say about everyone else?). In that as in so much else, she is deeply delusional. Should fit right in.

Expect State to be ideologically purged, just like the CIA.

Bhutan will ban tobacco sales next month.

A 93-year-old Englishwoman named Dorothy Bland has blown up her house in Newcastle. “I was only making a cup of tea,” Ms. Bland said. I’m going to hell for finding that story amusing.

The Hungarian parliament has turned down the government’s request to extend the deployment of its (non-combat) troops in Iraq another 3 months.

A Marine kills a wounded, unarmed prisoner. In a mosque. On camera. “He’s fucking faking he’s dead. He faking he’s fucking dead,” one Marine says (and try saying that five times fast), and then he or another Marine shoots him. “He’s dead now.”

As I understand this, a day or two before, one unit captured 5 wounded insurgents, and then just left them in a mosque, making no attempt to get them treated. A day later another unit came back (not to get the wounded, but because they thought the mosque had been re-occupied. By that time, 1 was dead and 3 were close, and the incident ensued. I haven’t seen the footage yet, but I gather it’s widely available, and widely censored to preserve our delicate sensibilities.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The haircut of President Ion Iliescu is not in the public interest

There is only one known German survivor of World War I.

With elections coming up in Romania, the opposition has formally protested a tv report on President Iliescu, who will be running for a senate seat, getting a haircut. “The alliance considers that the haircut of President Ion Iliescu is not in the public interest,” says the Truth and Justice Alliance.

The Massacre of Fallujah involved a number of war crimes, from the shutting off of water to the refusal to let male inhabitants flee to the shooting of dogs (which may not technically constitute a war crime, but isn’t very nice). Now, the Iraqi Red Crescent is being denied access to the city, on the grounds that the US military can provide relief. The only reason for this is to force every inhabitant to be seen by the Americans, which is to make humanitarian assistance a subordinate, integrated part of the counter-insurgent operation (with a little ritual humiliation thrown in--hey, Bob Hope’s dead, they have to get their entertainment somewhere). A Col. Shupp of the Marines insisted he knew of no civilians in Fallujah, adding “We are on the radio telling them how to come out and how to come up to coalition forces.” Radio? The electricity was cut days ago.

So where’s the outrage? Is there a single Democratic politician complaining about the needless deaths of Fallujan children from diarrhoea, or any of the rest of it? I said days ago that Fallujah would enter the ranks of places whose names are transferred from places to events, like Dresden. Now I think it will be ignored and quickly forgotten, a little speedbump to roll right over, just like...

(That is indeed a dead body everybody’s just ignoring like a fart in church.)

We still haven’t seen a figure for how many of the Iraqi soldiers who were supposed to participate in Operation Dawn of the Dead actually showed up. They did no actual fighting, just searched a few buildings the Americans had already cleared, and stood around looking all Coalition-of-the-Willingy for the cameras. Once again, they have proven that if the US pulled its troops out tomorrow, Allawi would be swept away within days.

At least the Iraqi soldiers, I assume, didn’t bring their dolls, excuse me, “action figures.”

What, not even his deep-fried Mars bar?

The Bible, which has already been translated into Cockney rhyming slang and Yorkshire dialects, will soon make it into Scots. Here’s the 10th commandment: “Ye maunna covet yer neibour’s hoose; ye maunna covet yer neibour’s wife, nor his sairvant chiel, nor his sairvant lass, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor onything that is yer neibour’s.”

Ah, Republican values! Linda Schrenko, the first woman elected to a statewide office (school superintendent, of the creationist/prayer-in-school type) in the backward state of Georgia in 1994, is being indicted for misappropriation of funds. She stole money intended to buy computer services for deaf children to pay for her cosmetic surgery when she ran for governor.

