Friday, September 30, 2005


Serenity: shiny.

Rumsfeld, on the questionable loyalty of Iraqi police: “It’s a problem that’s faced by police forces in every major city in our country, that criminals infiltrate and sign up to join the police force.” He’s done this sort of thing before, suggesting that Baghdad is no more unsafe and violent than, say, the District of Columbia. It’s interesting how his rosy vision of Iraq and his scary image of American cities meet exactly in the middle, so that one is no worse than the other. On the subject of the Congressional hearings at which Gen. Casey admitted that the more Americans trained the Iraqi military, the fewer Iraqi battalions were combat-ready, Rummy mused on the wonders of the democratic process, suggesting that Al Qaeda terrorists wouldn’t fare any better under such questioning. It would be “awkward,” he said, “if they were called to account for the state of their strategy,” ‘cuz they’re all losing and shit. An odd place, Rummyworld.

So a brothel was raided in Birmingham, England, and some foreign sex slaves freed, but while sexual slavery is, you know, bad and wrong and icky and all, I can’t get beyond the name of the brothel: Cuddles.

Despite his denunciation of “partisan witch hunts” a couple of days ago, there DeLay was, claiming, in the best McCarthyite manner, to have proof that DA Ronnie Earle coordinated his prosecution in conjunction with Congressional Democratic leaders, but he won’t tell us what this proof is until “it’s timely.” You’d think it was timely now. Also, isn’t that some sort of crime he’s accusing Earle of? Who can this sort of slander possibly fool?
(Update: I see Think Progress has made exactly the same point, and has a more complete transcript than my original link did.)

Elections are the opiate of the media. Any elections, no matter how fraudulent, turn their brains into mush. Case in point, the Algerian referendum on whether they should just forget about all those people getting massacred a few years back and issue a blanket amnesty. The government is claiming that more than 97% voted in favor of the referendum, which seems unlikely even though various groups called for a boycott, but the turnout figure of 79% is patently false, according to anyone who watched the trickle of voters, so, and this is just me speaking, that would rather seem to call into doubt the whole thing. But on the BBC World News, they mentioned the doubts about the turnout but then in the very next sentence said that “nonetheless” President Bouteflika had a mandate to yadda yadda. Nonetheless? The figures are false but nonetheless they impart a mandate? How does that work?

If I had a Blunt....

Al Kamen has announced the winners of the “Brownie’s next gig” contest, and the results are so-so (he says bitterly, his own entry – World’s worst midwife: “Well how was I to know the waters would break?” – not having been chosen, possibly because Bill Maher did a similar joke several days later). The only one of the winners I really liked: next Iraqi information minister.

I vaguely thought of a contest of my own. Tom DeLay’s replacement, Roy Blunt, seems to lack any sort of nickname, like “The Hammer.” Can’t be taken seriously without a tough-guy nickname.

DeLay’s website really likes this picture, and has others of him with guys dressed like a flag. Flag, I said.

Speaking of uncomfortable couplings, some more London Review of Books (LRB) personals:
When, oh when will they re-make Falcon Crest? Man. 43. Obviously gay. Duh! Box no. 19/07

Man. 37. Famous for his soup. No longer sure of the existence of other people beyond the four walls that have held him these last 37 years. If you are more than a rumour, citizens of earth, reply to box no. 19/08. If you are not, don’t bother.

Researchers at the Australian National University recently employed a technique called electromagnetically induced transparency, in which a beam of laser light puts the atoms in a solid sample into a state in which a signal light pulse can be trapped. They succeeded in stopping light for more than one second. Despite this remarkable advance in science and technology, I still can’t get a man. If you can explain why in 2,000 words or less, I’ll share my ideas for nuclear toast extraction with you. And possibly have sex. Woman. 41. Intelligent, austere and mentally-troubled like all good forty-something women should be. Box no. 19/09

List your ten favourite albums. I don’t want to compare notes, I just want to know if there’s anything worth keeping when we finally break up. Practical, forward-thinking man. 35. Box no. 19/10

If I were a type of shrub I’d be euonymus. Go figure. Euonymus-esque woman (37) Box no. 18/11 [I include this one because the euonymus grows on the island of Lesbos, so if I’ve cracked the code...]

Whenever I try to cancel my LRB subscription, I suffer stigmata and holy visions dance around my bedroom like so many drunken midgets. Man, 41, Leicester. Possibly the Messiah, or something. Box no. 18/12
For all my favorite LRB personals, click here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Obviously, it is an unacceptable practice

Just in case you were wondering whether the Pentagon considers it okay for soldiers to post pictures of dead Iraqis on porn websites, spokesmodel Bryan Whitman says, “Obviously, it is an unacceptable practice.” The soldiers will still be allowed, indeed encouraged, to kill Iraqis. The BBC helpfully points out that the US never signed on to the part of the Geneva Conventions requiring “The remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation or in detention resulting from occupation or hostilities [to] be respected.”

Speaking of disrespecting the dead, I’ve been enjoying watching Bug Boy squirm. Tom DeLay, displaying the quiet dignity for which he is known, accused the prosecutor who indicted him for criminal conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws of being a “partisan fanatic” engaged in a “political witch hunt.” Funny, just yesterday Rep. Steve King was praising Joe McCarthy; one day they like political witch hunts, the next day they don’t. Flip floppers.

Reading the White House transcript of the Gaggle today, I was struck by the fairness of the transcription, which shows accurately how the reporters, kinda feisty today, smelling blood in the water, interrupted McClellan when he was evading their questions:
Q Do you have any papers showing the President has issued a directive against torture?

MR. McCLELLAN: We’ve actually put out paper previously about the directives that he’s made --

Q An actual order?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and he has publicly stated it very clearly to everyone in his administration and to the American people.

Q Then why is it still going on?

Q Does the President take the allegation of wrongdoing seriously, that Tom DeLay used the Republican National Committee as a money laundering operation to fund local elections in Texas? That’s what the grand jury is indicting him for.

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s what the legal process will proceed to address. And --

Q How seriously does the President take that allegation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Terry, Leader Delay’s office has put out a statement --

Q I’m not asking Leader DeLay’s office.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- disputing the assertions. We need to let the legal process proceed. And that’s what the President believes.
From the AFP: “The Danish Air Force paid damages to a professional Father Christmas after the noise from a fighter jet caused Rudolph, one of his reindeer, to die from shock. Olovi Nikkanoff was awarded 30,000 kroner (£2740) to buy a new reindeer.”

Caption contest: here, Bush talks about the War on Terra whilst surrounded by purty flowers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Posada update

Posada will not be deported to Venezuela, the judge in the case ruling that he would likely be tortured in Venezuela, which is nonsense. While the judge does seem like a twit, he really had no choice but to rule as he did, since the Bush admin refused to submit evidence in favor of its ostensible position; as I said this morning, they took a dive. He could only rule based on the evidence before him, and the sole testimony was the opinion of one of Posada’s old cronies.

A hero for America

Condi Rice was in Haiti today, urging that “each and every citizen of Haiti should take it as his or her personal responsibility and personal obligation and personal honor to vote”. Can you imagine what it must feel like to hear those words from the representative of a government that facilitated the coup that displaced your last elected president? Asked about Aristide, she supported his continued forcible exile: “Well, in fact, the international community is of one mind that it would not be a good thing for Mr. Aristide to return. I think that is very clear. The Haitian people are moving on.”

In the course of torpedoing the naming of a post office in Berkeley after long-time activist Maudelle Shirek, Rep. Steve King of Iowa made various unsubstantiated charges against her. When accused of McCarthyite tactics, he called McCarthy “a hero for America.” Isn’t it nice to know that there are congresscritters still willing to defend Tailgunner Joe? I wonder how many others there are.


Al Kamen at the WaPo has a contest to suggest next career moves for Mike Brown. I sent in an entry myself, but I have to bow to the master, whatever ironist put Brown in charge, evidently, of investigating FEMA’s failure to respond adequately to Katrina. I forget, who was the head of FEMA at the time? because he must really be quaking in his boots right now.

