Wednesday, November 30, 2005

No war has ever been won on a timetable

The lower house of the Czech parliament has voted to reduce, in tandem, the age of consent and the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 14. They also voted to make communist genocide denial a crime.

Bush’s National Strategy for Victory says, “No war has ever been won on a timetable - and neither will this one.” This follows the strategy of such great American generals as Eisenhower who, when asked to set a date for the invasion of France, a “D-Day,” as one aide, a youngster possibly named Murtha, called it, refused out of hand, declaring, “No war has ever been won on a timetable: I won’t be bound by your fancy-shmancy ‘watches’ and your hoity-toity ‘calendars’ and your la-di-da ‘measured progression of events in relation to time’...”

We don’t need no stinkin’ cute kitty calendars

Fred Kaplan at Slate points out some of the inconsistencies, to put it kindly, in Bush’s speech, including multiple definitions of when the “mission” is complete, and no definition at all of “victory.” So it’s not just timetables Bush rejects, but dictionaries as well. But you knew that.

I watch Bush’s Iraq speech – oh God, make it stop – so you don’t have to

Because people in the White House still believe that the way to revive support for something is to have the Chimperor make a speech about it, Bush gave a “strategy for victory” speech today at Annapolis, although I’m pretty sure the Navy isn’t a big part of that strategy.

Actually, after listening to it, I’m not sure I heard any actual strategy. He did repeatedly refer to it as a “clear strategy,” so it may be see-through, which would explain a lot.

He also called it a national strategy, but he didn’t say which nation, and for most of the speech American troops were also see-through, invisible. Mostly he spoke about Iraqis. Good Iraqis, and bad Iraqis. The good ones have all joined the Iraqi army or police, all for altruistic reasons of course, no death squads here, and they are standing up so... well, you know the rest. They’re being trained and increasing in numbers and in every day in every way they’re getting better and better.

For the bad Iraqis, who Rumsfeld says we’re no longer allowed to call insurgents, Bush created a handy taxonomy, applying labels that are in no way useful in assisting understanding and which bear little resemblance to the actual people involved. They consist, he says, of Rejectionists, Saddamists & terrorists. Rejectionist, which sounds like a label Stalin might have used for his ideological opponents or kulaks or something, actually means Sunni. Evidently we’re going to “marginalize” these Rejectionists, he said it several times, but I don’t know what that actually means. I suspect he doesn’t either. Saddamists (shouldn’t it be Husseinistas?) are just a few guys, also Sunnis, and will also be marginalized or turned into margarine or something. Terrorists are defined as “affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaeda,” and Bush emphasized the foreigners among them; they’re like outside agitators and “These terrorists have nothing to offer the Iraqi people.”

Bush twice refers to violence as media events (“the suicide bombings and the beheadings and the other atrocities we see on our television” and “creat[ing] chaos for the cameras”), as if the terrorists were run by an Arab Karl Rove.

I fell into a hypnotic state after a while, but I could swear he made fun of Democrats for saying that his only plan is to “stay the course,” like they just made up the phrase themselves.

Anyway, if you were wondering what our mission in Iraq is, “Our mission in Iraq is to win the war - our troops will return home when that mission is complete.” As opposed to when the mission is accomplished, which was a couple of years ago.

And then it was over, leaving us all re-energized and re-dedicated to whatever it was he was talking about.

Rumsfeld spots a sign of progress in Iraq

When Secretary of War Rumsfeld is bored, he likes to rename stuff (and torture puppies). Today, he decided (full transcript here) that the Iraqi insurgency doesn’t merit the word insurgency. “These people don’t have a legitimate gripe,” he says, so from now on, they’ll be “enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government” or ELIGgers for short. Also, since the Iraqi government is legitimate, “Any contention that there’s some sort of an occupation taking place or that coalition forces are there at anything other than the invitation of the government and the United Nations becomes a weaker argument.” Yeah, heaven forfend they get the idea into their heads that there’s some sort of an occupation taking place.

Asked about white phosphorus, Rummy handed off to the alliterative Gen. Peter Pace, and here there’s something interesting in the transcript. Pace insists willy pete is “a legitimate tool of the military” and that
It is not a chemical weapon, it is an incendiary (sic) [It is not an incendiary weapon as defined by the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons], and it is well within the law of war to use those weapons as they are being used for marking and for screening.
The sic & brackets are in the transcript. I think Pace accidentally admitted to a war crime.

Asked about the uniformed death squads working within the, uh, legitimate Iraqi government, Rumsfeld: “I’m not going to comment on hypothetical questions. I’ve not seen reports that hundreds are being killed by roving death squads at all.” As Maureen Dowd once said, fire Rummy or make him read faster. He went on, “I can only talk about what I know. That’s life.” He actually suggested that the death squad claims are purely “politicking,” part of the December 15 elections, so they’re yet one more “sign of progress” – see if you can follow this – because instead of “repression by a vicious dictator,” “They’re tugging; they’re pulling; they’re arguing; they’re debating; they’re making charges and countercharges. That’s a good thing. That’s a sign of progress, in my view.” Yes, Sunnis complaining about being murdered by roving Shiite death squads is a sign of progress.

In response to a question about torture by Iraqi security types, there was this already-famous exchange:
GEN. PACE: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it. ...

SEC. RUMSFELD: But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it’s to report it.

GEN. PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it.
Rummy emits an odd combination of happy talk – “But by golly, the people who have been denigrating the Iraqi security forces are flat wrong!” – and language designed to distance himself from any responsibility for the atrocities that are going on now, and the atrocities to come:
Our problem is that any time something needs to be done, we have a feeling we should rush in and fill the vacuum and do it ourselves. ... It is the Iraqis’ country, 28 million of them. They are perfectly capable of running that country. They’re not going to run it the way you would or I would or the way we do here in this country, but they’re going to run it.
At 6:45 a.m. PST, Bush will give his speech outlining his “strategy for victory” in Iraq.

And that’s important for people around the world to understand

Q Is there going to be investigating the allegations that there are U.S.-run terrorist detention centers abroad? Don’t the American people deserve an accounting of why these places exist and what’s being done there?

THE PRESIDENT: The United States of America does not torture. And that’s important for people around the world to understand.
You’ll notice that even when evading a question, he does it in the form of a bald-faced lie.

Speaking of bald-face lies, the London Times details those by the British (Labour party) government in the 1970s to cover up the atrocities committed by Indonesia after it invaded East Timor, doing the bidding of Henry Kissinger.

Spain just really pissed off the Bushies by selling arms to Venezuela. As much as I enjoy seeing the “imperialist elite which seeks to dominate the world,” as Chávez calls them (imperialist, check, seek to dominate the world, check, but “elite?”), with smoke coming out of their ears, I’m not especially comfortable with his description of the signing ceremony as “more than a commercial [deal], this ceremony is one of dignity”. I get worried when countries, especially those run by former military officers, start defining their national dignity in terms of weaponry; that’s the sort of rhetoric we hear from Iran, India and Pakistan about their nuclear programs.