So Bush is ordering an ideological purge of the CIA. Just when I thought it was impossible for the Bushies to disappoint me, there they go again. I had hoped for the sake of the country that the absolute refusal to admit mistakes was just an electioneering stance, and they would quietly work to correct the conditions that led them to get it consistently wrong on WMDs, yellowcake, being greeted as liberators, etc etc. But no, they really don’t want to be told uncomfortable truths. Not only are they unwilling to learn from their mistakes (or incapable of doing so), but Junior is also unwilling to learn from his father, who was quite upset that Jimmy Carter didn’t keep him on as director of central intelligence. That post was traditionally supposed to be non-partisan, like the FBI director, because intelligence is not supposed to be politicized. So Richard Helms, appointed DCI by Johnson, didn’t give Nixon a letter of resignation in 1969.

Stop and think about what sort of people would prefer not to have objective analysis (not that the CIA was truly objective, but on the big issues of the last few years it’s been right much of the time): the answer I come up with is people who don’t believe in the existence of objective facts separate from ideology.

No casualties

Correction: it wasn’t the US that said the fighting in Fallujah was over, it was the Iraqis. The Americans say that there are still pockets of resistance, adding “you know, like pockets in the pants of a really fat guy, like Fallujah-sized pockets.”

And “Comical” Allawi says that there have been “no casualties among civilians” in Fallujah. None. For that single statement, that outrageous denial of the human cost of a massive assault on a city, he deserves to be driven out of public life. The sort of person who could utter a lie like that does not care two shits for the people of Iraq.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Some mission. Some mop.

The US is declaring mission accomplished in Fallujah except for the, you know, mopping up.

AP reports that the GAO found that for some of the newly “trained” Iraqi troops, their only “training” consisted of putting on the uniform.

Bush’s Saturday radio address, a speech so Panglossian as to give a bad name to Panglossian speeches, talks of 115,000 “trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel ... serving their country”. It’s that “other” you have to wonder about.

Also, remember the phrasing Shrub used in the 2003 State of the Union address, “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” and how Condi Rice would claim that Shrub’s clearly false statement was “accurate” because of the attribution to British intelligence? Well, today he said, “An Iraqi general has described hostage slaughter houses, where terrorists have killed innocent victims and proudly recorded their barbaric crimes.” My bullshit detector just went off.

I don’t think any press source has asked this question: those quarter-million Fallujans who supposedly evacuated the city before the Massacre of Fallujah began--where did they all go?

The London Sunday Times has seen records of a Gulfstream executive-type jet hired by the CIA & Pentagon to fly prisoners to countries that will torture them, including Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Uzbekistan. Over 300 flights. They also have a 737.

Let the bowdlerization begin

Senate Democrats seem likely not to oppose Alberto Gonzales’s nomination, because setting the legal groundwork for Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib is nowhere near as significant as, for example, hiring an illegal immigrant as a nanny. Remember Zoe Baird? Remember Kimba Wood? If not, go have a look, and remember the standards nominees of a Democratic president were expected to meet. At the time, I thought that Baird had disqualified herself from being attorney general (Wood was another matter), but Nannygate somehow doesn’t compare to the disregard for the rule of law Gonzales has demonstrated.

The LA Times has a good editorial on the Saving Private Ryan incident, which, like the legal work of Mr. Gonzales, shows the dangers when the predictable application of the rule of law is replaced by the whim of the executive:
the FCC’s refusal to provide advance guarantees to affiliates that it wouldn’t take action if they aired “Saving Private Ryan” makes it look as if the commission’s main priority is to tailor its response to whatever level of pressure it feels from self-appointed morality guardians.
A more sinister interpretation (and the LA Times may be right that it’s just weak-minded opportunism) would be that maintaining ambiguity about what standards it would apply, and applying them unevenly, induces self-censorship, as we just saw happen, which isn’t the PR problem that overt censorship would be, but gets the job of bowdlerization done at least as well. (If you don’t know the word bowdlerization, look it up, because I guarantee you will see it again as the puritans settle into their work with the special sort of glee seen only in those who are improving everyone else’s morals, whether they like it or not.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Democracy will have spoken

Karl Rove weighs in on the “bulge” under Bush’s jacket: “there was nothing there.” See, I’ve been calling Shrub an empty suit for years.

London Times headline: “Funeral Exposes Arafat’s Failings.” You’d think if there was one thing he couldn’t be blamed for...

