Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blogspot blues, redux (updated)

I switched over to the new version of Blogger, and made a few minor design changes, like the font and color of my blog title. I tried to change that color once before, and it looked fine on the front page, the blog title in maroon, the subtitle in red, but on other pages it was an ugly purple. The interface on Beta Blogger (yes, they’re calling it Beta Blogger, which sounds like beta blocker) is more user friendly, for those of us who only speak Pig HTML.

I was going to ask for a show of hands about some of the elements (for example, what color should I use for hyperlinks and visited hyperlinks, currently blue and grey respectively), but I’m having a major problem with comments.

Does anyone know how to re-install Haloscan in Beta Blogger? Haloscan’s automatic install doesn’t work, and Blogger rejects the html generated by Haloscan’s manual install. Instructions using very simple words would be much appreciated.

(Update: there are comments for this post only which should work, but it's not something I can use normally, so I still need Haloscan help. Anyone else having problems with or comments about the blog's appearance can also comment).

(Update: attempting to simply insert html [which may not work in Beta Blogger since it was designed for old Blogger] into the template including phrases like "/<$BlogItemNumber" and "...javascript">postCount('<$BlogItemNumber$>" produces the reaction from Blogger: Invalid variable declaration in page skin: Variable is used but not defined. Input: BlogItemNumber. Does that tell anyone what the problem is?

I also need to figure out how to make the Blogspot bar at the top go away again, as the “search this blog” feature sucks.

Let me point out one nice new feature: at the bottom of each individual post page, there are links for “newer post” and “older post.” This means you can navigate the posts in chronological order rather than reading down the home page in reverse chronological order. If your computer accepts cookies, you can tell which posts are new since your last visit by the color of the post titles (blue or grey, remember?) in the archives section in the right-hand column.

Other bloggers on Blogspot should probably not change to Beta until a few more of the bugs are worked out. Also, my blog was off-line for 2 hours while they transferred it, which I'd have done in the middle of the night had they warned me. And don’t forget to save your old template first; I had to extract from mine the code for my Sitemeter, PayPal, Amazon, Powell’s and Google search functions (although the Beta interface made it very easy to plug them in). Only HaloScan was a problem, about which, let me repeat, HELP!!

The ideological struggle of the 21st century

Bush addressed the American Legion in Salt Lake City today.
His rhetoric about Iraq is not getting less messianic over time: “the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century.” So how was that vacation, George? Catch a lot of fish? Get a good rest from the ideological struggle?

“Ideological struggle,” by the way, is his new favorite phrase.

He admits that there are “radicalized followers of the Sunni tradition” and “radicalized followers of the Shia tradition,” and “homegrown” terrorists, but insists that these all “form the outlines of a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology. And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam.” Also, they’re all secretly controlled by the Trilateral Commission. Because, honestly, what’s a good conspiracy theory without the Trilateral Commission? And Freemasons.

There’s an interesting new twist to The History of the Middle East According to a Man Who Couldn’t Find It on a Map: he’s still saying that religious extremism and terrorism developed in the Middle East because the US (it’s always all about the US, of course) was only interested in apparent stability and calm. Now he says that this was actually the correct policy at the time: “we were fighting the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and it was important to support Middle Eastern governments that rejected communism.”

But that was then. Now it’s democracy time, because democracies are peaceful and “focus on building roads and schools -- not weapons of mass destruction.” I forget, who has the biggest stockpile of WMDs in the world?

Now here’s a sentence that... oh, words fail me: “Dissidents with the freedom to protest around the clock are less likely to blow themselves up during rush hour.”

“Our enemies saw the transformation in Lebanon and set out to destabilize the young democracy.” Again, it’s all about us: “our enemies.”

“I appreciate the troops pledged by France and Italy and other allies for this important international deployment. Together, we’re going to make it clear to the world that foreign forces and terrorists have no place in a free and democratic Lebanon.” Er, except for foreign forces from France and Italy and...

The terrorists are totally wrong about everything, except when they agree with me, because if you can’t trust bin Laden’s judgment, whose judgment can you trust?:
Here at home we have a choice to make about Iraq. Some politicians look at our efforts in Iraq and see a diversion from the war on terror. That would come as news to Osama bin Laden, who proclaimed that the “third world war is raging” in Iraq. It would come as news to the number two man of al Qaeda, Zawahiri, who has called the struggle in Iraq, quote, “the place for the greatest battle.” It would come as news to the terrorists from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and other countries, who have to come to Iraq to fight the rise of democracy. It’s hard to believe that these terrorists would make long journeys across dangerous borders, endure heavy fighting, or blow themselves up in the streets of Baghdad, for a so-called “diversion.”
Hey, American soldiers went to Iraq because there were supposed to be weapons of mass destruction; Rick went to Casablanca for the waters: people make mistakes, they are misinformed. You’ve never traveled a long distance for a crappy vacation someplace you thought would be fun?

Bush says that until we intervened in the Middle East, it was on a path where “a generation from now, our children will face a region dominated by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons.” Which may or may not be true, but what an insult to an entire region. As is this: “Or we can stop that from happening, by rallying the world to confront the ideology of hate, and give the people of the Middle East a future of hope.” Note the verb: we are the givers, they the passive receivers. Thus, when he says that freedom is a gift from the Almighty...

(Update: A Tiny Revolution links to video of what I missed by only reading the transcript: “This war will be difficult, this war will be long, and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists of tola-tera-tera-to-totalitarians.” Banana-fo-fana.)

Would you buy a used war from this man?

This is the lead of a WaPo story: “President Bush and his surrogates are launching a new campaign intended to rebuild support for the war in Iraq by accusing the opposition of aiming to appease terrorists and cut off funding for troops on the battlefield”. Actually, that’s about silencing the opponents of the war, which is very much not the same thing as “rebuilding support” for it. There is simply no way to rebuild support for this war. There may be some inattentive people who still believe that the war is transforming the Middle East in a, you know, good way, or that we are spreading, as Bush phrases it, “the peace,” but their number is not going to increase.

Lacking a convincing positive rationale, they’re pushing the fear button (going to the fear well? Metaphors, people, I need metaphors!), but I don’t think most Americans see a strong connection between Iraq and the threat of terrorism in the US or subscribe to the Bushite assertion that, as Frank Rich put it, “If we leave the country that had nothing to do with 9/11, then 9/11 will happen again.” I’m especially amazed that the remarkably silly phrase, that if we leave Iraq, the terrorists will “follow us home,” which I made fun of when the alliterative Peter Pace first uttered it, has actually been adopted by Bush.