In Iraq, the US is bribing newspapers to print, as if they were real news stories, good-news stories written by American military personnel, stories with titles like “Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism” and “More Money Goes to Iraq’s Development.” The managing editor of one paper said that if he’d known the stories came from the US government, journalistic ethics would have required him to... “charge much, much more.” Also, the Americans have bought a newspaper, and through some mechanism taken over a radio station; they won’t say which ones, but only to protect the employees, of course.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

He doesn’t walk around Washington with a lot of airs like some of them do

The LAT on Iraqi death squads within the interior ministry, or possibly on the interior ministry within the death squads. A must-read. NYT on same.
Bayan Jabr, the interior minister, and other government officials denied any government involvement, saying the killings were carried out by men driving stolen police cars and wearing police and army uniforms purchased at local markets. “Impossible! Impossible!” Mr. Jabr said. “That is totally wrong; it’s only rumors; it is nonsense.”
Back in January, Newsweek ran an article suggesting that it was Pentagon policy to set up death squads, the Salvador Option. I believe Rumsfeld’s sole response, which he was allowed to get away with, was that he hadn’t read the story because he couldn’t find it in his copy, and he hadn’t heard of a country called El Salvador either, but he could deny the existence of “this so-called Salvatore -- Salvador option, I think it’s called.” No one seems to have revisited the issue with Rummy this week, although the Pentagon website does feature a story, “Iraqi Security Forces Steadily Improving, But Still Need Support.”

Bush, at a Jon Kyl fundraiser, addressed these concerns dead on:
We’re going to succeed in Iraq because our vision, and the vision of those in Iraq who believe in democracy, is positive and hopeful, as opposed to the vision of the suiciders and killers of the innocent. We’re going to succeed in Iraq because we’ve got a plan that will help the Iraqis not only develop a democracy, but a security force.

And on Jon Kyl: “Look, I don’t know how many U.S. senators there are that like NASCAR. (Laughter.) I view that as a pretty good sign, to have a United States senator who follows NASCAR. It means he’s down to earth. He doesn’t walk around Washington with a lot of airs like some of them do.”

Monday, November 28, 2005

They need to stay at home

I think I need to clarify my last post about the Bushies’ new spin. With the backlash against the attempt to swift-boat (or michael-mooreize) Murtha, they’ve decided on this new tack of focusing on wishy-washy D’s like Biden, which is most of them, who won’t call for an immediate pull-out but would prefer not to occupy Iraq forever, and, instead of portraying them as defeatist cut & runners, paint them as unoriginal copycats, “adopting key portions of the administration’s plan for victory.” By pretending that there are no substantive policy differences (which in Biden’s case isn’t far from the truth, which is precisely why they chose him to stand in for all centrist Democrats), they can claim that any criticism must be partisan in nature. In other words, they are once again pretending to be uniters, not dividers.

Speaking of dividing, Bush talked about “securing the border” today in Arizona. He lauded something called “interior repatriation,” which means dumping illegal immigrants well inside Mexico. How exactly the United States has the power to put someone on a bus in a foreign country and keep them on that bus until it reaches its destination, I do not know. He said, “We want to make it clear that when people violate immigration laws, they’re going to be sent home, and they need to stay at home.” And it’s no television for you either, young man!

In the rest of the speech, he talked about streamlining deportations, increasing the size of the border patrol and giving it lots of fancy toys, a temporary worker program not leading to permanent residence or citizenship, and so forth. He talked of immigrants as illegal workers, murderers, child molesters, gang members, etc, but his speech was carefully written to avoid conferring upon them even the humanity of the singular personal pronoun; that is, he never calls them “he” or “she,” they are always part of a depersonalized horde. Or possibly a depersonalized school, as in fish, since he also derides the current “catch and release” policy.

I like how the Indy puts it: “Six years after Grozny was blasted to smithereens on the orders of Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, it was claimed that the separatist-minded people of Chechnya now support the man who commanded the almost total destruction of their capital.” “President” Alu Alkhanov described the elections as “democratic, honest and transparent,” speaking, the Indy points out, amid the ruins of the city: “A bombed out Soviet-style apartment block seemed like an unlikely prop for feel-good propaganda but the authorities obviously had no choice.” The caption to this AP photo is “Chechen police guard the Finance ministry during a news conference of Chechya's president, Alu Alkhanov in the Chechen capital of Grozny, Monday, Nov. 28, 2005.”

Putin is pretending this is some sort of purple-finger moment, claiming, for fuck’s sake, that the Chechen people “have shown that no one can scare them.”

Adopting key portions of administration’s plan for victory in Iraq

The new White House line is that everyone actually agrees on the fundamentals about Iraq, so why all the fussin’ and the feudin’? The implication being that any remaining dissent must therefore all be about partisan politics, which is why they single out Joe Biden, who thinks he’s running for president, in a hilarious piece of spin, entitled “Setting the Record Straight: Sen. Biden Adopts Key Portions of Administration’s Plan for Victory in Iraq,” that must be read to be believed.

Among the people who are evidently not adopting key portions of the administration’s plan for victory in Iraq are the members of the US Air Force who spoke to Seymour Hersh for this week’s New Yorker article. They are scared that the Bushies’ Vietnamization plan will involve wogs Iraqis setting bombing targets – oh, it just won’t do – and abusing the privilege by getting the Americans to bomb their sectarian enemies. Evidently Hersh’s sources are unaware that they’re already fully involved in an Iraqi civil war. Whether they are also concerned that a greater reliance on air-power, as American ground troops are moved to relative safety, will dramatically increase the number of deaths of innocent Iraqis is not clear.

Okay, it is clear.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The important thing is for someone not to come away thinking this whole process is arbitrary, which it is not

Adam Liptak in the NYT writes that the Bush admin “sets its own rules” as to whether prisoners in The War Against Terror (TWAT) are charged with a crime or held forever as an enemy combatant, although even that gives them too much credit, since there is no evidence that rules actually exist. A Justice Dept spokesmodel says, “The important thing is for someone not to come away thinking this whole process is arbitrary, which it is not,” but if we go by my computer dictionary’s definition of arbitrary, “2. (of power or authority) used without constraint; autocratic”, then that is exactly what we’re talking about. The factors the spokesmodel cites for how someone will be treated are:
national security interests, the need to gather intelligence and the best and quickest way to obtain it, the concern about protecting intelligence sources and methods and ongoing information gathering, the ability to use information as evidence in a criminal proceeding, the circumstances of the manner in which the individual was detained, the applicable criminal charges, and classified-evidence issues.
And evil lawyer John Yoo adds,
The main factors that will determine how you will be charged are, one, how strong your link to Al Qaeda is and, two, whether you have any actionable intelligence that will prevent an attack on the United States.
What’s missing from these lists? Human and civil rights, the rule of law, fair trials, justice. Every factor they cite is about the convenience of the state, and the state alone.

Speaking of the rule of law, Singapore has fired its long-serving hangman, Darshan Singh, after his name (and most of his body) were revealed in The Australian. Singh has hanged more than 850 people, as many as 18 in a single day. Singapore is scrambling to import a new executioner in time for the scheduled hanging of an Australian drug-smuggler. Singh will miss the extra cash, but says, “In a way I am happy.” And that’s the important thing.

These goats are a gift from God

There’s a week-old (so the link may not be good for much longer) LAT story I missed until the Miami Herald ran a shorter version, about how harmless American Christian missionaries in Venezuela are and how Chávez is a) paranoid and b) a big meanie for expelling some of them (others have left voluntarily, including all the Mormons. Result!) and how the poor benighted Indians will surely suffer. The article says that “many of the estimated 45,000 indigenous people in the Amazon basin resent the expulsion order, saying the missionaries have improved their lives,” but only quotes one of these resentful indigenous people, a politician.