Colin Powell: “We know that, in the eyes of the Palestinian people, Arafat embodied their hopes and dreams for the achievement of an independent Palestinian state.” I like how he doesn’t quite say that the Palestinian people are idiots for believing that, but nudges right up to the line.

Indeed, many are asking how a people could stick with a leader who constantly failed. But enough about George W. Bush....

A couple of days ago I castigated Bush for saying, “There will be an opening for peace when leadership of the Palestinian people steps forward and says, ‘Help us build a democratic society.’” I thought he meant they should ask the US for help. It’s actually stupider than that, because today he said a Palestinian state would depend on “the Palestinian people’s desire to build a democracy and Israel’s willingness to help them build a democracy.” So they’re supposed to ask Ariel Sharon for help, even though he has done so much for them already.

There’s an amusing exchange in the same press conference in which Bush is asked what would happen, in Iraq as well as Palestine, if a non-democrat is elected, and Bush rejects the whole premise of the question:
Well, first of all, if there’s an election, the Iraqis will have come up with somebody who is duly-elected. In other words, democracy will have spoken. And that person is going to have to listen to the people, not to the whims of a dictator, not to their own desires -- personal desires. The great thing about democracy is you actually go out and ask the people for a vote, as you might have noticed recently. And the people get to decide, and they get to decide the course of their future. And so it’s a contradiction in terms to say a dictator gets elected. The person who gets elected is chosen by the people. ... And if they don’t -- the people of the Palestinian Territory don’t like the way this person is responding to their needs, they will vote him or her out.
It’s a contradiction in terms to say a dictator gets elected. HITLER, you moron, short fella, funny mustache, you must have heard tell of him at some point.

The coup government of Haiti plans to issue an arrest warrant for ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. For corruption.

Picture from Fallujah, prisoners captured by Marines. Say, when Tom Ridge told us to stockpile duct tape, do you think this was what he had in mind?

This is the enemy that we fight

US Gen. Richard F. Natonski accuses the insurgents of storing weapons in mosques and schools in Fallujah. He does not say where he would consider it legitimate to store weapons. He says, “This is the enemy that we fight. It doesn’t respect the religious mosques or the children’s schools.” 1) mosques: Under the Same Sun has a picture of US soldiers wearing boots in a mosque and lounging around on prayer rugs. 2) schools: to repeat myself, when American occupied Fallujah for the first time a year and half ago, they took over schools and shot people who protested that take-over.

There have been a spate of articles criticizing the US’s Fallujah strategy, it’s belief that it could beat the insurgents in one set-piece “Battle of Fallujah” in which a geographic territory was captured, like this was World War II, or cowboys & Indians. The Pentagon seems to be surprised and annoyed that the guerillas aren’t playing their assigned roles. This is how it’s been for 3 years. The Onion soon after 9/11/01 had an article, something like: US to Give Al Qaida a Country So We Can Invade It. Soon after, Bush decided that Afghanistan would do as a proxy for AQ, and then Iraq. Fallujah is mimetic of a larger failure of understanding, as the US continues to think geographically and fights a take-that-hill war against enemies that do not think geographically (although they would prefer it if Americans kept their dirty boots out of their mosques and schools).

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Searching for role models in the wrong places

Update: There is, after all, a link to the Atlantic article I mentioned yesterday about Gonzales’s death penalty memos, which I’ve added to that post.

WAR CRIME ALERT: The NYT reports that refugees fleeing Fallujah “were detained by American military patrols, who allowed the women and children to continue but tested the men for explosive residue. All tested negative, and were sent back to Falluja in accordance with procedures established by the American military to maintain the city’s isolation while fighting continues inside”. American procedures are to send males back into an active war zone, where anything that moves is shot, where the population is running out of food and water and electricity have been cut off.

The Iraqi pseudo-government is issuing orders to the media on how news should be slanted, for example that they should “differentiate between the innocent Falluja residents who are not targeted by military operations and terrorist groups that infiltrated the city and held its people hostage under the pretext of resistance and jihad.”

And the Russian Duma votes to ban all depictions of violence from tv between 7 am and 10 pm, including in news programs.