How did I not know that Hugo Chavez’s father was the governor of a Venezuelan province? Anyway, here’s an AP headline that gave me warm fuzzy feelings: “Land Reform Rankles Venezuela Businesses.” Isn’t it just too, too bad when business feels “rankled”? And isn’t that a fun word? Rankled rankled rankled. Er, anyway, the state just seized a disused plant from a large food company under a program under which economically idle property can be expropriated (and then, what, sold? used by the state? stories like this one never manage to say). The business federation Fedecamaras is bitching; its president says, “Businesspeople are indispensable for fighting poverty and underdevelopment, that’s what we are here for.” Wow, that’s what they’re there for. One had wondered. He didn’t explain how a food plant not actually in use was fighting poverty and underdevelopment. He also said that Fedecamaras would cooperate in land reform, but demanded that private property rights be respected. I know there’s a contradiction in there somewhere, just can’t put... my finger... on it.

The Dept of Heimat Security has taken a dive in its prosecution of Luis Posada Carriles, if prosecution is the correct word for a case in which no witnesses were called against the terrorist. His claim that he would be tortured if deported to Venezuela went unrebutted and indeed, the government lawyer suggested that under the Venezuela-Cuba Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, Cubans could go to Venezuela to interrogate and torture Posada.

Bush has finally called for sacrifice. “Don’t buy gas if you don’t need it,” he said. So those of you who bought gas you didn’t need in order to pour it out onto your driveway in a display of conspicuous consumption to impress the neighbors with your wealth, and those of you who kept full gasoline cans on your mantles as decorative items, stop it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Healthy and civilised news and information that is beneficial to the quality of the nation

Since Blogger insisted on screwing up the search box at the top of the page so that it only covers the last few months, I’ve added a Google search box at the very bottom of the page that can search all of my posts.

China will restrict internet content to “healthy and civilised news and information that is beneficial to the quality of the nation.” It’s always nice when censorship is civilized.

Amnesty International explains why the figures given by the officials of Stalag Guantanamo for the number of hunger strikers is so low: they only count people who refuse 9 meals in a row, but the prisoners know that and are taking one meal in 3 days and flushing it down the toilet in order to avoid being force-fed, taking advantage of that bit of military bureaucratese.

Lynndie England has been convicted of abusing prisoners, but not of conspiracy (no, sorry, she was convicted of one count of conspiracy, but not another count). Even as yet more evidence of prisoner abuse/torture is emerging, England’s prosecutors were eagerly pushing the line that this was the work of a few bad apples, and certainly in no way related to orders from above to soften prisoners up for interrogation. No, according to them, “This was simply for the amusement of Private England and the other soldiers.” Amused England certainly was, but this doesn’t mean she was acting outside the parameters of the job she was given; she just happened to enjoy her work.

Hunger striking, forcible feeding and the torture of prisoners. Was this blog post healthy & civilized enough to pass Chinese standards, do you think?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Exacting a high price from Palestinians everywhere: wholesale violence at retail prices

Yesterday I thought I was being clever in spotting the Israeli defense minister’s implicit use of the “language of collective punishment.” Turns out it wasn’t so implicit: according to AP, Mofaz “told security chiefs in a meeting... that he wanted to exact a high price from Palestinians everywhere, not just the militants”. Also, targeted assassinations have officially resumed, not just been threatened. Sharon says there will be “no restrictions regarding the use of all means to strike at the terrorists”. One wonders what restrictions there were in the past. Israel has arrested hundreds of Palestinians, including many candidates in the January PA elections.

This program of murderous assholery goes by the name Operation First Rain. Does anyone know to what that refers?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

It would be inappropriate for the British Army to apologise

The British papers are full of stories about Basra, including ones in the Times and Indy that purport to tell what the SAS soldiers were up to when they were caught, but which don’t actually answer the question in any convincing manner; there is nothing to learn from these articles, so I haven’t bothered with links. By the way, when I was writing my earlier posts, I wasn’t satisfied with calling them soldiers, since, as I said, people operating without uniforms disguised as locals are not acting as soldiers. Someone in comments in Lenin’s Tomb used the term I was groping for: illegal combatants. These illegal combatants’ commander, Brig. John Lorimer, tells the Sunday Telegraph that “It would be inappropriate for the British Army to apologise.” Indeed, heaven forfend they do something inappropriate, like fail to extend their pinky when drinking tea, or not curtsey to the queen, or apologize for shooting at cops, knocking down the wall of a police station and firing on a crowd of civilians. Heaven forfuckingfend.

It’s a measure of how mainstream opposition to the war in Iraq now is that pro-war politicians are unable to impugn the motives of its opponents. Yesterday Bush said something about advocates of pull-out being well-intentioned but mistaken. Compare this with the taunts hurled at opponents of the war in Vietnam and you can see the difference. Bush and his claque are not able to call war opponents traitors, to suggest that they love America or leave it or even to suggest that they don’t support “our troops.” Bush used the same rhetoric about the terrorists only being able to win if America’s will is sapped, but at the same time in the same press conference had to acknowledge the legitimacy of the anti-war position. Rhetorically, he’s lost the argument, or at least ceded a lot of ground.

The US military is using more than 250,000 bullets for every insurgent killed. Really bad shots, I’m guessing.

The response needs to be crushing

Earlier yesterday I wrote up my recommendations for the California ballot, which I’ll post a little closer to the poll date. Coincidentally, Governor Arnold announced his recommendations a little later. I must have done something right, because we disagree on all 8.

Here’s a non-surprise: Israel is already back to bombing Gaza, in “response” to Hamas rocket attacks (remember, Israel is always presented, as in the WaPo story on this, as responding to violence initiated by others; one could equally say that Hamas was responding to the killing of 3 of its leaders and an explosion at a Hamas rally which might actually have been an accident, not Israel’s fault). The Israeli defense minister said, “We have to make it clear to the Palestinians that Israel will not let the recent events pass without a response. The response needs to be crushing.” Note that although the rockets were fired by Hamas, his response is aimed at “the Palestinians,” all Palestinians. This is the language of collective punishment. Eli at Left I on the News notes that while the defense minister also threatened to “resume” targeted assassinations, Israel never actually stopped targeted assassinations.

SUN KING: Bush cancelled his trip to Texas because it was sunny, screwing up his brave-leader-facing-down-the-hurricane imagery. Without the right imagery, it wasn’t worth his while to make the trip at all.

Yet more evidence of the abuse & torture of Iraqi prisoners. And not recently either: if some idiot didn’t take pictures, this stuff tends to remain buried for quite some time (the incidents took place Sept 2003 to April 2004). “Some days we would just get bored so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did that for amusement.” Indeed, they did it as a substitute for sex: in the soldiers’ lingo, to “fuck a PUC [person under control]” meant to beat or torture them.

Pentagon spokesmodel John Skinner responded to the report by Human Rights Watch, which revealed the incidents, by attacking it as “another predictable report by an organization trying to advance an agenda through the use of distortions and errors in fact. ... Humane treatment has always been the standard no matter how much certain organizations want people to believe otherwise.” I’d be interested to know what “agenda” Skinner thinks Human Rights Watch has. If he’s going to impugn their motives, he really needs to be made to answer that.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

In other words, they have had attacks

Watch this Kinky Friedman commercial.

Thomas Shannon, the nominee to replace Roger Noriega as assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, worries about Chavez-style “populism.” “The United States went through a similar process of populism, and our party structure found a way to contain it,” he said at his confirmation hearing. That’s what these people mean when they pretend to support something they call democracy: doing the minimum necessary to hold off populism. Shannon says he wants to engage Chavez in a “battle of ideas,” which would be a change of pace from his predecessor, unless “You suck” is an idea.