County officials in Miami, Ohio, have ordered a 12-year old boy to get rid of his trampolining goats. His mother says they’re necessary to help him manage his ADD. “These goats are a gift from God,” she says.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

But honestly, I mean, conspiracy theories...

Last month, you’ll remember, US troops in Afghanistan burned the bodies of two Taliban fighters and taunted locals as “lady boys” for not coming out to recapture the corpses, and did it all on Australian television. A military investigation has just cleared them, upholding their laughable explanation that it was done for reasons of hygiene with “no intent to desecrate the remains”. They may yet be charged with “failing to show local understanding,” although the whole point of the exercise was to implement local understanding in the form of crude psychological warfare – “You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burned,” they sneered through loudspeakers. As in Abu Ghraib, Americans’ sociological interest in foreign cultures is in finding points of cultural sensitivity to exploit: fear of dogs, dislike of nakedness, taboos against physical contact with strange women, etc.

I haven’t written about Bush’s supposed plan to bomb Al Jazeera before now because I’m still not sure how seriously to take it, although the British government’s ferocious efforts to suppress, by threatening British editors with imprisonment, reports of this plot to suppress Al Jazeera’s reports through rather more robust measures does give it more credibility, as does Tony Blair scoffing comment, “But honestly, I mean, conspiracy theories...” However, the Sunday Times and the Sindy believe there are other things in the memo that the government wants kept hushed up, like details of the siege of Fallujah, Bush’s endorsement without consulting Blair of Sharon’s plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza, and secret negotiations with Iran, which Britain hoped to persuade to rein in al-Sadr.

US military attacks on Al Jazeera are nothing new, and were, Robert Fisk points out, presaged by the 1998 bombing of Serbian tv, but my agnosticism comes from the fact that such a move inside Qatar would have been spectacularly self-defeating even for the Bushies: being expelled from the US base there would have seriously complicated the Iraq war. I’m sure the truth will come out in 3 or 7 or 15 or 53 years. The Sunday Times notes that the day before the Bush-Blair meeting in April ‘04, Rumsfeld accused Al Jazeera of “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” reports that the siege of Fallujah was targeting civilians. My favorite bit was the phone interview they did a few days before that with Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Military Moron, claiming that the US had declared a unilateral cease-fire in Fallujah, which they ran with live pictures of the town being bombed by F-16s. One of the US conditions for ending the siege: the expulsion of Al Jazeera from the town. Later, they got their puppet government to expel it from the whole country. In April ‘04, the US also tried to get Qatar to censor the channel.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Du Bist Deutschland

So the German government is spending $30m on a campaign to make Germans feel better about being Germans. The campaign’s slogan, “Du Bist Deutschland (You are Germany)” was carefully chosen, except for the failure to check if the Nazis had ever used it...

and the fact that it sounds like an accusation (“Who, me? I’m not Germany, you must be thinkin’ of some other guy.”) And that one of the ads features Albert Einstein, who renounced his German citizenship in 1896.

Also, the name of Ariel Sharon’s new party, Kadima (forward) is criticized for echoing one of Mussolini’s slogans, “Avanti (forward)” (which is also the name of a not-at-all-good Jack Lemmon movie). Sharon claims he won’t spend time attacking Likud, which would a) be very uncharacteristic of him, b) screw up a joke I was holding in reserve, something about Sharon withdrawing from Likud and then bombing it, just like Gaza.

Shouting fire in a crowded torture house

John Kerry served on a jury this week (“I’m John Kerry, and I’m reporting for jury duty!”). He was even elected jury foreman. The AP says his “fellow jurors called him a natural leader.” Hopefully they exercised better judgment than that in coming to a verdict in the case.

Today is Augusto Pinochet’s 90th birthday (and the Bush twins’ 24th), and he’s spending it under house arrest. Good.

Speaking of house arrest, Riverbend writes that what I’ve been calling secret prisons in Iraq were no secret to people who lived near them:
The neighbors had tried to get the Americans to check the house for months - no one bothered. They finally raided it because they got information from someone in the area that it was an insurgents hiding place. I read once that in New York, if a woman is being raped, she should scream ‘fire’ instead of ‘rape’ because no one would come to save her if she was screaming ‘rape’. That’s the way it is with Iraqi torture houses – the only way they’ll check it is if you tell them it’s a terrorist cell.
From the BBC, a laundry woman’s tale:
A Nigerian state governor has denied reports that he escaped charges of money-laundering in the UK by disguising himself as a woman.

However, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha told the BBC that he could not remember other details of his journey back to the oil-rich southern Bayelsa State.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Why did the Americans come here?

Headline in a British newspaper that probably sounds more alarming to Americans than to Brits: “Murdered Head’s School in Academy Row.”

Today, some American soldiers went to deliver candy and toys to the child patients in a hospital in Mahmoudiya, Iraq. You already know this story isn’t going to end well, don’t you? But let’s pause to wonder: how were they planning to spin the Thanksgiving tale for Iraqi consumption? Well, people fleeing their homes because of religious persecution, I guess Iraqis can relate to that. Puritanical religious fanatics whose goal is to stamp out every sign of free will and joy, especially among females, that might seem familiar too (Muqtada al-Sadr is of course Arabic for Cotton Mather, and I’m pretty sure somewhere in that new constitution is the phrase “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”). White guys with guns arriving from a foreign land and taking control of all the natural resources? Check.

So the Americans went to the hospital, and a suicide bomb attack killed 30 or 34 people. Shouted one survivor, in a question that is in no way a metaphor for the wider situation, “Why did the Americans come here? They must have known they would bring the killers with them.”

And Kadima spelled backwards is Amidak. OK, I got nothing.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in Pakistan, says that the Crusades were a bad idea after all, sorry about that.

I’ve been asking what happened to the prisoners in the secret Iraqi prison: they were transferred to Abu Ghraib, according to the BBC. And probably happy to be there. Yes, we’ve created a brand-new Iraq, where Abu Ghraib is considered the soft option, and an Iraqi prisoner at the bottom of a naked human pyramid is even now giving thanks that he is no longer in the clutches of his fellow countrymen, who we installed in power.

Ariel Sharon has finally chosen a name for his new party: Kadima, meaning “forward,” which my computer dictionary defines as “noun: an attacking player in football, hockey, or other sports.” Or possibly it indicates the direction Sharon plans to fall when the inevitable heart attack hits.

Speaking of attacking players, here are some more London Review of Books (LRB) personal ads:
I use this column principally as a sounding board for my radical philosophical theories. This time, however, I’d like some sexual intercourse. Radical philosopher and occasional lust monkey. M, 41. Box no. 22/04

Last night I had that dream again. The one were dinosaurs hadn’t been wiped out but stalked the earth for human prey. They found it too. It was you and me hiding beneath some twigs. I tried to save you but the dinosaurs sniffed you out and tore you from my arms. Then they all turned into clowns and told me that I couldn’t have a balloon because I’d been a naughty girl. When I cried, the head clown roared like a tyrannosaur and bit your head off. I looked down and noticed I’d become a dinosaur too. I felt like a herbivore. Woman, 38. Sees every social situation as an opportunity for free psychotherapy. WLTM fully-qualified psychotherapist. Box no. 22/08

I want my mummy. Man (37) with far too many issues to go into detail about in this column seeks psychoanalyst/tailor/stevedore. Whitstable. Box no. 23/07

I am not afraid to say what I feel. At this moment in time I feel anger, giddiness, and the urge to dress like a bear and forage for berries at motorway hedgerows. Man, 38. Box no. 23/09

We brushed hands in the British Library, then again in the London Review Bookshop, reaching for Musil. And then once more on the tube, getting off at Ladbroke Grove. Serial random hand-brusher (F, 32, publicity exec) demands attention, followed by more attention, followed by extended periods of self-pity. It's all me, me, me at box no. 23/10

I have known only shame. Then, last week, I experienced surprise. Man, 37. Box no. 22/06
For all my favorite LRB personals, click here.