Rumsfeld says that a good model for Iraq to follow would be...El Salvador.

A chance to vote on a president

Shrub, on why the Iraqi elections will be a success in spite of everything: “Well, I’m confident when people realize that there’s a chance to vote on a president, they will participate.” In fact, there will no such chance: the president will be chosen by the national assembly. Not a details man, is GeeDubya.

OK, looking beyond that little mistake, what are we to make of the sentence? Is Bush saying that Iraqis would be interested in voting for a president but not for a national assembly, implying that they really want a strong-man rather than a representative democracy?

The US military is increasingly admitting that the leaders of the resistance have long since escaped Fallujah. So why is no one asking whether it’s worth laying waste to an entire city in pursuit of a few low-level gunmen?

The NYT notes that “because the American marines have seized the hospital in Falluja, television and newspapers have not been able to show pictures of bleeding women and children being taken into emergency wards.” Now does that mean that they are preventing the pictures being taken, or that women and children are bleeding, but not being treated?

I’m thinking of starting a pool on which Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, unfamiliar with the whole concept of Hispanics, will be the first to refer to the attorney-general-designate as “Albert O. Gonzales.” Or possibly as Speedy.

It’s not like it’s “Shaving Ryan’s Privates”

ABC affiliates covering 1/3 of the country have decided not to air “Saving Private Ryan,” because of fears that the FCC would fine them for its 3 dozen plus (according to Daily Variety) uses of “fuck”--contractually, and good for Dreamworks, the movie must air unedited. Fines weren’t the issue for the affiliates--ABC promised to pay--rather, the stations were afraid of losing their licenses at renewal time. Now, this isn’t just tv stations running scared and preemptively censoring themselves, post-Janet Jackson: the FCC could easily have stopped this nonsense by giving an advance waiver. Considering that the FCC already ruled in 2002 that Saving Private Ryan is not indecent, in response to a complaint by idiot puritan Donald Wildmon, this should have been a no-brainer, but the FCC instead told the stations to exercise their own judgment and risk the consequences. As far as I’m concerned, that decision to leave the threat of a multi-million-dollar fine hanging over the stations’ heads amounted to an act of state censorship. Tom Coburn, who so objected to Schindler’s List, would be proud.

Viewers in the affected regions will be treated to less f-word-laden fare such as Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in “Far and Away,” “Return to Mayberry” (!), and in Austin, schizophrenically, an episode of Oprah followed by “Lethal Weapon III.” Honestly, I don’t know whether Return to Mayberry or Lethal Weapon III is the better ironic commentary on the whole affair. At least I hope they’re intended as ironic commentary. Happy Veteran’s Day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Help us build a democratic society

Bush, in his condescending, white-man’s-burden mode: “There will be an opening for peace when leadership of the Palestinian people steps forward and says, ‘Help us build a democratic society.’” For a man who keeps saying that freedom is a gift from God, he sure acts like he thinks it’s a gift the United States can give.

I could almost have believed that troops really found a “hostage slaughterhouse” in Fallujah (and didn’t the term slaughterhouse spread rapidly through the media?), but my credulity was strained by the CDs of beheadings and the uniforms, and then they claimed also to have found records with the names of foreign fighters, and, according to an Iraqi general, “huge amounts of weapons and records detailing which country had offered it as a gift,” and I found my intelligence being insulted in a major way.

Remember Afghanistan, that country we brought freedom to? Its supreme court just banned cable tv, because of criticism of Bollywood films and Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments (ok, that one I can understand). A supreme court spokesman specifically cited a criticism from the ulema (clerics) council as reason for the ban. Something I missed: the supreme court tried to ban one of the presidential candidates for questioning whether polygamy was Islamic.

In France, where 22% of male prisoners were convicted of sex crimes, the government will introduce voluntary chemical castration. Insert your own obvious but somehow satisfying joke here.

NYT story on members of Colombia’s congress who support the death squads.