Bush today went further, I believe, than he has before in putting the blame for 9/11 squarely on Bill Clinton (and Reagan too, I guess):
To leave Iraq now would be to repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists saw our response to the hostage crisis in Iran, the bombings in the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the first World Trade Center attack, the killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole. The terrorists concluded that we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves, and so they attacked us.
Bush’s language strikes me as getting even odder, more disjointed, with more going back and rephrasing things: “Now, look, they’ve been successful on attacks. They were successful here. They’ve been successful in London and Madrid. In other words, they have had attacks.”

He explains the philosophical underpinnings of his foreign policy: “See, democracy trumps their view of the world. Democracy trumps Taliban-type regimes, because it’s free.”

Not 90 minutes later, displaying no sense that he was aware of any contradiction, he was welcoming the King of Jordan to the White House, telling him, “Your Majesty is a leader and the United States of America respects his leadership a lot.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Or the terrorists win

Sir Ian Blair has told the BBC that he considered resigning as head of the Metropolitan Police after the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, but didn’t because “the big job is to defend this country against terrorism and Kate Moss.” OK, I added the “and Kate Moss” part, but according to the Telegraph, he took time off from the fight against terrorism, in which he is so very indispensable, to take the lead in the decision to investigate the model’s reported drug use.

Blair’s interesting juggling of priorities matches that of Alberto Gonzales, now gearing up for the struggle to rid America of pornography, picking up Ed Meese’s baton, but not in, you know, a gay way. The records of the Meese Commission on pornography, by the way, are stored at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, because if there’s one thing the Hoover Institution needed, it was a really extensive collective of hard core ‘80s porn.

George meets some Jews

Today Bush hung out with some Jews at the anniversary of something called the Republican Jewish Coalition. He paid tribute to Simon Wiesenthal, who “insisted that we remember that hatred prepares the way for violence,” which he used as a hook for this: “As we saw in the recent desecration of the synagogues in Gaza, the ancient hatred of anti-Semitism still burns in the hearts of men.” Then he went on for some length about Hurricane Katrina. Maybe he thought it sounded like a Jewish name. He talked about rebuilding communities, but assured them that no Jews would actually have to go live in Mississippi, because “you’ve suffered enough.” Oh, okay, he didn’t, but this is his idea of an appropriate joke:
Rabbi Stanton Zamek of the Temple Beth Shalom Synagogue in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, helped an African American couple displaced by the storm track down their daughter in Maryland. When Rabbi Zamek called the daughter, he told her, “We have your parents.” She screamed out, “Thank you, Jesus!” (Laughter.) He didn’t have the heart to tell her she was thanking the wrong rabbi. (Laughter and applause.)
I suspect that whoever’s running the White House website is being punished for something. This is someone so concerned with correct English that they insert a [sic] when Bush says “inspector generals,” and the poor schmuck is in charge of transcribing George Bush’s speeches.

Also, “armies of compassions [sic]”.

This is the group that once paid for him to go to Israel, when he was governor of Texas. Ariel Sharon “said, would you like to go on a helicopter ride and take a look at the West Bank. I said, “Are you flying?” No -- (laughter.) I said, you bet.” Yes, that’s our George: went to a Jewish group and told a fat joke about the Israeli prime minister.

“Does the nose on that eagle look a little Jewy to you?”

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

And by God it was effective

Bush, in Mississippi today:
And that can-do spirit is -- these county commissioners -- we call them county commissioners -- county supervisors and mayors who are dealing with unbelievable trauma, and, you know, they’re right there on a front line of trying to comfort people who hurt. And, yet, amidst all that agony and pain they’re going through was this comforting spirit. The can-do spirit is, you know, seeing progress being made. And inside this tent there’s a can-do spirit of taking a horrible situation and making this part of the world better. And so I’m impressed.
Me too, by the amount of gibberish packed into just five sentences.

Bush has not only allowed the workers rebuilding after Katrina to be paid less than prevailing wages, but has also suspended affirmative action requirements.

In order to justify their Great-Escape-but-with-helicopters-and-tanks-instead-of-Steve-McQueen-on-a-motorcycle, the British have been spinning it as a rescue from imminent death (Defence Secretary John Reid: “When it is necessary to protect British servicemen, we will take that action. And by God it was effective.”) and trashing the Basra police, who they say 1) are heavily infiltrated by the militias, 2) failed to release the British soldiers when ordered to do so by the central gov, and 3) handed them over to a Shiite militia. Now Basra’s finest may be eminently trashable, but the soldiers did just shoot two of them, so basic human nature might have been all that was at work here. When 4 American “security contractors” were killed in Fallujah last year, for example, we responded by reducing the city to smoking rubble. So a reluctance on the part of the Basra constabulary to see them walk free with impunity, or even a decision to give them to people who would mete out a little (or a lot) of the rough justice they could not, would be understandable regardless of their extracurricular affiliations. What’s more entertaining is watching the British, after a couple of years of constantly talking about how much superior their occupation strategy is to that of the Americans, are justifying yesterday’s actions by making accusations that amount to an admission that their approach has been a miserable failure. They’re less willing to admit that they are also less than beloved amongst the civilian populace. Says Brig. John Lorimer, “British armoured vehicles being attacked by a violent crowd, including petrol bombs, make graphic television viewing. But this was a small, unrepresentative crowd.” So that’s all right then. How would he know whether or not the crowd is representative? Did he send men with clipboards to ask the petrol-bomb throwers, “Are you 18-35, 35-49...?” Lorimer added cheerily, “It was a difficult day yesterday but we have put it behind us and we shall move on.” I’m sure the people of Basra feel the same way.

The two soldiers were in plain clothes (and they had wigs with them!) and were armed with assault rifles and... an anti-tank missile. Oh yeah, nothing suspicious about that.

Break-out in Basra, update

The British are now claiming that the soldiers had been turned over by the police to a militia, and therefore weren’t in the prison when they knocked its wall down. They also deny that any prisoners escaped through the hole in the wall. If you don’t like this British version of the story, don’t worry, there’ll be another one along in about ten minutes. None of the versions include any real explanation for what soldiers were doing dressed in Arab garb or why they shot at the Iraqi police. The central Iraqi government is giving an entirely different version than either the British or Basra officials, denying that any unpleasantness took place at all.

Monday, September 19, 2005

It will be artistic and it will involve body paint

A couple of days ago, the NYT reported Ariel Sharon as threatening to block elections in Palestine (scheduled for January) if Hamas was allowed to take part. “I don’t think they can have elections without our help,” he said. In fact, he went further. Ha’aretz has him also demanding that Hamas be disarmed and that it revise its charter and declare that “Yentl” didn’t suck.

New Zealand MP Keith Locke (Green Party) made a campaign pledge to run naked through the streets of Epsom, a suburb of Auckland, if the leader of the right-wing Act party was re-elected for the constituency. Which he was. Locke intends to keep his pledge, as soon he’s worked out the... choreography. He says his streaking “will be artistic and it will involve body paint.”

There was a wee incident in Basra today involving two undercover British soldiers. Let’s pause there, because the concept of undercover soldiers is a bit... faulty, and in fact violates international law. If they’re not in uniform, they are not soldiers but spies. I don’t imagine we’ll ever know what they were actually up to. When Iraqi police tried to stop their car at a checkpoint, they fired at the police, killing one of them. When they were captured, the British army effected a jail break using tanks, which are very handy during a jail break. The BBC calls this a “daring rescue operation” but honestly how daring do you have to be IN A FUCKING TANK, I mean that show on Fox would have a much shorter season IF THEY HAD A FUCKING TANK. The pissed-off civilians had sling shots.

Oh ok, one of the tanks was set on fire, I admit, but still.

The Brits killed a couple of civilians and let out a few prisoners during the jail break. By the way, the BBC link above shows the undercover soldiers with their faces disguised, as per British government request. That would be these guys.