The other line I’ve been hearing over and over the last two weeks is that if Iraq falls to the “terrorists,” they’ll have access to all that oil. And that’s our oil, dammit!

Given the collapse in the credibility of so much of the rhetoric about Iraq, I’m not sure what language they’d use to justify a pre-emptive war against Iran. I think someone asserting “We’ll be greeted as liberators” would be greeted with guffaws.

By the way, that WaPo story more or less redeemed itself after that crappy opening:
Pressed to support these allegations, the White House yesterday could cite no major Democrat who has proposed cutting off funds or suggested that withdrawing from Iraq would persuade terrorists to leave Americans alone.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fallen in the hands of evildoers

Indy article on the increasingly blatant interventions of the American ambassador to Nicaragua in its forthcoming elections.

The Catholic Church will excommunicate the medical personnel who performed Colombia’s first legal abortion... on an 11-year old who had been raped by her stepfather. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo said the girl had “fallen in the hands of evildoers.” He did not of course mean the stepfather. The Guardian quotes a Colombian senator, Gina Parody, who is on the right side and so gets one (1) free pass for that name.

I don’t have anything insightful to say about it, but I hope everyone’s read this story about the Muhammad and Jaber Ismail, a father and son, American citizens, who the US is blocking returning from a trip to Pakistan unless they submit to FBI interrogation without a lawyer and with a polygraph in Pakistan, where their constitutional rights don’t exist.

For your captioning pleasure, some pictures from a church service in New Orleans yestereday.

I think Americans have sacrificed

I guess Bush won’t accept Ahmadinejad’s proposal of a live debate. They could have sold that one on pay-per-view and rebuilt New Orleans with the proceeds.

Yesterday Bush was interviewed by Brian Williams, and I’ve finally found where NBC was hiding the transcript. Williams asked if he shouldn’t have asked the American people to make some sort of sacrifice, possibly a goat, after 9/11. Bush:
Americans are sacrificing. I mean, we are. You know, we pay a lot of taxes. America sacrificed when they, you know, when the economy went into the tank. Americans sacrificed when, you know, air travel was disrupted. American taxpayers have paid a lot to help this nation recover. I think Americans have sacrificed.
Those things are not sacrifice. Sacrifice is something people do actively, voluntarily; the things Bush enumerates are things that people endure passively. A passive, demobilized citizenry, which experiences The War Against Terror (TWAT) only as something they see, as Bush often says, on their television screens, as a consumer good, which only turns out for one “accountability moment” every four years, that’s the sort of citizenry that suits Bush.

Asked whether he ever gets advice from his father:
He understands that often times I have information that he doesn’t have [!]. And he understands how difficult the world is today. And I explain my strategy to him, I explain exactly what I just explained to you back there how I view the current tensions, and he takes it on board, and leaves me with this thought, “I love you son.”
He makes it sound like a really crappy finger-painting his father has to coo over and put up on the refrigerator, then shudder every time he gets a glass of milk.

Actually, Bush the Elder not chewing out Chimpy for his massively incompetent foreign policy, now that’s a sacrifice.

Does that make Rummy a suicide bomber?

Article on Pentagon website: “Rumsfeld: Truth Serves as Powerful Weapon.”

Look, there is so much ammunition

I can understand wearing a Ronald Reagan mask to rob a Bank of America, but why the cape?

Improbable government announcement of the day, from the White House deputy press secretary: “President Bush was saddened to learn of the passing of Egypt’s Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Naguib Mahfouz.”

The three major Russian “opposition” parties merge, because Putin tells them to. They will compete with Putin’s United Russia party as to who can most slavishly implement Putin’s policies. Really, that’s what the head of the Party of Life party said.

Must-read: WaPo article on how Shiite militias dominate Iraq’s Health Ministry, especially its 15,000-strong “security” force (of 30,000 total employees), and periodically drag Sunnis out of their beds and kill them. In the US, this is called “managed care.”

Harper’s has some phrases from a web page, “Military English Learning” on the website of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army:
The principles of war can never be changed.

Special forces can penetrate into an enemy’s rear to gather information.

Without military maps, you don’t know where you are sometimes.

It is necessary for war fighters to master the skills of temporary fixations.

There have been too many famous battles.

Look, there is so much ammunition.

Oh, so many weapons. Great!

The weapons displayed here are almost conventional weapons.

These are tanks, aren’t they?

Yes. But this one is an armored vehicle.

We saw this kind of missile on TV.

As far as we know, there are atomic weapons.

Mass-destruction weapons bring more difficulties to the first aid.

Theoretically, space must be digitized.

Cyber-war techniques can be treated as weapons of mass destruction.

Do you know the most terrorist event?

It was the September 11 attack in New York.

Thousands of people died unnatural deaths.

The World Trade Center can never be mended.

Bin Laden immediately became the most famous person of the world.

Has he been dead or still alive?

No one knows, I’m afraid, except himself.
The original pages have been scrubbed from the PLA site, but some cached versions may be found here. The page of useful phrases for the interrogation of POWs includes these:
92. What do you hope now?

102. How is the morale of your unit?

103. Where is your vanguard?

104. Do you know our lenient policy towards POWs?

105. The chief criminals shall be punished without fail.

106. Those who are accomplice under duress shall go unpunished.

107. Those who perform deeds of merit shall be rewarded.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bush in New Orleans

Bush: “I take full responsibility for the federal government’s response, and a year ago I made a pledge that we will learn the lessons of Katrina and that we will do what it takes to help you recover. I’ve come back to New Orleans to tell you the words that I spoke on Jackson Square are just as true today as they were then.”

Yes, that’s exactly the problem.


There is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. Yes there is.

Cheney and Rummy’s speeches at the VFW’s annual meeting slash hootenanny [correction: Cheney was at the VFW, Rummy was at the American Legion convention] were designed, just in time for the elections, to limit debate about the war in Iraq. Cheney, while claiming to believe in democratic values, insisted that some forms of speech just aren’t legitimate: “there is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism.” The Bushies tend to prefer self-defeating optimism.

By the way, I had to check the spelling of hootenanny at, which has this definition: “3. Older Use. a thingumbob.”

Rummy castigated the “moral and intellectual confusion” of those who don’t see the danger of the “new kind of fascism,” a confusion that “can severely weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.” (To clear up any remaining confusion, he slipped a few more references to fascism into the speech as delivered than were in the prepared version that link goes to.)