Bush nominates Elian Gonzales, the little Cuban boy with the magic dolphins who won our hearts, to be attorney general. Oh, all right, Alberto Gonzales with his own connection to Cuba, or at least Guantanamo Bay. Here’s a longer version of the “quaint” quote from his memo to Bush (long pdf here) which you will be hearing a lot: “As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions”. It’s the dismissiveness of the word quaint that makes this quote so obnoxious. After an election that Karl Rove tells us was won by R’s because they support eternal moral values, Gonzales’s view of civil and human rights, as well as international law, is that they are situational and revocable at the will of the executive.

Gonzales has worked with Bush for a long time, so there’s quite a record. One part of it was examined by the Atlantic Monthly in the July-August 2003 issue, the written summaries of 57 death penalty cases prepared by Gonzales for Governor Bush, on which Shrub, made the decision to execute or to...well, okay, he only decided to execute. The memos were cursory, assumed no mistake could ever be made by the legal system, and left out any mitigating evidence, information about ineffective counsel, witnesses with conflicts of interest, mental retardation, evidence of actual innocence, etc. They never included the defense’s clemency petitions, so Bush effectively only heard from one side. Now, Bush always claimed that his philosophy was that the governor shouldn’t second-guess the courts, so the information Gonzales failed to provide him was, arguably, information Bush had no interest in acting on. But does that “philosophy” sound like Bush? Does he seem overly scrupulous about checks and balances?

It's hard work

Bush praises American soldiers for doing “the hard work necessary for a free Iraq to emerge.” Or possibly the free work necessary for a hard Iraq to emerge.

The president is not a panel

A federal judge has ruled against the Bush claim that he can act by himself in tossing people into Guantanamo without a proper hearing, saying “The president is not a panel.” He is thick as two planks of wood, but I guess that’s not close enough.

So remember:

Speaking of his nibs, today he said that the goal in Fallujah was to “bring to justice those who are willing to kill the innocent”. I’m telling you, he has absolutely no self-awareness.

I must quote the Guardian, solely because of the colonel with the hilarious name.
“My concern now is only one - not to allow any enemy to escape,” said Colonel Michael Formica, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division. “I want them killed or captured as they flee.”

This one doesn’t seem to be fleeing.

Nor these guys, the Fallujah Theater Troupe doing an adaptation of the classic Italian Neo-Realist film “The Bicycle Thief.”

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Hurrah! “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved”

With Ashcroft resigning, I may not be able ever again to subtly work in these two facts, as I have every time I
ve mentioned his name in the last four years: 1) he believes dancing is satanic, 2) he lost an election to a man considerably less frisky than Arafat is today. Ashcroft wrote in his resignation letter--I didn’t believe it either when I first read it, but it’s true--that “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved”. Ah, but WHICH Americans? “The rule of law has been strengthened and upheld in the courts.” Well, that would be the place for it.

You can see why he’s resigning: after conquering both crime and terror, there’s nothing left to do but sit at home and wait for Jesus. He says that there have been no terrorist attacks in the US since 9/11. Uh, anthrax, does that ring a bell at all?

The letter is a masterpiece of hyperbole: under Bush, evidently crime has disappeared, drug use among young people has declined (which I attribute wholly to a statistical glitch: the Bush twins turned 21), and “corporate integrity has been restored with the work of your Corporate Fraud Task Force.” Had you noticed that corporate integrity had been restored? Me neither.

And finally, the man who brought us the Patriot Act writes, “I have handwritten this letter so its confidentiality can be maintained until the appropriate arrangements mentioned above can be made.”

The future’s not a dark future of cutting people’s heads off

Rumsfeld on how Iraqis will converted to democracy by the demolition of Fallujah, demonstrating that he has no clue how people think (“tipping” refers to something he calls a tipping point, which shows that although we seem to be making no process, at some point a balance will tip and...) (I think it has something to do with cow-tipping, which seems like Rummy’s sort of a pasttime): “Over time you’ll find that the process of tipping will take place, that more and more of the Iraqis will be angry about the fact that their innocent people are being killed by the extremists. And that they’ll want elections, and the more they see the extremists acting against that possibility of elections, I think they’ll turn on those people. ... And when I use this phrase ‘tipping,’ people don’t go from here over to there, they move this way, just a slight bit, and pretty soon the overwhelming majority are over in this area, recognizing that that’s the future. The future’s not a dark future of cutting people’s heads off.”