Well, shortly I’m off to a Chinese restaurant, as is traditional, commemorating the first Thanksgiving, when the Puritans were saved from starvation by the native Chinese. “You white men call it noodles, we call it chow mein.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

There is no justified sense of grievance

Tony Blair says that the claim of one of the July 7 suicide bombers to be fighting on behalf of Muslims is “rubbish.” “We have got to challenge this sense of grievance because there is no justified sense of grievance.” I don’t know why no one thought of this before: end all terrorism by telling the terrorists that their sense of grievance is not justified. That is so totally going to work.

Someone who hadn’t gotten the word that their sense of grievance is not justified launched a mortar at a ceremony marking the hand-over of one of Saddam’s palaces to the Iraqis, attended by General Casey and the American ambassador, Khalilzad. Last sentence in the WaPo article: “‘The band played on,’ a military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, pointed out.” “Nearer my God to thee,” no doubt.

That’s the key.

The WaPo notes that Rep./Col. Bubp campaigned for Jean Schmidt (R-State of Rage) while wearing his Marine uniform. He is still serving. Isn’t that a violation of the rules?

Americans prefer marshmallow and yam to democracy and freedom

The votes are in. Americans went bravely to the polls, defying the terrorists, and once again named the National Thanksgiving Turkey and his running mate after food products, Marshmallow and Yam.

George Bush; the National Thanksgiving Turkey. But I repeat myself.

They were issued a pardon, but despite this, a second after this picture was taken, Dick Cheney bit off Marshmallow’s head.

(Update: Needlenose has a caption contest for the last picture.)

We did not go looking for trouble

Antonin Scalia says, “The [2000] election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble.” He says that studies by news organizations suggest that Bush would have won a recount. That’s wrong, but Scalia, whose position in 2000 was that we should all get on with our lives and not have an accurate vote count, does not get to cite anything other than the fatally flawed Katherine Harris count. Scalia adds that there would have been a more difficult transition had the Court not ruled as it did, and worse, it might have been a transition to the guy who was actually, you know, elected president.

The NYT interviews Iraqi interior minister Bayan Jabr, who denies running Shiite death squads (phew) and jabrs (sorry) about that secret prison raided by the Americans last week. “Only a few detainees were punched and hit,” he claims. Reports last week were that “instruments of torture” were found there, which suggests that rather more than punching and hitting was going on, but we still haven’t been told what those instruments were. Nor what has happened to the prisoners, who Jabr describes as the “worst of the worst,” because there’s nothing more reassuring than stealing your rhetoric from Donald Rumsfeld.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety

Bush went to Mongolia today to thank them for sending a hordette (160 troops) to Iraq and a horditesimal (12) to Afghanistan. The London Times helpfully notes, “The last Mongolian forces to go to Iraq, led by a grandson of Genghis Khan in 1258, sacked Baghdad and killed an estimated 800,000 people.” He gave Mongolia an endorsement of sorts: “This is a beautiful land, with huge skies and vast horizons -- kind of like Texas.” Yeah, they’ll be sure to put “Mongolia – kind of like Texas” on their flag. They gave him some fermented mare’s milk to drink. He points out – and I didn’t actually know this – that the current Mongolian prime minister participated 15 years ago in a hunger strike for democracy. Or as we call hunger strikes, “an Al Qaeda tactic to try to get media attention” or “a diet.”

DCI Porter Goss says the CIA doesn’t use torture, does extract information from prisoners using “unique and innovative ways.” Somehow that’s even more chilling. Goss adds himself to the chorus of people declaring that torture doesn’t work, which I’m not sure is true, but which is morally irrelevant.

Dick Cheney calls those who say the Bushies lied about intelligence guilty of “revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety.” Which is funny, because corrupt and shameless are... well, you know where I’m going with this. Honestly, for Cheney, a sense of shame, like a sense of irony, is just something for others to experience. He also calls such charges “dishonest and reprehensible” – possibly he got confused and was just reading off his resumé – but hey, it’s a “perfectly legitimate discussion,” as long as the opposition doesn’t use any actual, you know, words.

Like Alfred Hitchcock, but scarier

So to sum up, it’s not torture if we do it, it’s not a hunger strike if it’s done by people in our prisons, and it’s only shameless, corrupt, dishonest and reprehensible if Democrats do it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Contest: name that party

Ariel Sharon is leaving Likud to start his own party. But what should it be called? Entries in comments, please. Fat jokes acceptable. Acronyms are good. Slogans for extra points.

Put yourself in the shoes of a soldier who thinks that we’re going to pull out precipitously

Rumsfeld went on four Sunday talk shows to say that it’s “fair enough” to criticize the conduct of the war, oh except for the whole emboldening-the-enemy thing. So before you do that, “Put yourself in the shoes of a soldier who thinks that we’re going to pull out precipitously ... Put yourself in the shoes of the Iraqi people ... . Put yourself in the shoes of the enemy.” OK, so how does catching three types of foot fungus help anything?

The Pentagon website paraphrases: “Discussion of such a withdrawal, Rumsfeld said, surely gives our servicemembers and the Iraqi people cause to doubt the wisdom of their sacrifice.” Oh, and also remember: every time you discuss ending the occupation, a puppy dies and the angels weep; but it’s a free country...

On CBS he said, “There is no doubt in my mind that were we to pull out precipitously, the American people would be in greater danger than they are today.” That’s the problem, Rummy: there’s never any doubt in your mind. And you’re always wrong.

Every time he was asked about something awkward, like the secret prisons in Iraq, he claimed not to know anything about it because he’s been in Australia.

I remember our visit very well

George Bush does not travel well. With jet lag, he actually gets stupider and less coherent. Here’s Bush, meeting the Chinese premier:
Thank you. It’s good to see you again, sir. I remember our visit very well. And I thank you for this invitation to come and talk and have lunch. It will give us a chance to continue to strengthen this very important relationship. And I agree with you, it’s a relationship where we’ve got common interests.
It’s always important when you meet the premier of a country to reassure him that, yes, you remember having met him before.

And here, talking to the press pool: “a society that welcomes religion is a wholesome society, it’s a whole society.” It’s a whole-grain society, it’s a holy soci... whoops, didn’t mean to say that out loud!

“it’s a really important relationship. I mean, China is a big, growing, strong country.” Big, yes, but growing? Is this something we should be worried about?

Granted, there’s something about going to China that turns American presidents’ brains to mush. Nixon famously said, “It sure is a Great Wall.” Bush, on the other hand, went bicycling with Chinese Olympic hopefuls and said, “this trail is a great bike trail”.

“And I explained to them as clearly as I could that the value of the Chinese currency is very important for manufacturers and farmers and workers in the United States.” As clearly as he could. Oh dear.