He has a whole list of things people, especially people in the journalism business, have said that he doesn’t like. Why, did you know that in the leading newspapers, there were 10 times the number of mentions of one of the Abu Ghraib torturers as of the guy who won the first Medal of Honor in the Global War on Terror? Shocking. He’s also still pissed off at Amnesty International calling Guantanamo the gulag of our times, more than a year later. He wants the VFW to perform a “watchdog role” over the media, citing approvingly the VFW’s successful Mau Mauing of the Smithsonian into censoring its exhibition on the Enola Gay in 2003.

Also, “I know there are some places where Boy Scouts are a subject of scorn.” He does not say where those places are. Girl Scout jamborees, maybe.

The rule of law is promoted, but General Chaos is still in charge

Alberto Gonzales says he’s in Iraq today to “promote the rule of law”. Some days it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry. To answer this question, I turn to you, the readers:



Current results

Discrediting the operations that are ongoing

5 Afghans were returned home to Afghanistan (probably to Afghan prisons) from Guantanamo. One of these most dangerous of men is 71, needs a walker, and his hearing and eyesight are not so good.

From AP, a story from China whose first sentence is the platonic ideal of the silly-season story: “A woman’s vehicle collided with another car while she was teaching her dog to drive.”

Gen. William Caldwell, Military Moron, announces that operations to reduce violence in Baghdad have been going great, except for all the violence: “It was always expected that there would be this extremist element that would get out and try to discredit the operations that are ongoing by striking at areas where civilians are readily available, where they can inflict some casualties.”

Monday, August 28, 2006

See, there’s a new Mississippi that’s coming

Bush went to Mississippi today to talk about how wonderful everything is, one year after Katrina. “I’m amazed by the opportunity, I’m amazed by the hope that I feel down here.” And it’ll just get better: “there will be a momentum, momentum will be gathered. Houses will begat jobs, jobs will begat houses.” He makes it sound so... dirty.

And really, it’s all about the debris: “People say, how can we rebuild with debris? Now it’s gone.”

He praised the Republican governor of Mississippi: “You have a strategy now to build smarter homes.” That’s not one of those computerized homes that start acting weird and then seal the doors and electrocute people, cause I’ve seen that movie and I remember it as kind of crappy.

“And I understand that rebuilding neighborhoods begins one house at a time, and that’s what’s happening here.” Um, wouldn’t it be faster to rebuild more than one house at a time? Just sayin’.

“When somebody goes back to their home, it helps renew the community, and so part of our efforts, and part of our focus is to make sure that people can get back in their homes as quickly as possible.” So, let me get this straight, you’re saying that a community should have people living in it.

Hey, when he’s right, he’s right.

(Update: in comments, Aaron, a resident of MS and a victim of Katrina, writes about the failures of federal funds to make it to actual, you know, human beings.)

They had the guns and we didn’t know what the hell was going on

In comments on my last post, Mrs. Malaprop suggests an answer to my question, what the Holy Jihad Brigades thought forcing the Fox reporter hostages to “convert” would accomplish: it’s an allegory, like introducing democracy at gunpoint. I’ll buy that. Thus this statement by one of the reporters, Steve Centanni: “It was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns and we didn’t know what the hell was going on.” Pretty much sums up the human condition in the 21st century.

Update: oh for crummsake, they videotaped the “conversion.” Of course they did. Here it is, if you’re curious. The Foxies are forced on pain of death to say that Islam is a religion of peace, and that “Islam is not fascism. Words like that only serve to deepen the great chasm between peoples, to fan the flames of anger and distrust that already burn in the Muslim world.” I know you can’t turn people into democrats by application of military force, but boy if you could bring an understanding of irony to the Middle East... The War to Make the World Safe for Irony, has a ring to it, huh?


This sounds strangely familiar:

Yesterday there was a completely incoherent interview of Iraqi PM Maliki by Wolf Blitzer on CNN. I assume it was Maliki’s translator who was incoherent rather than Maliki, but who knows? A sample: “Therefore, the agreement of the Iraqis is like a ship that all Iraqis should all be in to face terrorism and explosions that you mentioned with these numbers.” So we got some incoherent answers about when US troops might leave Iraq, an incoherent answer about whether Israel has a right to exist, and an incoherent response to Blitzer’s demand that Maliki apologize for having criticized American troops who massacred civilians “at a time,” said Wolfy, “when the United States military has done so much to try to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq.” Through the translator, this is the “clarification” Wolf asked for: “There’s a difference between the forces that are there to protect Iraqi experience and help Iraqis, and difference between have violations -- which is natural.” About the only comprehensible statement was this: “The violence is in decrease. And our security ability is increasing. And I want to assure he who loves Iraq that Iraq will never be in a civil war.” I’m curious whether the translator worked for Maliki or for CNN, and why CNN bothered putting this gibberish on the air, and I know you’re all waiting for me to say something about Bush’s speech patterns, but I’m not gonna do it, it’s just too easy.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I sacrificed myself

South Africa’s Apartheid-era Law and Order Minister, Adriaan Vlok, washed the feet of Rev. Frank Chikane, a man Vlok tried to have assassinated in 1989 by poisoning his clothes. Vlok said that if Jesus could do it (the foot-washing, not the clothes-poisoning), so could he. “I sacrificed myself,” Vlok says of the incident, adding, “I give up my pride, my own self, my superiority, my uncharitable attitude, and my selfishness.” If I were Chikane, I’d begin to feel like my feet were being insulted. Actually, if I were Chikane, I would have walked through some dog shit first. Which is probably why I’m not a reverend.

The kidnappers of the two Fox reporters forced them to convert to Islam, or else. I can’t imagine what they thought they were accomplishing.

Or the Islamists in Malaysia who are obstructing the attempts to marry of a woman who converted to Christianity. She’s being refused permission by the sharia courts, which she thinks that, no longer being a Muslim, shouldn’t have jurisdiction over her. The constitution of Malaysia, however, defines Malays (that’s an ethnic group, as distinct from Malaysians) as Muslim.

The group in Gaza holding the Fox reporters, by the way, calls itself the Holy Jihad Brigades. Which is redundant and trying just a little too hard.

As long as we’re doing Muslims Behaving Badly stories, Islamist legislators in Pakistan went on a minor rampage in Parliament a few days ago when the government tried to reform rape laws, which make it almost impossible to convict rapists, and then leave the victims in failed cases vulnerable to adultery charges.

In other news: elsewhere, various Muslims were nice to each other, kind to animals, and were perfectly pleasant people you’d be glad to know.


British cabinet ministers are getting “life coaches” at taxpayer expense, to improve their emotional intelligence and blah blah blah. So what would a life coach advise Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales or other members of the Bush cabinet? Offer your sage advice in comments (example, for Condi: “He’s just not that into you.”)