How very reassuring.

Hear no evil:

Monday, November 08, 2004

I cannot imagine that it would stop without being completed

Arafat’s wife accuses Palestinian leaders of wanting to bury him alive. Ariel Sharon thinks about Arafat being buried alive, spontaneously ejaculates.

Asked about the invasion of Fallujah, Rummy Rumsfeld says, “I cannot imagine that it would stop without being completed,” and, true to his word, spontaneously ejaculates.

This AP picture is of an American soldier injured in a car bomb, his Purple Heart taped to his chest so he doesn’t lose it while being evac’ed to Germany.

A new, happy dawn for the people of Fallujah

So the Fallujah hospital was targeted because the last time we invaded Fallujah, it released figures of civilian casualties which the US military claims were inflated even though it also claims not to be doing its own counts; so the hospital is “a center of propaganda.” Let me understand this: American troops attacked a hospital in order to IMPROVE their image.

Allawi, speaking to Iraqi troops: “Your job is to arrest the killers but if you kill them, then so be it.” Wink wink.

And even less subtly: “You need to avenge the victims of the terrorists like the 37 children who were killed in Baghdad and the 49 of your colleagues who were slaughtered.” “May they go to hell,” shouted the soldiers. “To hell they will go,” Allawi replied.

Contrariwise, the Iraqi defense minister told reporters, “We’ve called it Operation Dawn. God willing, it’s going to be a new, happy dawn for the people of Fallujah.”

The American code name for the operation is Phantom Fury. Sounds like a comic book character.

While figures vary considerably as to how many civilians remain in the free-fire zone that is Fallujah, the Pentagon, not surprisingly, low-balls it at 50 to 60,000, and claims, “terrorists in the city are preventing families from leaving Fallujah. According to residents, terrorist plan to use citizens as human shields, then claim they were attacked by friendly forces.” Okay, one, bullshit, two, “friendly forces”?

Why children in Fallujah will soon scream at the sight of a teddy bear

A couple of recent WaPo article explain how the Iraqi elections will be structured to ensure the “correct” outcome. This one says that there are strict rules governing who can run for the National Assembly. Education, no criminal record, a good reputation, and a number of other vague rules that can be made to disqualify whoever they like. Also, de-Baathification rules, which are very likely to be applied unevenly. And this editorial suggests that a “monster coalition” party list will be hammered out before the elections based on closed-room negotiations in order to forestall any real electoral competition. Read both articles, it’s the details that will ensure elections that might be formally correct but have no democratic aspect to them whatsoever. Also, the Iraqis insisted on letting expats vote, a process which will be highly susceptible to fraud. Also, they just declared 60 days of martial law, renewable. Which is funny, because “Comical” Allawi keeps talking about bringing the rule of law to Fallujah, and martial law is by definition the suspension of ordinary law. And doesn’t martial law imply a military, which Iraq doesn’t really have one of? Unless you count this one:

Can you guess what military objective the boys in green are storming? Yup, the hospital. And here the brave candy-stripers assist what I can only hope are not patients.

And this dethpicable soldier is having way too much fun.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Here: a hopeful and decent society. There: mugs, thugs, murderers, terrorists and the face of Satan

Karl Rove today: “If we want to have a hopeful and decent society, we ought to aim for the ideal, and the ideal is that marriage ought to be, and should be, a union of a man and a woman.” In other words, gay marriage is hopeless and indecent.

Doug Ireland has translated a Le Monde story about an Iraqi judge who challenged the Allawi clique’s unlawful detention of 110 people, supposedly as Iranian spies, and was fired for his troubles.