He also explained the importance of intellectual property: “And I made it clear that if you’ve got a vibrant economy, and people feel uncomfortable about the piracy of product, that it’s going to affect the economy in the long run.” Uncomfortable about the piracy of product, yeah that’s just so completely clear. Also, I’m pretty sure Bush was just trying to get Hu to say “long run.”

You know, it wasn’t all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society

In my last, I mentioned Bush going to an officially-sanctioned Protestant church in China. There, he said this: “You know, it wasn’t all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society. My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty.” This is curious. Not that he specifically mentions only Christianity and not, say, Tibetan Buddhism, which is obnoxious but typical. But what’s with the thing about worshipping openly, which he says twice? He surely knows that the majority of Christians in China, and especially, hello, Catholics, worship in underground churches, which he seems to be going out of his way not to endorse.

(Update: twice as many, according to the WaPo, and there’s been a recent upsurge of repression of underground Christians.)

But Boeing got to sell some planes to China, and Bush will be photographed mountain biking with Chinese Olympic athletes, and that’s the important thing. “The idea, [Bush aides] said, was to signal directly to the Chinese people that no matter what they hear from their government, Bush is not hostile toward their country.” That should reassure them. Wasn’t that what we told the Iraqi people before we, you know, invaded them?

“Oh man, all that effort in the Sixties to avoid Orientals with guns, but here they are...”

LA Times article on Russian moves to clamp down even further on NGOs.

The LAT also looks at one of Scalito’s death penalty cases, in which he said an incompetent/crappy defense (mitigating information was not put before the jury) was ok under the 6th Amendment as long as “counsel’s conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance”. The Supreme Court overruled him. I was snickering earlier at a WaPo article quoting various Republican congresscritters bemoaning how Iraq was derailing other items on their Agenda of Eville, but it may also prevent D’s getting media attention on Alito, whose nomination could be derailed by his 1985 memo, if only (sigh) the media and the D’s were to keep up the pressure, which would require them to have a) balls, b) the ability to think about more than one issue at a time.

And your final must-read: the WaPo on the incompetence/waste/extortion/crappy quality/utter and complete chaos etc in American reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, you know, that other country we invaded, even before Iraq, only know no one’s even asking when our troops are leaving because not even 100 of them have been killed so far this year. Favorite sentence: “Locals tied a contractor to a tree in a pay dispute”.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wattle & Snood: They Kept Us Out of Vietnam

At first I ignored the reports that the Pentagon has a plan to start pulling troops out of Iraq because of course they have contingency plans for everything, so I didn’t see it as the big gotcha moment other bloggers did. But evidently what they’re really hoping for is to reduce the size of the American contingent of the occupying army to below the “magic number” of 100,000, say around the time of the November 2006 elections. That sounds just like the Bushies: a goal rooted entirely in PR and partisan, rather than military, necessity. And it’s a two-fer: they also hope to influence the December 15 Iraqi elections by leaking the existence of this plan: vote for the puppets and maybe you’ll see an end of the occupation.

How often does Bush go to church on a Sunday in the US? Well, he certainly made a point of doing so in China, albeit in one of the tame licensed Protestant churches. He could meet a dissident except, oh wait, they were all put under house arrest for the duration of his visit. When he’s talked about the importance of freedom during this Asian trip, mostly it’s about printing Bibles and so forth, not about the right to criticize the government. He also links freedom with “prosperity,” as if Asians are too greedy to value freedom on its own terms.

His father slipped quietly into China ahead of his visit, to tell Chinese leaders what Shrub really meant to say before he’s even said it. It’s just safer that way. No word on whether Neil Bush was also on the advance team, given his extensive experience of free Asian hookers.

The White House website is holding the traditional on-line vote to name the two turkeys who will be ceremonially pardoned for whatever crime it is that turkeys commit, possibly leaking Valerie Plame’s name to the press. They will then go to Disneyland. The choices on offer include “Marshmallow and Yam,” “Democracy and Freedom,” “Wattle and Snood,” “Scooter and Turdblossom” and “Blessing and Bounty.” Last year “Biscuits and Gravy” won out over, among other things, “Patience and Fortitude,” and I wrote that in America patience and fortitude will always lose to biscuits and gravy. I wanted “Shock and Awe,” but for some reason the White House site has no facility for write-in candidates. Unlike this blog. Go for it.

Col. Blake did not die in vain

Bush, at an American air base in South Korea, tells the troops,
For half a century American servicemen and women have stood faithful and vigilant watch here in Korea. You’ve kept the peace and you secured the freedom won at great cost in the Korean War. You’ve ensured that no American life was lost in vain.
I take it this is a not-so-subtle hint about staying the course, not cutting and/or running, etc, and the need to occupy Iraq for at least the next 50 years. Possibly forever, since not only is he rejecting the whole notion of setting a target date for accomplishing the mission in Iraq, he won’t actually say what that mission is: “We will stay in the fight until we have achieved the brave -- the victory that our brave troops have fought for.” How is that victory defined? What has to happen before the troops can come home? He hasn’t said, he won’t say, he doesn’t know, I don’t know if he’s even thought about it. A simple response, “define your terms,” can deflate every piece of stay-the-course-until-victory rhetoric.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Cowards cut and run, Marines never do

NYT headline: “Cocaine Prices Rise and Quality Declines, White House Says.” That’s sure a bitch, George, maybe you need to find a new dealer.

Bush has recently taken to delivering partisan attacks in front of the one group of Americans we’d really rather remain non-partisan, serving members of the military. But it also seems to me that there’s been a concurrent increase of people like Gen. William Webster and Col. James Brown, both of them commanders of forces in Iraq, taking up Bush’s tacit invitation and scolding Democratic congresscritters. And that’s to say nothing of the Marine colonel who Rep. Jean Schmidt claims told her to tell Rep. Murtha, “cowards cut and run, Marines never do.” Actually, the Marines will do whatever the civilian leadership tells them to do, and don’t forget it, colonel. (Incidentally, why are we using nautical imagery about a desert war?) It’s a nice bit of character-assassination precisely because of its ambiguity: is Murtha being accused of being a coward himself, or of calling Marines cowards? (Update: As Mikhail Capone points out in comments, Schmidt had to retract the comments, and pretend she wasn't implying what she was implying.)

Our practices and procedures are correct

AP headline: “Source: Cheney Isn’t Woodward’s Source.” That’s right, a secret source is denying that Dick Cheney is Bob Woodward’s secret source.

Follow-up to the previous post: Iraqi Interior Minister Jabr also said of the secret prison that while there had been torture there, “all the suspects’ files were in order -- which shows that our practices and procedures are correct.” Actually, 1/3 of the prisoners had no files, but his thinking, sputter, I have no, sputter sputter, words...

That article quotes the army general in charge of training Iraqi security forces, Martin Dempsey, saying that there needs to be internal oversight. Ya think? Although considering the sorts of things Jabr has been saying, somehow I don’t see oversight by him improving anything. Dempsey: “These kinds of things are a huge detriment to the morale of the force.” Oh, and the guys who were starved and tortured, their morale probably isn’t all that great either. By the way, whatever happened to those prisoners? Who has them now?