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Bush’s radio address today is about Katrina. In contrast to the Iraqi people, who he has said have expressed insufficient gratitude for all we’ve done for them, he had Rockey Vaccarella, who “drove to Washington to thank the federal government for its efforts to help people like him.”

Here’s the sentence I like: “And the floodwaters exposed a deep-seated poverty that has cut people off from the opportunities of our country.” Exposed? I’m pretty sure the poor people already knew about their own poverty. What you mean, George, is that that poverty was temporarily brought to the attention of over-privileged, uncompassionate, oblivious assholes such as yourself.

Appropriate programs and activities

I distinctly remember the first time I road an AC Transit bus in Oakland. There were people smoking underneath the No Smoking sign. Someone tried to sell me a watch. Now, the buses are getting Wi-Fi.

George W. Bush has signed a proclamation making September National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, and he “call[s] upon the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.” I’m thinking toga party. He praises his own policy of funneling federal drug treatment dollars through religious groups “answering the universal call to love a neighbor.” Of course he didn’t write this proclamation himself, but you’d think he’d have a, ahem, personal interest in the subject matter which might impel him to actually read it before signing it. My concern being the passivity and lack of personal responsibility attributed to addicts in the document, especially in the section on methamphetamine: it is called a “scourge,” and Americans are described as needing to be “protect[ed]” from meth “reaching” them. Anyway, the White House website provides a helpful link to a government website for National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month, which suggests as one of those appropriate programs and/or activities a “Recovery Walk.” I don’t know what that is, because I was too scared to click on a link featuring this picture.

Speaking of scary clowns, Jenna and Dubya have been demonstrating this week how much fun you can have without alcohol:

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dwarf-planet tossing: In your tiny, icy face, Pluto!

What is the possessive for Harper’s? Harper’s’s Luke Mitchell has a fascinating discussion with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr. about the ethics and morality of force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantanamo. The man is a master of logic origami. Winkenwerder claims (wrongly) that the World Medical Association’s 1991 Malta Declaration allows doctors to substitute their own judgment for the prisoner’s when he or she reaches the final stages of delirium or coma, but, he says, why wait that long, let’s strap them into restraint chairs and shove NG tubes into their nose while they’re still healthy and mentally competent.

Pluto has been sent down to the minors, and is now a “dwarf planet.” I think they prefer “little planet.” According to the BBC it was because of its oblong orbit. For me, it was always that its orbit left the plane of the ecliptic that did it.

Now, about Xena...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The President is a people person

Nearing the anniversary of Katrina, Bush finds the one guy from Louisiana who doesn’t hold a grudge, a Republican failed office-seeker, as it happens, which the White House says they had no idea of when they invited him. He is one Rockey Vaccarella, who finds it “amazing” that “a small man like me” could meet the president of the United States. It’s the American dream, really. He lost everything he owned, but now he has this precious, precious memory. “The President is a people person,” Mr. Vaccarella informs us. Oh, and FEMA trailers, he thanked Bush for all the FEMA trailers, and drove a replica of one from Louisiana to DC. Read the transcript at the first link, it’s an odd little photo op.

China is considering legislation to ban strippers from funerals. According to Reuters, they’re used to boost attendance. Evidently in China funerals have Nielsen ratings.

The WaPo report today on the Haditha massacre says in as many words that the Marines involved didn’t think that anything unusual had taken place, quoting the statement of a sgt in a “Marine human intelligence exploitation team” who walked the scene and talked to the Marines a few hours later. The Post writer suggests that the Marines “viewed the civilian deaths as accidental rather than the result of a vengeful rampage.” 24 accidental deaths. Oops. Certainly their colonel didn’t consider those deaths to be anything remarkable, much less worthy of investigation. What these stories leave out is the attempted cover-up. As I’ve said before, when the first story the Marines told was a blatant lie (that they were all killed by an IED), it behooves you to look fairly carefully at their next story. Also, I’m not sure how exonerating it is if they killed dozens of civilians calmly following procedure rather than in a furious rage after the death of a Marine, directed not at those responsible but at the nearest available Iraqis. Even had they thought themselves under attack, which they claim and which I don’t believe, how many innocent people do you get to kill in the name of preserving your own life? In the last scene of “Saving Private Ryan,” Ryan wonders if his life had been worth the lives of the men who had been killed “saving” him. How is that question changed if you’re the one who pulled the trigger?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

All of a sudden

After opening with his customary fart joke, Bush gave a talk about “health transparency” today. I would say if you’re transparent, you should definitely see a health care professional immediately. Maybe one of those Gray’s Anatomy chicks in the shower (cause you’re transparent, see, try to keep up). He said, “I think the new trend in medicine is going to be to encourage transparency in pricing, as well as transparency in quality. ... How do we encourage consumerism.” As I’ve said before, the language of consumer choice disguises, and not very well I’d have thought, that he wants to “empower” patients to make decisions based on cost rather than health. Nowhere does he suggest any way in which doctors posting their prices would improve medical care, although he does mean to give the impression that it would. He even made an interesting slip, which I’ll highlight:
Think about the system today as a third-party payer, how many of you have got insurance and you never really cared about the cost because somebody else is paying the bill, right? You don’t really care about the quality, because some person in an office somewhere is paying the bill on your behalf.
Said quality, meant cost.

The new focus on “transparency” leaves out any mention of the mechanism of change, which is more or less magical.
And if we can get a system down where people are able to have a good program, a good product, good insurance, but where the consumer has more to say with what’s purchased or not, all of a sudden the dynamic begins to change, and costs begin to go down. ... if consumers have more information from which to make decisions, all of a sudden, costs begin to become less of a burden on the system
He brings up his favorite, because untypical of most medical decisions, example, Lasik surgery, whose cost has also dropped... wait for it... “all of a sudden.” The mechanism of change hidden in all this suddenness is the imposition of economic penalties on sick people who choose to seek medical care. If you’re the sort of person fooled by that sort of vocabulary, you might find the sight of someone signing their name a great source of fascination and entertainment.
Oh, wait a minute, now I’m going to sign an executive order. And I think you’ll find this interesting. It doesn’t take very long, and we usually have people stand behind me when I do it.

“Can I see a price list for pulling this cadace... coodace... wingy snakey thing out of my head?”

News you can use

BBC headline: “Saddam Trial Hears of Gas Attacks.” Someone alert George Bush, ‘cause we hear he totally loves this stuff.