Headlines in the British press: “Rioters Attack British Troops” (Daily Telegraph); “Army Storms Jail to Free Seized Soldiers” (The Times); “British Tanks Storm Basra Jail” (Guardian); “Under Fire: British Soldiers Attacked in Basra” (Independent); “UK Soldiers ‘Storm’ Basra Prison” (BBC). No mention of the soldiers shooting the Iraqi policemen.

In fairness, I must add that the Basra police are known to be a partly or wholly owned subsidiary of the insurgency, and may have intended to hold the soldiers in order to exchange them for captured militia leaders. In other words, the Brits didn’t trust the Basra police enough to leave their soldiers in their hands, but evidently they are willing to leave the entire population of Basra in their hands.

Blog or constitution?

North Korea agrees to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for exactly what it always said it wanted in exchange for abandoning its nuclear program: a promise by the US not to invade or nuke it. That wasn’t so hard, now was it? Also, the US declared that it didn’t have nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, although if I have this right didn’t actually guarantee not to in the future.

New Yorker piece by Paul Rudnick, “Intelligent Design”:
And the Lord God said, “Let there be light,” and lo, there was light. But then the Lord God said, “Wait, what if I make it a sort of rosy, sunset-at-the-beach, filtered half-light, so that everything else I design will look younger?”

“I’m loving that,” said Buddha. “It’s new.”

Riverbend notes that the Iraqi draft constitution (which is finished now, really it is, no foolin’ this time) seems to exist in various incompatible versions, and suggests that this is a problem because “this is a constitution – not a blog”. Hmmm, I wonder what a constitution in blog form would look like. Any ideas?

Sunday, September 18, 2005


The WaPo reports with a straight face that “Afghans have demonstrated enormous enthusiasm for the election -- about 12.4 million people have registered to vote, 2 million more than for last year’s presidential election”. Right, last year more people were registered to vote than there were actual people qualified to vote in all of Afghanistan, with voter registration reaching 140% in some areas, and this year they’ve topped that by 20%.

At the national prayer & remembrance thingy, Bush said, “As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality.” Really, George, is that really what you want us to do? Because no one’s life history shows the legacy of inequality more than yours does. Or do you not consider privilege, cronyism, nepotism and favoritism, which got you out of Vietnam, into Yale (you were even called a “legacy”), and smoothed your way through every economic venture you ever participated in (God knows it wasn’t skill and hard work), etc etc etc to be part of the legacy of inequality? Because while he may say that “poverty has roots in generations of segregation and discrimination that closed many doors of opportunity,” he doesn’t acknowledge or understand that his wealth and privilege and power are rooted in precisely the same discrimination, but discrimination in his favor. Deep down, he still believes that everything he has was earned, that he is entitled to them. And many of his followers’ biggest worry about Katrina is that it will derail their plans to eliminate permanently the legacy of inequality tax estate tax.

The NYT seems to have finally decided to report in more detail on the mass hunger strike in Guantanamo (which the military likes to call a “fast”) and the forcible feeding of prisoners (which the military likes to call “assisted feeding,” as if they were cutting up their meet for them rather than shoving a tube into their nostril and aaaaall the way down into their stomachs). A month late, but welcome nonetheless. Still, the Pentagon has been able to keep a pretty tight lid on the facts, which was of course the whole point of keeping the prisoners on a military base in Cuba in the first place, so the story is more frustrating than illuminating. The NYT reports, for example, that a “senior military official” told it that camp officials “had tried several ways to end the hunger strike, without success.” What on earth could those several ways have been? We do not know. A prisoners’ grievance committee was chosen (by whom? how organized are the prisoners?), began negotiations, and was almost immediately dissolved by Gitmo officials, we do not know why. What are their demands, and are the guards really desecrating Korans again? The Pentagon is also withholding information on the prisoners’ health, has lied about the numbers participating in the hunger strike, and won’t release the names of those on hunger strike, to the distress of prisoners’ relatives.

As I read that story (in Opera), I got Google ads for 1) “Club Gitmo” t-shirts, 2) the tv show “Prison Break”.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Join Aahnuld

Arnold Schwarzenegger announces that he will run for re-election. Imagine my relief.

That banner says “Rebuild California,” which evidently no one considered an inappropriate metaphor in the light of Katrina. But then they’re not known for sensitivity or good taste in Team Terminator, whose website (meaningless and badly punctuated slogan: “Let’s Reform California So That Together, We Can Rebuild It”) features this remarkably creepy image.

Loyalists who lack the necessary training

Hugo Chavez on Nightline tonight.

The US decertifies Venezuela as a country helping the US on drugs (keep in mind that Venezuela, unlike Colombia or Peru, doesn’t actually produce any coca, but coca does transit Venezuelan territory on the way to the US). Here’s what I like about the State Dept statement: it says the people in charge of anti-narcotics efforts “were fired and replaced with Chávez loyalists who lack the necessary training.” Cuz the Bush admin is definitely opposed to that sort of thing.

Today was the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. I hope you all prayed and remembered, in accordance with federal law.

The Cabinet that prays together, stays together.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Judges are not politicians

On the Pentagon website we learn that “Terror Occurs During Times of Iraqi Progress, General Says.” Must be a definition of progress with which I’m not familiar. General Rick Lynch (what is it with these guys’ names?) says that the recent epidemic of car-bombs is “predictable around the times that highlight progress towards democracy.” So that’s ok then. If they were so predictable, what is it you did to prevent them? Lynch says that counterinsurgency operations usually take a decade to succeed. That would be 2013. He said the terrorists have “zero effect” against Iraqi, US and coalition forces and so target civilians instead. That’ll be news to the 23+ Iraqi police and Interior Ministry commandos killed today alone. Perhaps they can have “zero effect” engraved on their tombstones.

Now, this is why I read the British newspapers. The Times provides the information that the bathroom Bush went to after handing the famous note to Condi “is famous in UN circles because a high-ranking protocol official once allegedly tried to fondle a messenger boy there.” In a further burst of journalistic exuberance, The Times interviews a urologist who says that when you gotta go, you gotta go. And they have a separate article on the importance of peeing and farting in diplomatic history.

The British government, having learned exactly nothing from the many miscarriages of justice perpetrated during the war against the IRA in the 1980s, or worse, not caring, is planning to use “supergrasses” against Islamic terrorists. For those who don’t remember, supergrasses were IRA members who testified against their former compatriots in exchange for immunity and money on such generous terms that perjury was inevitable.

And it gets better: Tony Blair is, as we know, planning to outlaw the glorification of terrorist acts. So they’re going to draw up a list of terrorist acts which can’t be legally glorified until 20 years later, except for 9/11, which there is an indefinite ban on glorifying, but you can go ahead and glorify the Easter Rising (Dublin, 1916) if you like.

What makes the sight of John Roberts refusing over and over to answer any substantive question is that it reeks of a sense of entitlement. In his mind the default position in this process is that he be confirmed, that is, that unless they can find something seriously wrong with him, they must confirm him, rather than that he must convince them that he is worthy of this job. I think the default position should be rejection, and if he isn’t willing to provide enough information that senators can see how he’d perform in the job, rejection is what it should be. He has tried to portray their attempt to ask him legitimate questions as a corrupt act:
It is not a process under which senators get to say, I want you to rule this way, this way and this way. And if you tell me you’ll rule this way, this way and this way, I’ll vote for you. That’s not a bargaining process. Judges are not politicians. They cannot promise to do certain things in exchange for votes.
Judges aren’t politicians? Funny, because demeaning the motives of your senatorial inquisitors like that, Swift-Boating them, looks a lot like politics to me.

Stunned and uprooted: George Bush talks about Katrina

Bush finally goes to New Orleans, having ensured himself of a non-hostile reception by emptying the city entirely. Did you like how he color-coordinated his shirt with the color of the lighting on the buildings? Did you like the statue of Andrew Jackson over his left shoulder? Did you pay much attention to what he said in that robotic voice? Me neither. I could swear he promised to rebuild church steeples. I bestirred myself to take a couple of notes. “We have seen our fellow citizens left stunned and uprooted.” I’m pretty sure you were already stunned, and ok, so you were “uprooted” from your vacation a couple of days early, we’re sorry you were inconvenienced.