Bush in South Korea is asked whether he agrees with Cheney’s attack on war critics or Chuck Hagel’s statement that it’s patriotic to ask questions. “The Vice President.” Bush repeated that “ours is a country where people ought to be able to disagree” but that it’s “irresponsible” to criticize him. Clearly, by when he says people can “disagree,” he actually means “scream silently within their own heads in impotent rage.” Bush continued this contradictory, possibly schizophrenic, line of argument (well, I say line, but it clearly goes in anything other than a straight line):
It’s irresponsible to use politics. ... I think people ought to be allowed to ask questions. It is irresponsible to say that I deliberately misled the American people when it came to the very same intelligence they looked at, and came to the -- many of them came to the same conclusion I did. Listen, I -- patriotic as heck to disagree with the President. It doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is when people are irresponsibly using their positions and playing politics. That’s exactly what is taking place in America.
He used the word irresponsible five times, and it’s such a long word, we’re all very proud of him, although it’s not clear that he knows what it means. And you can’t use politics, or play politics. Evidently politics is like grandma’s good china, you never actually get to eat off of it, it just sits there all decorative and shit.

The Miami Herald makes Venezuela’s offer of cheap oil to its poor neighbors seem like some sort of dastardly, insidious plot:
While Cuban leader Fidel Castro tried to export his revolution throughout Latin America in the 1960s with AK-47s, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is fighting to expand his “21st century socialism” with oil barrels.
Um yeah, it’s just like that.

Equally helpful is the LA Times, which explains that the “Big Nose Bandit,” who has just held up his 18th bank, “got his nickname because he has a larger-than-average nose”.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

If I eat I condone the lie

Newsweek, the website rather than the magazine, has an article on the Guantanamo hunger-strikers (remember them?), specifically a Kuwaiti, Fawzi Al Odah, who is being forcibly fed, which is merely prolonging his death, since they can only get 1,000 calories a day into him. Al Odah is hunger-striking in support of his demand for a trial (or, as Gitmo spokesmodel Jeremy Martin puts it, implementing “an Al Qaeda tactic to try to get media attention,” just like those famous Al Qaeda members Mohandas Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, Bobby Sands, Al Sharpton, and those landscapers in Beverly Hills protesting the banning of noisy leaf blowers) and in rebuttal of the claim that Gitmo prisoners are well-treated. “If I eat,” he told his lawyer, “I condone the lie.” This information comes to us only because of a court case, which ended with the judge claiming that Al Odah’s medical treatment was perfectly adequate. Such court reviews are, of course, about to be eliminated by Congress.

Speaking of prisoners who aren’t eating, although in this case because they weren’t being fed, the Iraqi interior minister claims that only a few of the prisoners in that secret prison (one of 8 or 10 “unofficial jails” run by special interior minister units which seem to be indistinguishable from sectarian militias) it says deep in this NYT article) (“unofficial jails”!) were beaten and/or tortured, although the BBC notes that he couldn’t keep his story straight, claiming the number was 5 at one point, 7 at another. His deputy said 160 a couple of days ago. On the bright side, “No one was beheaded”. So that’s ok, then. Also, they’re really really bad: “These are the most criminal terrorists”. Not just terrorists, but criminal terrorists, and not just criminal terrorists, but the most criminal terrorists. His deputy says that these were just isolated incidents of prisoner abuse. Can’t think where I’ve heard that before. Even deeper in the NYT story it says that some of the prisoners were released when their families paid ransoms. Also read the LAT article, which has remarkably little overlap with the NYT one. The secret prison was found by Americans, who haven’t figured out who was actually in charge of it, and despite the starving and tortured prisoners, failed to hold any of the guards, who “were dispersed.”

FEMA will stop paying for the housing of Katrina victims on December 1, because December 25 would have been too unsubtle even for them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city

You may have seen that Dick Cheney snarled today that “the suggestion that’s been made by some U. S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this Administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city”. He said this at the right-wing Frontiers of Freedom Institute, adding that Kerry, Reid and Jay Rockefeller “were unable to attend due to a prior lack of commitment.” What a kidder; his attempt at humor is only matched by his attempt at moral outrage.

He accused critics, who he called “opportunists,” of “making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war.” Middle? We’re only in the fucking middle of the war? Whatever happened to the “last throes”?

He went on, “The saddest part is that our people in uniform have been subjected to these cynical and pernicious falsehoods day in and day out.” Oh, and IEDs. Those are pretty bad too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


In a stunning move, the United States Senate resolved that 2006 “should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty”. Wow, a period of significant transition, that’s so meaningful. Not just transition, but significant transition, a period of it, in fact a full entire year of significant transitiony goodness.

19 Senators voted against that, by the way. Evidently it wasn’t vague enough for them. Although it was vague enough that everybody could, and did, claim that their position had prevailed.

That was after rejecting an attempt to request (three or four years late, some might say) that Bush come up with a plan for getting the US military out of Iraq at some point in the future. What, “as Iraqis stand up, we’ll stand down” isn’t enough of a plan for you people? Chuck Hagel says “This is a significant step toward the Congress exercising its constitutional responsibilities over matters of war.” A little overly self-congratulatory about taking a “step” in the direction of actually doing your job, aren’t you Chuck? Did you applaud yourself for getting out of bed this morning, Chuck? Did you say to yourself, I have changed out of my pajamas and that is a significant step towards exercising my constitutional responsibilities, I have brushed my teeth and that is yet another significant step towards exercising my constitutional responsibilities, I have eaten my significant Wheaties, and that....

Punishing the oil guilty

A contest. The BBC has a story headlined "Gandhi Vows to Punish Oil Guilty," which is about... well really, who cares, it’s nowhere near as intriguing as the headline. So what story should that headline refer to? In comments, please.

Wonkette translates Bush’s "Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war – but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people" as "You can disagree except when you do." Just so.

Over a year ago, Israeli soldiers shot and wounded a 13-year old Palestinian girl in Gaza. An officer went over to "confirm the kill," meaning he shot her ten more times, just to make sure she was dead. The IDF told many lies about the incident: that they didn’t know she was a child (actually, the soldiers thought she was even younger), that they mistook her book bag for a bomb (they didn’t; there are tapes), that she was coming towards them (she wasn’t; there are tapes). The officer, who has never been named (the girl’s name is Iman al-Hams), was just acquitted of the piddling charges (improper use of his weapon) he was charged with. The judges blamed the girl, who they claimed had been sent to draw soldiers into an ambush.

Let me repeat: they blamed the girl for her own death.

France’s employment minister, Gerard Larcher, blames the rioting (only a couple of hundred cars burned yesterday!) on... wait for it... polygamy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

They spoke the truth then, and they’re speaking politics now

Evidently the use of white phosphorus to burn the flesh of human beings is ok, as far as the Geneva Convention is concerned, if those burns are thermic rather than chemical. So perhaps the US melted those Iraqis the good way, not the bad way. Color me reassured, and I’m sure their surviving relatives feel the same way.

That Indy article quotes something in the State Department wonderfully named the “Counter Misinformation Office.” Sadly, I have been unable to find any other evidence that such an office exists. Possibly the Counter Misinformation Office should issue a statement clearing up this misinformation that it exists.

Speaking of counter misinformation, or possibly over-the-counter misinformation, Bush has taken to quoting the 2002 and 2003 words of then-bamboozled Democratic senators like Carl Levin, Harry Reid and Jay Rockefeller about the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein to castigate them for having changed their opinions once they finally got their facts straight, something he would never do. “They spoke the truth then, and they’re speaking politics now,” he said. He claims to “respect” the “consistent stand” of those who have always opposed the war, but, and see if you can follow the logic here because I sure can’t, anyone who voted for the war is stuck with that position forever and ever even unto the end of time. “[O]ur troops... deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them.”