The US military has taken over Fallujah’s main hospital (which I believe is its only hospital), not that it matters, since the hospital is on the wrong side of a bridge which the Americans closed. All roads and bridges have been closed, and there are one or two obvious questions the press do not seem to be asking:
  • Are any provisions being made to get food to the residents of Fallujah, now that it has been sealed off?
  • What happened to the patients at the hospital?
  • Fallujan men under 45 were given the option of being arrested if they left the city or being starved, shot at and bombed if they stayed. How many have been arrested, and what’s happening to them?
We’re seeing a curious number of pictures of American soldiers praying before the massacre begins. This sort of thing:

And, um, this:

And there are lovely, godly sentiments expressed by commanders at these gatherings. Colonel Gary Brandl (Marine Corps): “The enemy has a face. It’s Satan’s. He’s in Fallujah and we’re going to destroy him.” And Lt-Gen John F Sattler (ditto): “This is America’s fight. What we’ve added to it is our Iraqi partners. They want to go in and liberate Fallujah. They feel this town’s being held hostage by mugs, thugs, murderers and terrorists.” Mugs? Who does this guy think he is, Edward G. Robinson?

Speaking of imperialist wars, when the Ivory Coast asked France to police a peace deal, I don’t think it had in mind France destroying its entire air force--ok, 2 planes and 5 helicopters, but still the entire Ivorian air force.

Know your enemy: your stupid, stupid enemy. Part I: Tom Coburn

As I look for sources of humor and outrage in the next few dark years, I suspect much bloggy goodness will be had from Oklahoma’s new senator, Dr. Tom Coburn, he of the lesbian fetish, sterilizations of under-aged girls, racist ads, belief that black men are genetically inferior, calls for death penalty for abortion doctors, etc. He’s also the guy who complained about all the nudity and bad language in Schindler’s List. These are links to earlier posts which mention him, some of which link to outside articles: link link link link link link.

So when I heard that he’d written a book, I bounded over to my public library and checked it out: Breach of Trust: How Washington Turns Outsiders into Insiders (2003).

Since I just added the Powell’s link, I should make very clear that I am not recommending that anyone read, much less buy this book. For a start, he doesn’t talk about lesbians in bathrooms or any of that good stuff. Mostly it’s about the budget process.

At the time of the book’s writing, Coburn was out of Congress, having kept his pledge to leave the House after 3 terms. He was a Gingrichite (aka Newtzie), one of the bomb-throwers of the class of 1994. He is inordinately fond of using the word “revolution” for the enterprise that group of ideologues was engaged in, and the book is an attack on R’s for having been too soft and compromising in their pursuit of Newtie’s agenda. Ultimately, he even broke with Gingrich, proving himself more royalist than the king (I was going to write that phrase in the original French, but I believe Ashcroft plans to outlaw any use of French as sedition). He was especially let down when the government shutdown of 1995 was abandoned. The adults in the Republican party came home just as the party was getting good; “Enough is enough,” Bob Dole said.

Coburn wanted the government cut down to size. About the size of a basketball team. He’s one of those for whom every time the federal government spends a dollar, an angel dies. And he believes the reason this doesn’t happen is that we don’t have enough citizen-legislators such as, for example, himself. Instead, Jimmy Stewart goes to Washington and is instantly corrupted, “going native” as he describes it, a phrase more telling than he intends since it derives from white imperialists, smugly confident in their own cultural and moral superiority. Seniority in Congress, i.e., going native, “tends to erode sound judgment and character”. He pathologizes power (and Washington DC), portraying it as either a cancer that consumes morality, or as a drug to which people become addicted. He also likens it, over and over, to the ring in Lord of the Rings. You’d never know that, while he kept his commitment to term-limit himself out of the House, he would soon be running for Senate. And while he did deliver a few babies (he makes a big deal about delivering babies, which he did right through his time in the House; I’m gonna take a wild guess that he’s using it as some sort of metaphor for purity)(he doesn’t mention sterilizing under-age girls and then billing Medicare), he got Bush to appoint him to the AIDS Commission, where he fought against condoms and for abstinence-only sex ed.