Hey, did you hear? George Bush likes fart jokes!!!

Slate has a piece about Günter Grass, which I would rather eat grass than actually read, entitled “Snake in the Grass: The pompous, hypocritical hucksterism of Günter Grass.” It is written by... wait for it... Christopher Hitchens, who I assume has already written an attack on Mel Gibson for getting drunk and then saying stupid things.

In Britain, “Tom and Jerry” cartoons are to be censored, with scenes “glamorizing smoking” removed.

Blogs have been complaining about the tv news shows focusing so exclusively on JonBenet Ramsey rather than more important issues. Today, for example, the blogs have all been relaying the news from US News & World Report that George Bush likes fart jokes.

Iran finally gave its answer to the UN: it is ready to enter into “serious negotiations” about its nuclear program. So better not send George Bush; he’d just open with a fart joke.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bush press conference: disasters, objectives, strained psyches, what good, decent people say, and what we won’t do so long as he’s the president

Bush held a press conference today. He praised himself for giving humanitarian aid to Lebanon, which he called “disaster relief,” as if it was hit by a flood or an earthquake rather than American-made munitions.

Actually, I think he may simply have forgotten just what “disaster” it is that happened to Lebanon, since he also accused Iran and Syria of “working to thwart the efforts of the Lebanese people to break free from foreign domination and build their own democratic future.” He seems to think that the only foreign domination Lebanon has had to contend with recently has been by Iran and Syria.

WILL THIS BE ON THE FINAL? Asked if Iran’s influence in “the region,” meaning Lebanon, is growing, Bush says, “The final history in the region has yet to be written.” Final history? That sounds pretty ominous. “They sponsor Hezbollah. They encourage a radical brand of Islam. Imagine how difficult this issue would be if Iran had a nuclear weapon.” Er, how would the one affect the other? And would it have anything to do with that “final history”?

OBJECTIVELY SPEAKING: Bush has been very big on the word “objectives” for a while now. Just in this presser, he said that the US has a plan to help the Iraqis achieve their objectives, that we should help Middle Eastern reformers achieve their objectives, that a UN force will help the Lebanese government achieve “some objectives,” that in relation to Iran’s nuclear program, “we will work with people in the Security Council to achieve that objective, and the objective is that there’s got to be a consequence for them basically ignoring what the Security Council has suggested through resolution.” Also, the terrorists “want to achieve objectives.”

YA THINK? “Obviously, I wish the violence would go down, but not as much as the Iraqi citizens would wish the violence would go down.”

The key sentence was the announcement that we’ll be occupying Iraq at least until January 2009: “We’re not leaving, so long as I’m the President.”

He says that politicians who disagree with that policy are good, decent people who are undercutting our national security and betraying our troops for political gain: “This is a campaign -- I’m sure they’re watching the campaign carefully. There are a lot of good, decent people saying, get out now; vote for me, I will do everything I can to, I guess, cut off money is what they’ll try to do to get our troops out.”

Our old friend Sum has been expressing unlikely opinions about terrorists again: “Now, I recognize some say that these folks are not ideologically bound. I strongly disagree. I think not only do they have an ideology, they have tactics necessary to spread their ideology.” Chimpy may just be stringing words and phrases together in a random order, but I think he just said that terrorism is an effective means of persuading people to believe in an ideology.

Sum’s cousin Sumbody has also been talking: “And somebody said, well, this is law enforcement. No, this isn’t law enforcement, in my judgment.”

On whether the violence in Iraq is now mostly sectarian, i.e., a civil war: “No, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. As a matter of fact some of the more -- I would guess, I would surmise that some of the more spectacular bombings are done by al Qaeda suiciders.” I suppose it’s an improvement that when he has no evidence, he now admits he’s just making stuff up.

On Lebanon: “You can’t have a democracy with an armed political party willing to bomb its neighbor without the consent of its government, or deciding, well, let’s create enough chaos and discord by lobbing rockets.” That’s from the Federalist Papers, right?

On Iraq: “Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster, and that’s what we’re saying.” There’s that word again.

Asked about reports that he expressed frustration about the lack of gratitude of the Iraqi people: “Frustrated? Sometimes I’m frustrated. Rarely surprised. Sometimes I’m happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren’t joyous times. These are challenging times, and they’re difficult times, and they’re straining the psyche of our country. I understand that.” But “if we ever give up the desire to help people who live in freedom, we will have lost our soul as a nation, as far as I’m concerned.” So we’re straining our psyche but not losing our soul.

Speaking of strained psyches:

My day in court

As is so often the case with the criminal justice system, it all came down to earwax.

Today I had the opportunity to participate in that sacred duty of every citizen: weaseling my way out of jury duty. Here is my diary of that experience (John Grisham would have spun this out to 400 pages):

8:01 Why am I here at 8:01 am? Every judge in the land is still a-bed. Filled out juror info form. They ask for an email address. No way. At least the tv is off. Last time I was in one of these rooms I was trying to read while they blared Regis Philbin at me. And there’s a not uncomfortable couch. Not long enough to take a nap on, though.

I am by no means the only one in sweatpants. After careful consideration, though, I left my formal Cat in the Hat t-shirt at home.

8:13 The bureaucrat has said she’s going to “go ahead and” do one thing or the other for the 6th time by my count.

Update: 11 12.

8:22 Oh boy, there’s a video. Evidently Cal. is a beautiful state, the greatest of all the states, but it still has crime. Oh no, please tell me where I fit in in addressing that situation!

Uh oh, the video says I’m supposed to use my everyday common sense.

8:40 The Go Ahead Girl must be past 25X now

8:48 45? It’s a little awe-inspiring, really.

9:30 Waiting. Half the people here have no reading material (and some of the rest didn’t bring any, but are reading from the room’s eccentric collection of magazines, none of them news magazines). They’re just sitting there, nearly half of those with their arms crossed. Maybe they have rich inner lives and need no external stimulus. Maybe they’re drunk or hung over. The room is also provided with one jigsaw puzzle, which a guy in his 20s is working, not very efficiently. I’m reading a book on World War I & taking these notes, and feeling a welling civic pride. Or possibly gas.

9:42 Going into the courtroom in a minute. It was in fact gas.

9:51 Jeez, I could take those bailiffs.

And then there was an hour of voire dire, half of which I couldn’t hear (the earwax thing). The case was “resisting an executive officer,” which is something like resisting arrest, I guess. The lawyers on both sides seemed to be in their 20s, as was the IQ of the defense attorney, who asked if prospective jurors believed it was okay to protest being arrested, whether police can make a mistake, whether police can use any kind of force. She didn’t know how to ask a question that would have elicited an answer which would have alerted her to a problem juror. She asked a woman whose son is a cop in Sacramento whether, when he tells her about his job, she always takes his side.