In fact, Bush went on, the only person who manipulated evidence and misled the world was... wait for it... Saddam Hussein!

Lindsey Graham, who some people were recently momentarily fooled into thinking was one of the good guys, will oppose the Bingaman amendment allowing Guantanamo and other detainees to file habeas corpus petitions, because it would lead to “lawsuit abuse.”

Caption contest (in case it’s not obvious, the chick in the Secret Service shades is Condi Rice, the dead guy next to her is Ariel Sharon):

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Who ya gonna fire?

AP headline: “U.S. Will Maintain Higher Mad Cow Standard.” Absolutely, those mad cows have been slacking off lately. No mad cow left behind, I say!

One of the new members of what the Times calls Afghanistan’s new House of Warlords (which I am hereby stealing and making my own) is the head of the Afghan basketball association. Also, a Taliban militant nicknamed Rocketi for his skill with a rocket launcher. I don’t know about democracy, but they’re just about ready to host the Olympics.

AP story:
Des Moines: A judge in Iowa has ruled that a security guard who was dismissed for seeing ghosts near his post at a gated community cannot be denied unemployment benefits.
Tidbit from Robert Fisk’s book: the reason the Ayatollah Khomeini was exiled from Iran in 1964 was that he gave a speech protesting a new law giving American forces operating in the country immunity for any crimes they committed, just like the one Paul Bremer imposed on Iraq.

Fruit, nuts and mechanical pumping equipment

The Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Neb. has been given a $750,000 grant by USAID to develop a model for the tribunal we intend to install in Cuba after Castro dies that will return nationalized American property. Texaco, United Fruit Sugar and the Mafia want their stuff back.

USAID is also planning to train the not-so-newly elected Afghan MPs, many of whom are illiterate warlords, in How a Law is Made and other niceties of representative democracy. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall at those sessions? The LAT says, “Experts emphasize that Afghanistan is still a society in transition”. It doesn’t name these experts, although it sounds to me like the work of Prof. Johann Finkelharben, chair of the Department of Completely Obvious Shit at UCLA.

Speaking of completely obvious shit (and, indeed, speaking of illiterate warlords), Arnold Schwarzenegger, following his defeat at the polls, is off on a junket to the exotic Far East, where he will shill the goods made by his campaign contributors (who are also paying for the trip), goods which the LA Times describes as “various California products, including fruit, nuts and mechanical pumping equipment.” And that’s just Arnold.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Really tired of these killers

Condi Rice says that demonstrations in Jordan against the bombings show “that ordinary people are really tired of these killers who are just determined to attack innocent people in the service of this extremist ideology.” Tired of them? Because killers who are just determined to attack innocent people in the service of extremist ideology are just soooo 2003?

Speaking of things that are so 2003, Robert Fisk points out that the Bushies keep using up synonyms for winning. They can no longer say that we’re going to “win” in Iraq, because we already did that in 2003, and the “mission” has already been “accomplished.” And just how many times can you “liberate” a place? So now the thing we’re going to do in Iraq, that we haven’t already done, is “prevail.” And good luck with that.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I read Bush’s Veteran’s Day speech so you don’t have to

But I didn’t watch it on tv. Some things are too much to ask. As reported in advance, the speech began a “campaign-style” attack on those accusing him of lying about intelligence when arguing for the invasion of Iraq. And he chose to launch this partisan attack on Veteran’s Day, which is not a little despicable. Characteristic, but despicable.

Most of the speech you’ve heard or read before, word for word, since he first gave it at the National Endowment for Democracy a month ago. (Update: Sadly, No! does a side-by-side comparison.) So let’s concentrate on the new material:

Various threats against Syria. “The government of Syria must stop exporting violence and start importing democracy.” Remember when democracy and freedom rested in the souls of every human, bestowed by god and blah blah blah? Well, evidently not so much in Syria, where they have to be imported, like DVD players and Britney Spears videos.

Veiled threats against Al-Jazeera: “The militants are aided as well by elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism, that feed conspiracy theories, and speak of a so-called American ‘war on Islam’”.

Scolding the D’s and anti-war types. “I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn’t support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it.” Isn’t that sweet of him? Or would be, except for the fact that his respect lasted for precisely two sentences, at which point he accused those people (hey, that’s me!) of rewriting history, of false charges, and says, “These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America’s will.” Not in front of the c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n.

His argument that Democrats saw exactly the same intelligence he had and came to the same conclusions has been adequately demolished by Atrios, Daily Kos and others. (Update: the WaPo also does a good fact-checking job). By the way, in this speech in which he denies having manipulated intelligence, he again quotes the Zinoviev Zawahiri letter, which isn’t so much manipulated as faked.

The biggest lie of all

Cheney celebrated the day in Arlington, evidently believing it was Memorial Day.

“What’s with the flowers? This better not be some gay thing.”

Thursday, November 10, 2005

And all you’ll remember about this post tomorrow is the thing about elks getting drunk

Scooter Libby has a legal defense fund. You can donate money to it. Although god knows why you would. No disclosure requirements, either. And his freaking novel, the one with the girls being fucked by bears, is being reissued. Scooty-Doo could wind up making money off the whole treason thing, like Ollie North, G. Gordon Liddy, and so on. Republicans can turn a profit from anything.

News factoid of the day: elks often get drunk, from fermented apples.

France’s interior minister, Nicolas “Scum” Sarkozy, announces that any foreign national, including legal immigrants with residence permits, arrested during the rioting will be deported. Why does this racist pillock still have a job? Expulsions, like other legal procedures, are supposed to be decided on an individual basis, since there’s kind of an unpleasant history involving mass deportations in Europe.

The Gropinator takes all the blame for the defeat of the initiatives he sponsored. Or it could just be that they were all crap. Just sayin’. Ahnuuld went on, “If I was to make another Terminator movie, I would tell Terminator to travel back in time to tell Arnold not to have another special election.” And that still sounds better than Terminator III.

Bill Frist says that he is less interested in the secret gulags than in who leaked the news of the secret gulags. Only so many hours in the day, I guess. In fact, as to what takes place in the gulags, “I am not concerned about what goes on and I’m not going to comment about the nature of that.” “My concern is with leaks of information that jeopardize your safety and security - period. That is a legitimate concern.” First he came for the kitty cats, and I did not speak out because I was not a kitty cat....

An effective and versatile munition

I was a little sick last night and went to bed early, so by now you’ve all seen mention of the article (pdf) in Field Artillery magazine, which escaped everyone’s attention until now (my copy must have been lost in the mail), about the “shake and bake” missions in which white phosphorus was used not for illumination, but as a chemical weapon and as “a potent psychological weapon,” in Fallujah (page 5 of the PDF). Let the war crimes trials begin.

Speaking of illumination, where some Indian tribes believed that cameras steal their souls, the Bushie tribe knows that cameras often reveal their lack of souls. Thus, Rumsfeld’s only expression of outrage about Abu Ghraib was directed at the pictures of torture, not the torture itself. So Rice met Chalabi, but refused to allow pictures. Fooling no one, Condi.