While his arguments against pork and fraudulent budgeting practices are legitimate (and obvious), there’s a great gap between the need to eliminate highways-to-nowhere, and dismantling most of the federal government. In fact, the connection between the paucity of uncorrupted congresscritters and his goal of microscopic government is so clear in his own head that he doesn’t bother actually to make the case. His ideal is citizen-legislators whose short exposure to the Ring will allow them to make unpopular decisions, except he won’t acknowledge their unpopularity. Several times he describes these little vignettes in which he explains to old people that they don’t really want Social Security increases at the expense of their grandchildren, and they all go away convinced. Unanimously. And the same when he gave up road funds for his district, and agriculture subsidies. This is a man who still believes, or claims to believe, that the 1994 elections were a mandate to destroy 60 years of social programs, just as Shrub thinks 2004 is a mandate.

Coburn does not play well with others, so I’m not too worried about the damage he might inflict. It’s as likely as not to be inflicted on his own side. And I suspect there’ll be a few filibusters in the future--in 1999 he tried to filibuster in the House, which doesn’t actually have filibusters.
I’ve added a Powell’s Books search box to the right column. I get a commission from any sale that goes through it, so it’s a nice way to support this site while engaging in one of life’s great pleasures, buying books. Shipping free on orders over $50. But don’t neglect your local independent bookstores either. Feel free to email me with any comments, suggestions, jeremiads against my crass commercialism, reminiscences about the early days of the Web when it wasn’t about making a fast buck, it was all about the porn, etc.

Now they tell us

The Iraqi “government” declares a state of emergency in most of the country. So what has Iraq been in for the past two years if not a state of emergency?

DIY gravestones, in time for Christmas

A story from the new improved Afghanistan: An American adviser to the Afghan finance ministry, Vincent White, made the mistake of vetoing several corrupt contracts. So the police beat the shit out of a male Afghan acquaintance of his, forcing him to say that White had paid him to have sex, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years. He spent 4 weeks in prison before being released. The US embassy did nothing besides give him the names of Afghan lawyers--none would represent him. Why is this story not in any American paper, according to news.google?

A new German company sells do-it-yourself gravestones, on the Ikea model. They’re astonishingly chintzy and only $1,600.

Better start screwing a few together for the people of Fallujah, a city whose name is about to join the rank of place names that have been turned into names of events: Dresden, Vietnam, Guernica, Columbine, Hiroshima, and Intercourse, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Substance, not symbolism

In perhaps the most pathetic of the post-election pieces on how the D’s should cozy up to “Middle America,” Nicholas Kristof praises Bill Clinton for sacrificing a brain-damaged black prisoner (Kristof doesn’t mention the black part) to his political ambitions in 1992, and urges D’s to do the same by giving up gun control as an issue. In my favorite part, he says D’s should cozy up to religion, and in the very next paragraph says “Pick battles of substance, not symbolism,” by which he means the Confederate flag. Presumably expressing loud obeisance to imaginary gods in the clouds is not about symbolism.

We’ve been hearing a lot about not offending the delicate sensibilities of religious Middle America, and we’ll hear a lot more. I say, in olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now get the fuck over it, Middle America. It’s not 1953 or 1637 anymore and never will be again.

So much of this seems to be pre-emptive self-censorship by wishy-washy liberals like Kristof that I’ve put off posting my “Red states = Red China analogy” for a few days, but here it is. China has been getting its way for years with a “Don’t fuck with us, we’re crazy” stance, which I’ve always thought was mostly put on. Whenever there’s even a hint of acknowledgment that Taiwan exists as an independent nation, which is simply a fact, even down to something as minor as the Taiwanese prime minister catching a connecting flight in a US airport or attending his own college reunion here, there’d be this incredible display of princess-and-the-pea hypersensitivity. Just as San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is now being blamed for Kerry’s defeat because he dared to authorize gay marriages, so timid State Dept diplomats would insist that China not be offended. When Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, he didn’t allow pictures to be taken. Ohio and Alabama (to pick 2 states at random) want to be able to go on treating gays as second-class citizens and repress any visible sign of their identities without any criticism from the outside world, just like China does with Tibetans, and want others to do the same, as a sign of concurrence with the values of Middle America/the Middle Kingdom.

(James Wolcott suggests the D’s adopt Kristof’s advice with the slogan “Shoot a fag for Jesus.”)