He acknowledged that “As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well.” Poverty for Bush is always something he saw once on the teevee.

He called for a Gulf Opportunity Zone (GOZ), where there will be a few incentives for “entrepreneurs” (or storm profiteers, call them what you will), and, I’m gonna guess, a lot of relaxed labor and environmental regulations. He wants an “urban homesteading act” to give away some federal land in the region by lottery. Two weeks and that’s the best they came up with? And a generous $5,000 for job training and education (and child care while they’re looking for work). Funny, I thought the reason they have no jobs was this fucking big hurricane, not that they were untrained and uneducated.

And something about how the federal government was only prepared for a “normal” hurricane, and this wasn’t a normal one, it had, like, super-powers. And he ended by talking about New Orleans jazz funerals. He really shouldn’t be talking about New Orleans jazz funerals.

Not waving (at the Good Humor truck) but drowning

This poster is currently on display in the University of Colorado at Boulder, sponsored by the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

Why does Abdul Shandal hate Iraq?

William Saletan explains how John Roberts affirmed a right to privacy in a way that stripped it of any actual meaning.

The Iraqi justice minister, Abdul Hussein Shandal, has been complaining that the US military keeps arresting people and detaining them without any warrant from an Iraqi judge. Isn’t it cute when the natives pretend they’re in charge? He’s also bitching about the extraterritoriality (immunity from Iraqi laws) (defined by the distinguished jurist Stephen Sondheim in these terms:
...your laws
Do not apply
When we drop by;
Not getting shot,
No matter what:
A minor scrape,
A major rape,
And we escape.
That’s what is extraterritoriality.)
that the UN granted to American military forces (and Bremer extended to the various imported mercenaries, security guards, soldiers of fortune etc). He’s also been talking about removing the latters’ right to carry firearms without a license, so he’s obviously some sort of communist. And he criticized the US for arresting journalists. Oh yeah, definitely a pinko.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Would you agree that the opposite of being alive is being dead?

Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in. Sure John Roberts is deadly dull, but Biden emotes enough for the both of them. And then there’s Tom Coburn. You might think that to become both a doctor and a senator, you’d have to be something other than a complete idiot. You’d be wrong. (Hazzah and kudos, by the way, to the Daily Show for skewering this homophobic ass yesterday). Somehow he weaseled his way onto the Judiciary Committee, where he addressed these remarks to John Roberts:
As you have been before our committee, I’ve tried to use my medical skills of observation of body language to ascertain your uncomfortableness and ill at ease with questions and responses. ... And I will tell you that I am very pleased, both in my observational capabilities as a physician to know that your answers have been honest and forthright as I watch the rest of your body respond to the stress that you’re under.
But not in, like, a gay way, cuz we know Coburn isn’t down with the gayness, though he does have an odd fixation on lesbians in high school bathrooms. Coburn also had some point or other to make about the concept of brain-death, possibly having something to do with Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, and asked Roberts, “Would you agree that the opposite of being alive is being dead?” Roberts took a moment, and then agreed.

For a state somewhere between life and death, we must look to Guantanamo, where the hunger strike now involves more than 1/4 of the prisoners. According to Sgt. Justin Behrens, a military spokesmodel, talking about forcible feeding, and presumably intending to sound reassuring rather than threatening, “We’re going to take care of everyone.”

Other NATO countries are resisting American pressure to expand NATO’s role in Afghanistan beyond “peacekeeping” to offensive operations against the Taliban (Rumsfeld wants to reduce the American contingent without reducing the number of occupation troops). Rummy says “it would be nice if Nato developed counter-terrorist capabilities.” Nice. Violence in Afghanistan is increasing, but unless they target Americans no attention is paid in the US, where most people have forgotten that we’re still occupying Afghanistan. With elections coming up Sunday, there has been none of the usual rhetoric from Bush about purple fingers, 90-year olds braving the terrorists to cast their ballots, etc., presumably because he doesn’t want scrutiny of an election process that will not look especially democratic and which will return some quite unsavory warlords. Karzai said that it was ok that warlords hadn’t been expunged from the ballot, since voters could simply refuse to vote for them. Several former Taliban officials are also running, including the foreign minister, who had been held by the Americans for three years, and the head of the Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, who claims to have been misunderstood, why he wasn’t against girls being educated, they just didn’t have the money for it.

In a speech last week, which I keep forgetting to blog, Bush praised the efforts in relieving Katrina victims of the faith-based community and the “community-based community.”

Speaking of faith-based, Bush – that’s him in his bar mitzvah suit – celebrated the history of Jews in American life today.

Whoever’s in charge of the White House website is also down with the Jewish people, quoting Bush thus: “This may sound a little odd for a Methodist from Texas saying this, but I just came from shool [sic!].” Bush took the opportunity to blast “the desecration of synagogues in Gaza that followed Israel’s withdrawal.”

Taking storm responsibility

I’m surprised, but I shouldn’t be, at how many headlines I’ve seen like this typical one, from the WaPo: “Bush Takes Storm Responsibility.” As if he hadn’t coupled it with a non-acknowledgment that there were any mistakes to take responsibility for, and as if it actually meant anything. We’re so starved for a little accountability that even the miming of a pretense of a mockery of a sham of a simulacrum of accountability makes people who should know better go weak at the knees.

Speaking of a pretense of a mockery of an etcetera, I’ve given up on watching the Roberts confirmation hearings. They ask questions, he doesn’t answer them, gets old real fast, and you’re left watching his bland-beyond-bland face, which takes “normal” to such an extreme that it becomes something else entirely, like Terry O’Quinn in “The Stepfather,” a comparison only reinforced by how he’s got his family dressed.

Here he locks down Bill Frist’s vote by describing his cat-strangling technique.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I’ve never heard a single word of complaint

Bush, on Katrina: “To the extent the federal government didn’t fully do its job right, I take responsibility.” The conditional means that if we ask what it is he’s actually taking responsibility for, we’re playing the blame game. Or if we ask what “taking responsibility” actually entails, since I assume he’s not planning to resign and join Michael Brown in that stiff margarita. Also, George, you already took responsibility when you took the oath of office; don’t come in today acting like it’s optional.

Laura Bush tells the Heritage Foundation that the evacuees from Katrina are all thankful for how well they’ve been treated. “And that’s what I’ve seen at each of the shelters I’ve visited. I’ve never heard a single word of complaint.” But then she also thought the hurricane was named Corinna, so clearly an ear examination is in order. Or possibly she couldn’t hear the words of complaint over the voices in her head.

The Metropolitan Police say that, despite their murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, the shoot to kill policy is the “least worst option” and will be retained. But not explained to the British public, who don’t know what the “rules of engagement” are under which the police operate, that is, what they have to do in order not to be shot in the head seven or eight times. So to my British readers: good luck with that, and try not to make any sudden movements.

I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat

Don’t hate me for this, but I have to pass on the grossest news story of the week: “A Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe”. Collagen.

662 Russian soldiers have died this year, not counting those killed in Chechnya. 182 suicides, and who knows how many of the rest “hazed” to death. That is one seriously fucked up army.

The Israelis have sort of ended their occupation of the Gaza, unless you count the borders, the airspace, water supply, power supply, and their claim to have the right to send in the IDF any time they feel like it. Still, Gazan children can bathe in the Mediterranean for the first time, which is not nothing. Synagogues and settlements are ablaze. The last thing the IDF did Sunday before leaving was to put new signs on the former saying “Holy Place” in English and Arabic but not, you’ll notice, Hebrew, allowing Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom (in Hebrew, shalom means hello, goodbye and hypocritical douchebag) to decry “This... barbaric act by people with no respect for holy places.”