Speaking of camera-shy, I could find no pictures of the Avahi cleesei (Update: picture added below, courtesy of alert reader Deb), a newly discovered species of lemur native to Madagascar which has been named after John Cleese, but I believe it was named not for any physical resemblance (although it does have long legs), but to honor his work on endangered species (more on the beast here). And the best the London Times could do for a headline was “Lemur’s Fun Name.” Pathetic. Surely you people can do better? In comments, please.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A very special day-after-the-election

Governor Terminator’s propositions failed, but indeed all 8 California props failed, suggesting a certain discontent with the initiative process, perhaps because of the way it’s become just another adjunct of partisan electioneering rather than the people’s democracy it was supposedly supposed to be (the main reason Ahnuuld decided, back when he was still inexplicably popular, to hold an expensive special election rather than waiting until next June was that election ads in 2005 could feature him, him, him, without counting towards the spending limits for next year’s gubernatorial race). Even though I supported 2 out of the 8, I’m not sorry to see the blanket No if it puts a brake to the red-meat initiatives designed to get the faithful to the polls, like the parental notification of abortions initiative (no vote = 52.6%), and the evil-twin strategy of putting up a rival initiative to confuse the voters, like the designed-to-fail Prop 78 sponsored by Big Pharma. So that’s it until next June, when we get to vote on gay marriage and cigarette taxes. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere.

Blair loses by 322-291 a vote to allow 90-day internment without trial of suspected terrorists, although Parliament did vote for 28 days. For months, Blair has been endlessly repeating that the police say they need these powers, so MPs should subordinate their judgment to that of the cops just like he has (and then had the nerve to look all offended when some MP shouted “police state” during Prime Minister’s Questions). Possibly MPs feared for the safety of their cars, observing that the riots in Paris were largely spurred by police maltreatment of Muslim youths.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

At the pleasure of the president

My polling place had a new voting machine. When I put my ballot in, it made a metallic whirring noise just like a shredder...

At today’s Gaggle, someone asked whether Cheney would have to attend the ethics refresher courses. No. He also said something significant: asked about Bush first saying that anyone who leaked classified info would be fired and then changing that to anyone convicted in a court of law, Scotty actually moved the goal posts yet again, saying none of that matters because “everyone at the White House serves at the pleasure of the president.” Of course the president is easily pleased, so Rove’s job is secure as long as he has a bit of string or something shiny.

Chinese president Hu is visiting Britain. The last time this happened, in 1999, the police beat up protesters and tore down Tibetan flags (to make him feel at home, I wrote at the time). This was widely and strongly criticized, so it wasn’t likely to be repeated today, but there would be (and were) protesters. So the Chinese decided to orchestrate a staged counter-demonstration. In Britain. Chinese students studying in the UK, and other Chinese nationals all made their way to Buckingham Palace, entirely spontaneously of course, where Chinese officials handed them flags and banners to wave. I have been absolutely unable to find any pictures of them, so here’s Hu and the Queen in a rickshaw, with a large Tibetan flag easily visible, although not to Hu, who never looked in that direction.

In 1999, Prince Charles boycotted the state banquet. Today, he’s conveniently out of the country, visiting friends.

The Kansas state board of education has rewritten the state’s science curriculum to make it less sciencey.


Follow-up: two members of Breasts Not Bombs were arrested Monday after exposing their breasts not bombs in Sacramento. Male members of the group who did the same were not arrested. The LAT has a photo gallery...

Hey, where did everybody go?

While constantly talking about bringing democracy to Iraq, the US is trying to get the UN Security Council to renew the mandate of the occupation for another year before the December 15 elections. This will make sure that it doesn’t become an issue in the elections, says John Bolton, because elections shouldn’t be about ephemera like whether your country is occupied by a foreign army, but about, I dunno, potholes and partial birth abortion and who has a gay daughter. Also, this way the new Iraqi government won’t be embarrassed by having to take a position on whether the country should be occupied, it will have been made before they take office. So let’s hear no more about Bush’s faith in democracy.

While I referred to white phosphorus as a WMD, Lenin’s Tomb has found a Pentagon site that calls it a “conventional weapon.” Presumably if they use the word weapon, though, they’re acknowledging that it has uses beyond illumination. Which means they consider it “conventional” when used to set people on fire. One would not wish to go to their conventions.

On PBS tonight, a Frontline on the declining number of abortion providers in the US.

Willy pete

Italian tv, okay not necessarily the most accurate source of news but they do have pictures and interviews, says that the US used white phosphorus as a chemical weapon in the siege of Fallujah. The US admits using the substance, which burns skin right off, but only for illumination – as they say in the Pentagon, it is better to set an Iraqi on fire than curse the dark. The illumination excuse for this use of what would have been called a WMD if Saddam had used it (we call it “willy pete,” isn’t that fucking cute?) is transparent.

(Update: the US never signed the part of the Geneva Convention prohibiting the use of incendiaries like willy pete & napalm on human beings, so that’s all right then.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

We do not torture

I want to return to the French rioting to praise the restraint of the rioters up to now. 11 days of rioting, many more Peugotcides than the figure I gave yesterday, but precisely 1 death. There are signs that the restraint is over, with rioters firing back at the riot police, although only with bird shot. A simple way to end the disturbances would be for Sarkozy to resign. Which won’t happen, of course.

Burma’s military rulers are moving the capital into a distant jungle location. No one knows why. Probably not good.

I got another of those recorded phone call mini-dramas about tomorrow’s parental-notification referendum, this one the voice (taken from a news broadcast – did they have his permission to make this use of it?) of a father of a woman (18, I googled it, so it’s not even relevant) who died after taking RU-486. “I never knew” he said, that was “suffering in silence.”

Jane Mayer, writing in the New Yorker, asks, Can the C.I.A. legally kill a prisoner? Or more specifically, is it capable of investigating its agents who torture secret prisoners to death. The answer, of course, is no. The article is worth reading. It has some details on the Justice Dept torture memos that are, I think, new. And it describes the court-martial of a SEAL commander whose subordinates helped CIA agents torture a prisoner to death (by crucifixion) in Abu Ghraib. Two CIA officials showed up in the court and kept claiming that bits of evidence and questions shouldn’t be introduced: “When one of the defense lawyers, Matthew Freedus, asked a witness, ‘What position was Jamadi in when he died?,’ the C.I.A. representatives protested, saying that the answer was classified. The same objection was made when a question was asked about the role that water had played in Jamadi’s interrogation.”

Bush visited Panama today, where evidently no one at all mentioned the fact that his father once invaded the country. They let him play with the canal lock controls.

Long story short, remember how Panama used to have a canal....?

While in Noriega’s old stomping grounds, he responded, sort of, to a question about torture: “We do not torture. And, therefore, we’re working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible -- more possible to do our job.” He described Cheney’s efforts to browbeat Senators to defeat McCain’s torture provision as “members of my administration go[ing] and brief[ing] the Congress.” There are times when Bush wants to portray himself as a strong, decisive leader, and other times when he talks about “doing his job” to distance himself from responsibility for his own (or Acting President Cheney’s) decisions.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

An Emily Latela moment

The Washington Post has the most obscene headline I’ve ever seen, “Turnout Key in Tight Virginia Contest.” Oh, wait... Virginia. Like the state, huh? Never mind.

Since civil libertarians’ concerns about privacy are considered “eccentric” by this administration, I think the next time Cheney comes to Capitol Hill to make an “impassioned plea” against a ban on torture, some senator should wear a wire. But really, it shouldn’t be necessary: if torture is such a vital tool, Cheney shouldn’t mind making his case for it in public in his own words in his own voice. Make a speech, go on Nightline, debate John McCain.