Someone who worked the night shift was excused. Someone with child-care issues was excused. Someone who said he’d been hassled by cops, but wouldn’t say how, and said that police were, he guessed, a “necessary evil,” was excused. An FBI special agent was excused. Several people whose problems I couldn’t make out were excused. And then I was called, corrected the clerk’s pronunciation of my name, told the court about the earwax thing and was excused.

Er, you weren’t expecting a big payoff to this story, were you?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Stubbornly rubber-stamping

The International Astronomical Union has voted in favor of the broad definition of “planet,” so we’ve got 12 now and they’re threatening us with more to come. That’s what happens when you let a union make these decisions: inventing mnemonics for 20 or 30 planets, teaching schoolchildren how to pronounce Quaoar, Varuna, Ixion, etc, it’s like guaranteed employment for the “I’ve got a really big telescope” crowd.

Quaoar, indeed.

I’m serious: Charon is not a planet, it’s just not.

Speaking of jumped-up satellites with delusions of grandeur, Joe Lieberman called today for Rumsfeld to resign. The Lamont campaign says this won’t disguise his “many years of stubbornly rubber-stamping Bush’s failed policies”. Stubbornly rubber-stamping?

Snipers, mysteriously undeterred by the ban on automobiles, have fired on a Shiite pilgrimage in Baghdad, which if the photo illustrating the BBC story about this is correct, is one of those pilgrimages with flagellation. It must be very annoying when you’re flagellating yourself and people start shooting at you.

Duck herders?

The LAT reports that while the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division knew that members of the 173rd Airborne tortured detainees in Vietnam (some of them to death, and some using a form of waterboarding), information they kept to themselves, although 3 low-ranking soldiers were fined or reduced in rank, their real concern was digging up dirt to smear the people who said there was torture. The people in the military, obviously, the Vietnamese didn’t count. No one noticed when all these files were declassified in 1994. When the LAT started investigating, they were re-classified (but not before the LAT read most of them).

A second story tells of a sergeant convicted of murdering three Vietnamese farm workers (an irrigation worker and 2 teenage duck-herders) who not only served no prison time but was allowed to stay in the army another 12 years, not even transferred out of Vietnam.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Strip poker, running backwards, and the Middle East situation – but I repeat myself

The Israeli commandos driven back from Lebanon today, who Israel claims were trying to interdict arms shipments from Syria and/or Iran, but who Lebanon more plausibly asserts were trying to seize or kill a Hezbollah leader, were reportedly disguised in Lebanese army uniforms. Aren’t there rules against that sort of thing? Certainly, Israel has forfeited its right to demand that the Lebanese army take any action to disarm Hezbollah, since they have put Lebanese soldiers at risk of being attacked as possible Israeli infiltrators.

And now the sports news:

Switzerland is hosting the retro-running championships, in which contestants run backwards 11 kilometers up a mountain.

That’s very picturesque, no doubt, but not as picturesque as the World Strip Poker Championship in London. Brings new meaning to the phrase Texas Hold ‘Em. You can look for the pictures yourself: I’ve already been quite sufficiently traumatized by the sight of the guy with the huge Arsenal tattoo and the unfortunate case of acne on his back, thank you very much.

Test in progress

Reuters headline: “Israel Raid in Lebanon Tests Truce.” If a squadron of Israeli attack helicopters leave Haifa Air Force Base traveling north at 150 miles per hour...

Presumably if they’re only “testing” the truce, that’s okay because it’s not like they’re breaking it or anything. However Lebanese PM Siniora calls the raid a “naked violation” of the ceasefire. So it’s like one of those dreams where you’re taking a test naked.

Bush in his radio address talked yet again about how “foster[ing] the development of young democracies” in the Middle East will defeat the terrorists. And Israel has seized the Deputy Prime Minister of Palestine. Because sometimes young democracies need a “time out.”

Friday, August 18, 2006

People were trying to come and kill people

The Indy asked some Labour MPs whether they agreed with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott that Bush’s Middle East policy was “crap” (which Prescott denies saying but no one believes him, because it sounds just like him, and anyway we’ve all just been enjoying watching the BBC use the word as often as possible). Says Ian Davidson MP: “I think that John Prescott is to be commended for the quality of his political analysis.”

CentCom’s new slogan: “It’s fun to shoot some people.” To be fair, they may just have promoted Mattis because they were scared of him. Wouldn’t you be?

Bush had a meeting with his economic advisers, who advised him not to wear a tie, then they all did the traditional “Buckaroo Banzai” walk to the microphones

to answer questions, none of which were about the economy. He was asked to explain why he thinks Hezbollah was defeated: “The first reaction, of course, of Hezbollah and its supporters is, declare victory. I guess I would have done the same thing if I were them.” Ya think?

“But sometimes it takes people a while to come to the sober realization of what forces create stability and which don’t.” Ya think?

(Update: While waiting for the pictures for this post to upload, I looked over to Bob Harris’s site. Sigh.)

“Hezbollah is a force of instability. ... Hezbollah, they’re pretty comfortable there in south Lebanon.” If you like sitting on piles of rubble. “They’re now going to find themselves not only that which caused the destruction, but they’ll find themselves with now a Lebanese army, with U.N. help, making it clear they won’t have the safe haven necessary -- that they think is necessary to launch attacks.”

On yesterday’s ruling against his warrantless surveillance: “I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live.” See, this is what happens when they let him read Camus; he starts talking about the “nature of the world.” Next thing you know he’ll be dressing all in black and smoking unfiltered cigarettes.

Why just last week, he says, “we disrupted a plot. People were trying to come and kill people.” Peoples is the craziest people. “The judge’s decision was a -- I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree. ... I made my position clear about this war on terror. And by the way, the enemy made their position clear yet again when we were able to stop them.” Just as long as we’re all clear.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

All you need to know about today’s eavesdropping ruling

Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, ruling the warrantless wiretapping program both illegal and unconstitutional: “There are no hereditary kings in America”.

The White House, responding: “We couldn’t disagree more with this ruling”.

Wherein I settle some matters to everyone’s complete satisfaction

Summary judgement 1: The validity of Günter Grass’s writings is not undermined to any significant extent by the revelations about his youth.