Schwarzenegger, defending his $45m special election: “People say it’s a waste of money to have the election. I say it’s a waste of democracy not to have an election.” Um, does that actually mean anything?

John Roberts: “I come before the committee with no agenda.” Funny, I never heard of him working for a Democratic administration. He’s been a Republican hack lawyer from the start. Suddenly we’re supposed to ignore his entire life before he started wearing black robes to work two years ago, just like we’re supposed to ignore Shrub’s life before he turned 40. Also, “ump,” enough with the baseball metaphors. We’ve heard about all the confirmation coaches he’s been spending his time with, and I strongly doubt there was even a word of his oh-so-unthreatening opening statement that came from his own pen and hadn’t been focus-grouped, including his claim to be a mere umpire: “I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.” You’ll notice his speech writers didn’t include a mention of home runs, and it’s the home runs he’s planning to call for Chimpy that worry me. This whole “judges are umpires” line may play well in the country, but anyone who knows anything more about the Supreme Court than that there are nine of them and they wear black robes knows it to be arrant nonsense.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The storm didn’t discriminate

As I write, Orrin Hatch is giving a long speech to John Roberts, imploring him not to answer any questions.

Bush finally goes to New Orleans, the town he used to get drunk in. He does so in order to look all manly and in-controlly.

Sorry, don’t know how that got in there. The real picture:

He went armed with a set of canned responses. Like everything else from this administration lately, they arrived a week late and were totally inadequate. Asked how racial considerations affected the response to Katrina, he sidestepped the issue and responded to an absurd accusation no one actually made: “The storm didn’t discriminate, and neither will the recovery effort. When those Coast Guard choppers ... were pulling people off roofs, they didn’t check the color of a person’s skin, they wanted to save lives.”

And after a week, here’s what Karl Rove came up with as an explanation for Bush’s remarks that no one anticipated the breaching of the levees: he meant AFTER the storm had bypassed New Orleans, when it was said that it had “dodged a bullet.” That’s not what he said, that’s not what he meant, he’s fooling no one.

Asked about federal failures, he snapped that the reporter was playing the blame game. Another reporter specifically asked him to name a single thing, just one, that had gone wrong. He stood in the middle of all that wreckage and devastation (his credibility I mean, although yeah New Orleans looked pretty trashed too) and couldn’t think of even one.

(Update: Here’s his answer to that one, in its full gibberishy glory:
Oh, I think there will be plenty of time to analyze, particularly the structure of the relationship between government levels. But, again, there’s -- what I think Congress needs to do -- I know Congress needs to do -- and we’re doing this internally, as well -- is to take a sober look at the decision-making that went on. And what I want the people of this state and the state of Mississippi to understand is that we’re moving forward with relief plans. And we’re going to move forward with reconstruction plans, and we’re going to do so in a coordinated way. And it’s very important for the folks of New Orleans to understand that, at least as far as I’m concerned, this great city has got ample talent and ample genius to set the strategy and set the vision. And our role at the federal government is -- obviously, within the law -- is to help them realize that vision. And that’s what I wanted to assure the Mayor.)
And I’m sure he felt very assured indeed.)

Just a clash between soldiers

From WaPo, “World in Brief”:
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Soldiers who fired at the defense minister’s convoy Saturday were not trying to assassinate him, but were shooting at other troops they were angry with, a government spokesman said.

“It was not an assassination attempt on the defense minister,” Gen. Mohammed Saher Azimi, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said at a news conference. “It was just a clash between soldiers.”
So that’s ok then.

From the same section comes more evidence of the benefits of privatization: the privatized Nicaraguan electricity company, now owned by a Spanish multinational, not being allowed to increase rates, has started “rationing” electricity, blacking out the capital (this is also indirect Katrina fallout, as most of Nicaragua’s electric plants are oil-fueled; expect a lot more of this throughout the Third World).

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Bush is thinking, “I was told there’d be balloon animals.”

Every American has memories of that day that will never leave them

The WaPo Saturday

on security contractors/mercenaries in Iraq is a must-read.

From the Sunday Times:
The world testicle cooking championships have fallen victim to a hoax. Kangaroo testicles were specially imported for an contestant who phoned the organiser claiming to be Australia’s top testicle chef, but he never showed up for the competition in Serbia. “We were disappointed when no Australians arrived,” says organiser Gornji Milanovac. “We even had a band ready to welcome them”. Co-organiser Ljubomir Erovic said: “We would like to compare the testicles of a kangaroo to those of wild boars and bulls.”
Another September 11 is upon us, a sort of anti-July 4th in which we celebrate our collective victimhood. It’s a sullen, unlovely form of nationalism. Bush said in his Saturday radio address, speaking of 9/11/01, “Every American has memories of that day that will never leave them.” Yeah, I remember watching it on CNN on a tv screen from 3,000 miles away. Really, I no more have “memories” of the attacks than I do of Luke destroying the Death Star (one good thing you can say about Vader’s management style: Michael Brown wouldn’t have lasted very long. “But Lord Vader, I sent you a report, ‘Skywalker determined to attack inside the Death Staaaarrrrgh.’”). Let’s not pretend it was something every American went through; most of us were just spectators.

Bush continued, “And in the days and weeks that followed, America answered history’s call to bring justice to our enemies and to ensure the survival and success of liberty. And that mission continues today.” In other words, still haven’t caught that bin Laden fella.

“Today, America is confronting another disaster that has caused destruction and loss of life.” FEMA? Michael Brown? You? “This time the devastation resulted not from the malice of evil men, but from the fury of water and wind.” Notice how he anthropomorphizes nature, attributing “fury” to it for rhetorical balance to “malice”? You know in private he refers to Hurricane Katrina as an “evildoer.” The man is a Manichean down to his toes, just could not exist without an enemy to define himself against.

The underlying message, of course, is “You guys liked me after the last disaster, really rallied around and stopped criticizing me all the time, why can’t it be like that again?” But like Fat Elvis doing a medley of his hits when he was Thin Elvis, it’s not really working anymore.

Not with the general public anyway. Joe Lieberman will still roll over for his tummy to be rubbed, and a Fourth Circuit panel just ruled that Bush can detain any American citizen “enemy combatant.” The opinion said that Jose Padilla was “associated with Al Qaeda, an entity with which the United States is at war.” How many problematic words can you find in that sentence? “Entity” is the lynchpin from which the problematicity of the other words derives, because by refusing to define what exactly Al Qaeda is (the word entity means, literally, something which exists; where words like navy or school or legislature or wife-swapping club give you some idea what those organizations do, the word entity only tells you that it exists), it’s hard to say what being at war with it means or what constitutes being “associated” with it. The Bush admin uses these calculated ambiguities to insist on being allowed the maximum discretion to define who the “enemy combatants” are and what it can do with them, and the court has given it exactly that.

And no, problematicity isn’t a real word, but you all knew what I meant.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Michael Brown has done everything he possibly could

Still refusing to admit that Brownie is an incompetent fuck-up, Chertoff spins his “reassignment” to a nice quiet office far away from where he can do damage thus: “Michael Brown has done everything he possibly could.” And the sad thing is that probably really is everything he could do. He has now been tasked to stay in his office and make paper-clip chains, which he’s been told are vitally important to the rescue work.

And of course he’ll continue to get a hefty paycheck for that vitally important work, as opposed to the people who actually haul away wreckage, restore electricity, etc. I’ll be interested to see how much play is given to Bush’s suspending the Davis-Bacon Act in order to let Halliburton (and other federal contractors) pay its workers in the storm-damaged areas less than the prevailing wage. My gift to the unions is a term I just made up that should be applied to this and future attempts to screw workers using the pretext of “national emergency”: storm profiteering.