Summary judgement 2: I still don’t think Pluto is a planet, but I’m willing to let it be grandfathered in. Charon is not a planet. Indeed, if the argument for Charon not being a satellite of Pluto (that the barycenter [center of gravity, around which both objects revolve] of the two does not lie within Pluto) is legitimate, then Jupiter is not a planet. And Jupiter is obviously a planet. I don’t care about Ceres, and neither does anyone else. 2003 UB 313 can be a planet, but only if it’s called Xena (no, I’m not a fan of the show, but the idea gives me a bit of a giggle).

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

And there’s some good people in our country who believe we should cut and run

A Gallup poll shows that 39% of Americans interviewed believe that Muslims in the US should be required to carry a special i.d. I just wrote a comment on that before realizing I already wrote one 20 months ago after a similar study (which had it at 27%). I thought what I was writing seemed familiar (although this time I went with “ham sandwich” instead of “pork products”).

Speaking of racists, John McCain was out campaigning for George Allen, because if you’re trying to pretend that “Makaka” isn’t a racial epithet, the person you really want standing next to you is the guy who said (when running for president in 2000), “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.”

Salon investigates voter security/suppression efforts. A must-read. It could almost make you support Norm Ornstein’s proposal for mandatory voting, providing the fine for a vote not being cast is matched by one for a vote not being counted. This is one of those areas where the left (or even the Dems) have been afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists, allowing the R’s to, well, conspire. I mean, do you check your supermarket receipts for errors? Your first thought is that the people who work there are idiots and errors happen, but 90% or more of those errors invariably favor the store. By the way, anyone who has to wait on line at the DMV four times like that woman in Indiana in order to register, should get four votes at the next election – it’s only fair.

After Bush toured the Harley plant (“I’m impressed by the fact that they're impressed by the product they make”), Bush gave a speech at a fundraiser for Lynn Swann. His reiterated phrases and stories are not getting less irritating with familiarity, like the things “I happen to believe/disagree.”
They want us to cut and run. And there’s some good people in our country who believe we should cut and run. They’re not bad people when they say that, they’re decent people. I just happen to believe they’re wrong.
Why is that phrasing so much more obnoxious than “I believe they’re wrong” or “They’re wrong”?

Here’s Bush making yet another claim he can’t prove, while pretending that he’s not making it:
I know it’s hard for Americans to believe this, but the enemy that attacked us before has got people that want to act like them, are maybe taking instruction from -- I can’t tell you whether this plot we disrupted was al Qaeda. I’m not going to say that unless I’m certain it was.
Oh, he almost let it slip, and then stopped himself in the nick of time! This is a technique he perfected when tattling on Jeb to his mother when he was 6.

And, if you can stand it, another iteration of his sophisticated understanding of the problems of the Middle East:
Isn’t it interesting today that the most violent parts of the world are where young democracies are trying to take root? Isn’t it interesting that Hezbollah would attack Israel, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, try to destabilize the Middle East so that Lebanon doesn’t get to be a strong democracy and starts to try to turn the world against Israel? Isn’t it interesting that the young democracy of Iraq is the place where the enemy is trying to stop the progress? That should tell the American people the following things: One, we face an enemy that has an ideology that can’t stand freedom; and secondly, as freedom progresses, it changes the world for the better. Otherwise, the enemy wouldn’t be trying to stop it.
Hezbollah was attacking Israel because Israel is a democracy and it hates democracy. Is there anyone else in the world who believes that? Also, who is “the enemy” in Iraq who is trying to stop the progress? Sunni insurgents, Shiite militias, Al Qaida, there are so many enemies I have no idea who he’s singling out.

I may get hysterical blindness if I have to read another Bush speech.

What’re you rebelling against, Chimpy?

Shrub went to the Harley-Davidson plant today, and they let him pretend to ride a motorcycle.

“Vroom,” went George.

“Vroom vroom.”

“Vroom vroom vroom.”



I dunno, I’m kind of reminded of something, I can’t think what it might be....


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Crying on the inside

Another story about the long-term effects of war on individual lives: in Britain, a 93-year old has finally won a pardon for her father, Priv. Harry Farr, a shell-shock victim executed during World War I for “cowardice” after a 20-minute trial. The daughter was 7 days old when her father was sent to the front, 2 when he was killed; she and her mother were evicted because they received no pension, and she wasn’t told the manner of his death until she was 40.

You know how you avoid generational effects of war? Child soldiers, at least if you kill them before puberty. A spokesmodel for Sri Lanka’s military says it was legitimate that a bombing raid yesterday killed children because they were conscripted (i.e., kidnapped) Tamil Tiger child-soldiers. “If the children are terrorists, what can we do?” asked Brig. Athula Jayawardana. What indeed.

Germany will send troops to the Lebanese-Israeli border. Um, right.

John Spencer, the Republican sacrifice to the unstoppable killing machine that is Hillary Rodham Clinton, has an ad out: “Islamic facists [sic] still hate us....”, Hillary would “leave us vulnerable...”, but Spencer “won’t play politics with our security.” I suspect there will be a lot more of this sort of not playing of politics.


An ape park in the Netherlands is setting up webcams so its orangutangs (or as George Allen, who is familiar with Krusty’s “comical K sounds,” calls them, “makakas”) can communicate with, and possibly pick out potential mates from, residents in an orangutang center in Borneo. These long-distance relationships never work out.

George Walker Bush, who has already displayed a new-found sophistication by reading one of the, well, shortest works of European literature, astonished and delighted the staff of the National Counterterrorism Center when he burst into song during a visit today.

Ridi, Pagliaccio... e ognun applaudirà!

Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il pianto;

in una smorfia il singhiozzo e’l dolor...

Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore in franto!

Ridi del duol t’avvelena il cor!

Huge crosses, frozen mammoth sperm, recalls, and the thrill of the new

Best headlines of the day, a tie: “Federal Government Takes Control of a Huge Cross” (WaPo), and “Frozen Sperm ‘Could Bring Mammoths Back to Life’” (Daily Telegraph).

Speaking of headlines, the BBC currently has two: “Dell Recalls 4m Laptop Batteries” and “US Recalls 300 Soldiers to Iraq.” What do these recalls have in common? They both tend to blow up.

I’m going to hell for that one.

I mean I am so going to hell for that one.

Speaking of going to hell, those 300 soldiers had just finished a one-year tour and were literally en route home when they were turned around and told they were serving another 4 months (in Baghdad, yet). Another 301 who made it all the way home to Alaska now have to go back. This is no way to run a war.

Syrian President Assad says that Hezbollah’s, um, victory, has resulted in a “new Middle East.” There’s something he agrees with Condi about: the “old” Middle East was crap.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The funnies

After the Danish cartoon crisis, Iran threatened to have a competition for cartoons about the Holocaust.

Pardon me, about the Holocust. I’ve noted before that the language of choice for Iranian anti-Semitism is English.

And now they have held the competition, staged by the Iran Cartoon Association, which is a hell of a concept in and of itself (update: it has a website. It doesn’t seem to have the cartoons, though there is a better image of the poster.) Most of the pictures I’ve seen are too small to make out, although I saw Hitler dressed as Uncle Sam (or I suppose arguably, the other way around),

and the Statue of Liberty with a book on the Holocaust, giving a Nazi salute (sort of a mixed message, really). Said one 23-year old attendee, “I came to learn more about the roots of the Holocaust and the basis of Israel’s emergence.” Doesn’t this tell you everything you need to know?

Sort of a Monty Python influence, no? No.

Leaving behind a better world

Bush says “We live in troubled times, but I’m confident in our capacity to not only protect the homeland, but I’m confident in our capacity to leave behind a better world.” Leave behind? Are we (gulp) going somewhere?

The Pentagon website has an example of damage-control entitled “Pace Focuses on Human Dimension of Iraq War.” What that means is that the alliterative Peter Pace was confronted in Iraq by a lieutenant who had lost two men to an IED and who told him, “I have no doubt, that if they were in an RG-31 [armored vehicle], they would still be alive today.” Especially if the RG-31 wasn’t in Iraq. So Pace found a tame interviewer, so he could talk about how he knows the cost of battle because he was in Vietnam blah blah blah, never forget the names blah blah, “Lance Corporal Guido Farinaro, then I lost Lance Corporal Chubby Hale.” Yeah, focus on that human dimension, Petey.

Chubby Hale?

After meetings at the State Dept and the Pentagon, Bush had a press conference, in which he described Lebanon as one of the “fronts of the global war on terror.” He says that Hezbollah is completely responsible for all the suffering in Lebanon and Israel, as people will understand when they “take a look-see, take a step back, and realize how this started.” In a month of violence, he was still found nothing done by Israel worthy of criticism.

But, as ever, there was something he found “interesting”:
What’s really interesting is a mind-set -- is the mind-sets of this crisis. Israel, when they aimed at a target and killed innocent citizens, were upset. Their society was aggrieved. When Hezbollah’s rockets killed innocent Israelis they celebrated. I think when people really take a look at the type of mentality that celebrates the loss of innocent life, they’ll reject that type of mentality.

Oh, and he says Hezbollah totally lost the war.

Abounds in fictions

Other bloggers have also been considering the possible meaning of Bush’s adoption of the vocabulary of fascism and totalitarianism to describe insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Hezbollah. Juan Cole has, and I’ve seen talk on a couple of linguistics sites, and most recently this discussion on Daily Kos. No one, including me, seems very certain, which is no doubt the idea: Bush doesn’t use language to make a subject clearer, now does he? More simplistic, but not better understood. We know from Peter Galbraith’s book that as late as 2002 Bush didn’t know that there were Shiites and Sunnis. The fascist/totalitarian vocabulary lets him forget it all over again, not just so he can conflate Sunni Al Qaida and Shiite Hezbollah, as MarkC suggests at Kos, but so that no one will notice that the Bushies are using exactly the same “fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here / these are the guys responsible for 9/11” rhetoric about Iraq despite the fact that they’re now principally concerned with Shiite militias rather than Sunni “rejectionists.”

A couple of months ago I noted that Bush kept alternating, sometimes in the same week, between saying that the enemy “has a philosophy” and saying they have no philosophy. At least he’s finally made a decision; fascism counts as a political philosophy, doesn’t it?

Al Kamen answers the question how government employees, in this case Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Karen Czarnecki, can legally appear as a Republican strategist on tv (for pay on PBS, which means the taxpayers are giving her two paychecks), given the Hatch Act: well, she is never identified as a government employee, or as a Republican, only as a “conservative strategist/analyst,” which means that in the case of Czarnecki, Fox and PBS are forced to inaccurately identify one of their talking heads. Also, she takes an official leave of absence – for a few hours. Somehow I don’t think that’s what the law intended.

The White House denies the Seymour Hersh report that the US collaborated with Israel in planning the war on Lebanon. Tony Insert-Snow-Related-Pun-Here scoffed, “The piece abounds in fictions.” Say what you will about Tony Insert-Snow-Related-Pun-Here, but neither Ari nor Scottie would have used the phrase “abounds in fictions.”

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Turkmen melon is the source of our pride

Turkmenistan’s President-for-life Niyazov had a melon named in his honor today to celebrate national Melon Day. According to the AFP, “The Turkmenbashi melon is said to be very big and tasty.” Niyazov sez: “All Turkmens celebrate this holiday. The Turkmen melon is the source of our pride, its taste has no equals in the world, the smell makes your head spin.”

Don’t laugh: do you have a melon named after you?

A small fraction of them have done things that we know for sure were wrong

Iranian President Ahmadinejad has started a blog (that link’s for the English version). So far it’s just got an autobiography of the great leader, some photos of the great leader, some Battlestar Galactica fanfic, and a poll: “Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word [sic?] war?”

According to Seymour Hersh, the Israelis got their green light from Washington (they went to Cheney first) for a massive bombing campaign in Lebanon, targeting infrastructure, in advance, to start “in response” to whatever the next Hezbollah action was. Cheney and others view it as a test-run for their very similar contingency plans for how to conduct war against Iran, mostly through air strikes. Which gives Ahmadinejad the answer to his poll question. When Iran sees the Israeli attack on Lebanon as an Israeli-American proxy war on Iran, it is merely seeing it the same way the Americans and Israelis do.

The alliterative Peter Pace again says of the various atrocities committed by American troops in Iraq, “It’s not who we are as a nation; it’s not who we are as an armed force.” Says we’ve sent “between 1 million and 1.5 million Americans” to the Gulf (shouldn’t the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs know how many troops he’s deployed with just a little more accuracy than plus or minus 500,000?), and only “A small fraction of them have done things that we know for sure were wrong.” Pace says atrocities are “unacceptable,” and says that because most of them (except the Haditha massacre) were reported through the chain of command, the system... wait for it... works.

Pace adds that any failure in Iraq is not his fault: “The problem is not so much how much combat power you have in a country, it’s more how is the governance going. How are the people doing? What is getting better about their economic situation, what is getting better about their trust for each other? What is getting better about the education system and roads and the like? What gives them hope for a better future? This drives you to the understanding that to have a better future, you need to stop killing one another.”