Hunger-striking prisoners are being forcibly fed by tube in Guantanamo. Guantanamo spokesmodel Maj. Jeff Weir says, “No detention facility in the world will deliberately let their people commit suicide, so we can’t let that happen.” Obviously he’s never heard of Bobby Sands and the other 9 IRA men who were indeed allowed to starve themselves to death in 1980. This is a form of torture which is considered by the medical profession (and more importantly, by me) to be unethical when the hunger striker is not insane. The military seems to be unclear, or lying, about the numbers involved in the strike, and didn’t see fit to inform the outside world until the second month of the strike, and Weir claims not to know their demands.

Iraqi “president” Talabani says that US troops are needed in Iraq not only to fight insurgents, but also “to frighten our neighbours and prevent them from interfering in our internal affairs”.

Positive and upbeat

Time says most of Brownie’s resumé was hash. Geddit, hash brownie? Other, competent people have now been appointed to do the job for which Brown will evidently still be getting a paycheck. Bush had his chance to fire Brown and offload some of the blame onto him, but it’s a little late in the (blame) game now, to say nothing of “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” and “What didn’t go right last week?” but possibly he’s trying to game the blame game, figuring that if he attributes all the incompetence so far to Brown and fires him but things continue to be as fubar as ever, then he might be in trouble. A good scapegoat is hard to find.

The Iraqis are still negotiating the text of the constitution, and the UN is refusing to print it for the citizens who are supposed to be voting on it, since it was never ratified by the National Assembly.

The WaPo reports on the stringent security arrangements for the DOD’s 9/11 Freedom Walk and Hootenanny, or whatever they’re calling it. There will be walls and cops to keep out people who didn’t register with the Pentagon, and the press will be restricted. “Freedom” – the thing “they” hate us for – post-9/11-style. At the Pentagon website you can still “register to walk.” Ever since I first saw that, I’ve been itching to juxtapose it to a picture of a veteran in a wheelchair who can’t, you know, walk. My regular readers may be surprised to find that there are some things too tacky even for me (I also thought it would be disrespectful to use someone’s image for my own political ends like that).

Also on the Pentagon website, “Cheney Impressed by Can-Do Attitude of Katrina Survivors.” Everyone he met, he said, “is positive and upbeat.” The International Herald Tribune not too subtly says “Standing before piles of debris, he said that ‘the progress we’re making is significant’”.

Caption contest:

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Never let a director of FEMA be appointed and confirmed without having the background of emergency management and that experience

Chimpy has finally leapt into action, declaring a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, although oddly enough for next Friday. If it takes 8 whole days to prepare for prayer (try saying that ten times fast), it can only be because FEMA is making the arrangements. (Update: the Poor Man finds some irony.)

Lou Dubose article on the eerily familiar failures of FEMA under Bush the Elder and the rebuilding of the agency by Clinton, who urged Congress not to let, ahem, future presidents dump their cronies, and college roommates of their cronies, on the agency: “In any future administrations, I challenge you as members of Congress to never let a director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency be appointed and confirmed without having the background of emergency management and that experience.” Dubose doesn’t mention the contribution of Ronald Reagan, who redirected FEMA’s focus away from natural disasters and towards building bomb shelters and preparing for the Reagan myth of a survivable and indeed “winnable” nuclear war, a myth Bush Senior believed in (Robert Scheer, With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War, page 29). We heard a lot of dark muttering in those days about the Moscow subway system, in which Russians would huddle cozily until the radiation went away, emerging as the new Red Overlords of a world of mutated cockroaches, or something like that. FEMA was cheerily optimistic about its ability to cope with nuclear holocaust with, as Scheer’s title quote puts it, enough shovels. Here’s a FEMA report from December 1980: “With reasonable protective measures, the United States could survive nuclear attack and go on to recover within a relatively few years.” (p. 111) Not that that cockeyed optimism has completely gone away.

Finally, help is on the way

From the BBC: “Dick Cheney has arrived on the country’s Gulf coast for a tour of the areas worst affected by Hurricane Katrina. Mr Cheney will review whether enough is being done to tackle the disaster... His visit comes as 25,000 body bags are sent to New Orleans”.

Triumph of the will

Schwarzenegger plans to veto the gay marriage bill, not because he is against gay marriage, why heaven forfend, but because the voters passed a ballot measure in March 2000 not to recognize gay marriages entered into outside California. Very respectful of “the will of the people” (it does not sound better in the original German) is the governator, except perhaps for the November 2002 re-election of Gray Davis. Der Arnold is of course trying to have it both ways, claiming to be a friend of the gays, why he’s perfectly happy to let them marry, it’s just his pesky constitutional scruples that get in the way. The LAT asks, “Schwarzenegger has also indicated that this is an issue best left to voters and the courts, not mere lawmakers. Does he not believe in the American system of representative democracy?” That’s a trick question, right? The gay marriage bill’s author, Mark Leno, says Arnie is “pandering to the far right.” He makes it sound so... dirty.

George Skelton points out that the California electorate voted in 1964 to overturn the Legislature’s recent ban on racial discrimination in housing.

Sen. John Cornyn says of the second Supreme Court vacancy, “I don’t know whether John Roberts has a twin, perhaps a sister or, uh, someone with a Hispanic last name.” So hilarious, and not racist or sexist or terminally cynical at all.

Jon Stewart says that those who don’t want to play the “blame game”... are the ones who are to blame.

Did the military really set up a recruitment drive among the refugees in the Astrodome? Fucking vultures.

More London Review of Books personals:
My ad comes in the medium of whistles: ppfffttttt, ssshhhhhhhwwwwt, peeffwt, pfftpt. Man. 36. Bad at whistling. Box no. 17/02

Employed in publishing? Me too. Stay the hell away. Man on the inside seeks woman on the outside who likes milling outside hospitals guessing illnesses of out-patients. 30-35. Leeds Box no. 17/08

Don't speak, you'll only destroy my already low opinion of you. And put your pants back on. And your wig. Terminally disappointed woman (38, Barnstaple) WLTM a man. Form a queue, then I'll negotiate the criteria. Box no. 16/03

Gynotikolobomassophile (M, 43) seeks neanimorphic F to 60 to share euneirophrenia. Must enjoy pissing off librarians (and be able to provide the correct term for same). Box no. 16/04

American man, 57. I just want a girlfriend. What the hell is going on here? Box no. 16/08

[More of my LRB favorites here.]

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Unwilling to reveal the most damning evidence

The interesting thing about the California Legislature’s vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage is that it was almost entirely partisan, with the support of 41 of 47 Democrats (with only 4 against and 2 abstaining) and zero Republicans (1 abstaining).

The Miami Herald notes that the US plan to “contain” Hugo Chávez isn’t working. The Herald is happy to pass along that “administration officials say they’re unwilling to reveal the most damning evidence against Chávez for fear of compromising intelligence sources.” Oo, where have we heard that one before. I’ve been trying to track for a while how serious the Bushies are about overthrowing Chavez, and the Herald isn’t that helpful, which is annoying because it is paying attention to the issue, unlike say the NYT or WaPo. But just because it’s interested doesn’t mean it can get anyone to give it the inside scoop. The article conveys echoes of strong intra-Bushie arguments about what to do about Venezuela without saying what the various sides are or what they’re advocating, giving us unhelpful hints like “There was at least one proposal that would have affected Venezuela’s oil industry.”

It’s not out of the question that the US will cut a sub rosa deal with Chavez, a quicker and less risky way of ensuring a continued flow of oil than attempting an overthrow.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Heck of a job

Yahoo helped the Chinese government put a journalist in jail for 10 years for exposing the text of orders the gov sent to newspapers on how to report about dissidents.

Via Josh Marshall, a Salt Lake Tribune article that must be read to be believed, about firefighters who volunteered from around the country to go to Katrinaland to save lives, but on arrival found that they were to be deployed... handing out leaflets. After, of course, they sat through hours of classes on community relations, sexual harassment and so on. And for a group of 50 firefighters from Atlanta, their first task on arrival was to stand behind George Bush for his photo op.

According to Jesse Jackson, the US has refused Venezuela’s offer of assistance. Well, it’s not like Venezuelans are even properly trained. I mean, do they even have sexual harassment classes in Venezuela?

From today’s Gaggle:
Q Is “Brownie” still doing a “heck of a job,” according to the President?

McCLELLAN: We’ve got to continue to do everything we can in support of those who are involved in the operational aspects of this response effort. And that’s what we’re going to do. There will be plenty of time –
Yes, just as anyone pointing out the failures of Bush’s prosecution of the war in Iraq was “attacking the troops,” now anyone criticizing Arabian Horse Boy is attacking the brave and heroic rescue workers, who are even now attending sexual harassment classes over there so we don’t have to attend them over here. How dare they.

We’ve got to solve problems. We’re problem-solvers

George “Inspector Clouseau” Bush will “lead,” personally mind you, “an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong.”

“I’ve gathered all the suspects together. One of you is the killer,” he said, not knowing it was a Murder on the Orient Express scenario

“And I’ll tell you why. It’s very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe. And the reason it’s important is, is that we still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure that we can respond properly if there’s a WMD attack or another major storm. And so I’m going to find out over time what went right and what went wrong. ... There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong.”
I mean, O.J.’s still looking for the real killer, right? Ample time.”

Until then, “We’ve got to solve problems. We’re problem-solvers.”

Speaking of inept, how about the reporter who asked the question that led to this announcement of the establishment of CSI: Crawford. He or she asked whether Bush would be replacing anyone, rather than asking a specific question requiring a specific response about, say, Michael “Fuck you and the Arabian horse you rode in on” Brown.

Bush went on, “[A]nd we want to see Biloxi rise again.” Uh, right.

Asked about the Supreme Court: “I want the Senate to focus not on who the next nominee is going to be, but the nominee I’ve got up there now.” Which I take to mean he’s refusing to name his second nominee until after the Senate has acted on Roberts. Which is not a good sign.

Later, he oh so articulately suggested Americans give to NGOs trying to “save the life who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina.”

Monday, September 05, 2005

Like a dog watching television (but not as intelligent)

Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation: “Yet as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality.”

Barbara “Rhymes with Socksucker” Bush, after hanging out with some of the storm refugees: “Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we’re going to move to Houston. ... What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this (she chuckles slightly)--this is working very well for them.” Looking for a picture, I ran across the fact that just two weeks ago, Albion College gave her an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Her letters may be humane, but she forms them into some quite inhumane words.


Bush says that “Mississippi is a part of the future of this country.” Just in case you were wondering.

If it’s not going right, we’ll make it right

Bush, at the Bethany World Church in Baton Rouge: “Listen, Laura and I have come back down to Louisiana and then we’re going over to Mississippi to let the good people of this region know there’s a lot of work to be done”. Oh I think they can figure that out for themselves. And later he reminded everyone, “And -- but remember, this is a project that not only deals with the immediate, we’re going to have to deal with the long term, as well.” It’s because of just that sort of high-level sophisticated understanding of complex problems that he’s the president and you’re just a lowly peon.

He went on, “[W]e can help save lives once a person finds a shelter such as this. That means getting people food, and water, and medicine, and help, and in a place like this, love.” I say, steady on, we’ve only just met.

He uses that creepy phrase “armies of compassion” again. Who knew that some day we’d miss his father’s “thousand points of light”? He says, “So long as anybody’s life is in danger, we’ve got work to do”. Yeah yeah, as long as a cop’s beatin’ up a guy, he’ll be there, wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, he’ll be... well maybe not right there, possibly at a fundraising dinner, but those can be pretty grueling too, you know.

A pleasant thought, for once

As much as I shudder at the thought of a Roberts Court, I can’t help giggling when I imagine the look on Scalia’s face when he found he wasn’t inheriting Rehnquist’s Gilbert & Sullivan-striped robe.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race

Like those obnoxious pharmacists who refuse to fill morning-after or birth control pill prescriptions, judges have taken to refusing to hear parental-notification-bypass cases. The most serious danger of this development is hidden deep in the NYT story: pro-lifers could target elected judges who don’t opt out or who grant exemptions.

Chertoff: “We are in control of what’s going on in the city.” Remember that. Everything that happens now is officially his fault.

Rice: “Nobody, especially the president, would have left people unattended on the basis of race.” Unattended? Of course not. That’s what all that talk about restoring law ‘n order was about, attending to people on the basis of race with extreme prejudice.

The gasoline fallout attendant on Katrina has been bringing up memories of those several-hour lines in the ‘70s, and the odd & even rationing that made those lines so much worse. Hasn’t happened here yet, but a version has appeared in Iraq, where people will only be allowed to drive their cars every other day.

Although Israel’s highest court ordered the military to stop using Palestinians as human shields, they still do, as recently as Wednesday, including a 13-year old. The IDF commander, evidently unaware that this was a no-no, freely admitted it to Ha’aretz, saying “I’m ready to do anything to protect my soldiers.” Asked what he would do if someone had done that to his family, he replied, “You’re going into politics now, and I don’t deal with politics.”

No need for a caption contest here, because the caption is so fucking obvious: Get out and help those women (81 and 62 years old, respectively).

Saturday, September 03, 2005

We’re going to go out and take this city back

More on the Fallujaization of New Orleans. An article in the Army Times is headlined, “Troops Begin Combat Operations in New Orleans” and quotes Brigadier General Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.” The article refers to the “insurgency” in NO.

Condi Rice: “That Americans would somehow in a color-affected way decide who to help and who not to help, I just don’t believe it.” Condi will be traveling to Alabama tomorrow to look at storm damage, probably not wearing any of her expensive new footwear. Maybe she can lead the storm victims in a rousing chorus of Always Look On the Bright Side of Life.

Bush today: “The main priority is to restore and maintain law and order, and assist in recovery and evacuation efforts.” Wouldn’t that be three main priorities? Organize a response, fuck, the man can’t even organize a simple sentence. Also, shouldn’t food and medicine be on that list somewhere? certainly ahead of law & order.

Evidently every scene of the food distribution and levee work that Bush got himself pictured in front of yesterday, all of it, was fake, with workers, equipment and food going away again when he left., a site I was unfamiliar with, does a nice job of pulling in the details from various news sources, and the site has lots of other posts about the ineptitude of the response to Katrina. Mary Landrieu today castigated this as “a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity.” Got news for you, Mary: as far as Bush is concerned, we’re all hastily prepared stage sets for him to strut around in front of. Including the people. Especially the people. Did you notice in that footage of him talking to the two black women yesterday that he had his arm draped over the shoulder of the one who looked to me to be in her teens the entire time he was talking to her sister, but never thought to make eye contact with her. And somehow he never met even one of the many people inclined to yell at him for his manifold failures. No Cindy Sheehan moments here either.

So, if you’re up for one, a caption contest (those aren’t the same black women I was just referring to).

Friday, September 02, 2005

I’m looking forward to my trip down there

Via DailyKos, this Grover Norquist memo, dated today, to US Senators, opposing the move to delay a vote on eliminating inheritance taxes permanently, which he says is “Proof that they are exploiting this tragedy is that they were never for repeal of the Death Tax in the first place.” The Grovester would never consider doing that, well, except for saying that repeal would produce “higher levels of economic growth is exactly what the residents of the Gulf Region need at this time to start the rebuilding process for their neighborhoods and more importantly for their lives.” Hey, why don’t you go and make that argument with the true beneficiaries of your charitable proposal in Biloxi or New Orleans or better yet the Superdome: one moron enters, no moron leaves.

Dana Milbank in the WaPo:
“I’m looking forward to my trip down there,” President Bush said in the White House driveway yesterday morning before leaving to tour the storm wreckage.

Something must have happened in flight, because when he arrived in Mobile, Ala., two hours later, he reported: “I’m not looking forward to this trip.”
And evidently all helicopters were grounded for the duration of the Clueless One’s visit.