Monday, October 30, 2006

They are, very, very cognizant of our schedule, if you will

Cheney, interviewed on Fox, repeats that attacks in Iraq may very well be intended to influence American elections.
I think they are, very, very cognizant of our schedule, if you will. They also -- you’ve got to remember what the strategy is of the terrorists. They specifically can’t beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have. But whether it’s al Qaeda or the other elements that are active in Iraq, they are betting on the proposition they can break the will of the American people.
So vote Democratic – if your will has been broken.

Another Bush rally, this one in Texas. Okay, George, just repeat after me: Charlie Rangel. Just four syllables, as opposed to “the man who would be the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee -- the Democrat, who will be the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, if the Democrats were to take over the House -- which they’re not”.

Lieberman and Lieberman

Metaphor of the day, from Dan Gerstein, Holy Joe Lieberman’s communications director, responding to the NYT endorsement of Lamont: “You clearly wanted another finger-pointer in the Senate, and Ned Lamont wins that contest hands down.”

In news from other Liebermans, Unholy Avigdor Lieberman was sworn in as deputy prime minister of Israel and also, appropriately enough for a man who has repeatedly threatened to expel or execute Palestinians, as Minister for Strategic Threats. The Labor party went along meekly, the only resignation being the minister of culture and sport. There’s probably a joke in there, but I’m not in the mood to go looking for it. The only world leader who voiced an objection to the inclusion of this racist in the government was Germany’s Angela Merkel – in case the minister for strategic threats thing wasn’t bitterly ironic enough.

In other words, Congress voted on these tools

Bush attended another campaign rally today, in Georgia, for Max Burns: “I’ve been in Washington long enough to know that it makes sense to have people who live on a family farm in the halls of the United States Congress.” I wonder what they grow?

I mentioned that he never names Pelosi or Rangel when he’s attacking them. Maybe he should. Today he slipped and called Rangel “the man who is going to be running the tax committee.”

Elsewhere, though, he went out of his way to simplify: “recently, there were votes in the floor of the House of Representatives, in the floor of the United States Senate to provide these critical tools. In other words, Congress voted on these tools.”

I was so focused on the “in other words” bit that I didn’t notice until just now the part about the vote “in the floor of the United States Senate.” Also, “Iraq is the central front for the war on terror” and “I want the folks all throughout America to envision a Middle East where extremism are battling for power”.

He did another of those pep rally call & response things:
THE PRESIDENT: When it comes to trying the terrorists, what’s the Democrats’ answer?

AUDIENCE: Just say no!

Which Democrats opposed putting terrorists on trial? We want names. And what does Nancy Reagan think of all this “just say no” business?

You also have to wonder about the audience:
You know, in Washington you hear people say, well, Iraq is just a distraction from the war on terror. I believe it is a central part of the war on terror. (Applause.)

Applause. Yes, let’s give it up for a central part of the war on terror.

Pelosi (“a senior Democrat in the House of Representatives”) disagrees, though. “She said, the President says fighting them there makes it less likely we will fight them here. The opposite is true, she said, because we are fighting them there, it may become more likely that we have to fight them there [sic].”

According to him, “The Democrat goal is to get out of Iraq. The Republican goal is to win in Iraq.” So he’s finally admitted he doesn’t plan to get out of Iraq ever.

The principles we hold dear

My cat, who is on the Republican Party email list, has received an email from Newt Gingrich (if Bill Frist ever emails her I’m calling the police at once). Although they know my cat lives in California (they required a zip code so I, er, she, told them 90210, which she has somehow memorized despite the fact that neither of us have watched that show even once), Gingrich kept talking darkly about “San Francisco values”: “There is a very real chance that San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi could pound the Speaker’s gavel [is that some sort of gay reference?] next January -- the same Nancy Pelosi who said ‘I don’t really consider ourselves to be at war.’ Take a stand for the principles we hold dear by supporting the Republican Party in this fight with your contribution...” So the principles the Republicans hold dear = being at war.

Alternative slogans: “Beyond staying the course”; “Hey, you guys, look at the cool course over there. How ‘bout we go there instead of this course with the dead bodies on it?”; “Of course we’ll stay!”

Sunday, October 29, 2006

They now want ammunition

Interesting London Sunday Times portrait of a “pacified” Iraqi town, where the police are so outgunned that when “they stop expensive cars... where once they demanded money, they now want ammunition.”

OHMIGOD, have you heard about this? Evidently some mad fools tried to literally save daylight, and we’ve all fallen backwards through time. They’ve broken the space-time continuum, people! AAAARRRRGH!

I’m going to Krispy Kreme while there’s still... time.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Just say no to drapes

Bush attended a rally in Indiana on behalf of Rep. Mike Sodrel today. For some reason, the audience was strongly opposed to drapes (possibly they all work in a venetian blind factory):
BUSH: They think the election is already over. As a matter of fact, some of them in Washington are already measuring the drapes for their new offices.

Actually they booed a lot of things (twelve, according to the transcript):
BUSH: The Democrats believe they should raise your taxes so they can spend your money.


... the Minority Leader in the House, who wants to be the Speaker --


...Just this week in New Jersey --

And so on.

If you think the president of the United States throwing out boo, excuse me, booo lines is a little crass, just a little bit beneath the dignity of the office...
THE PRESIDENT: When it comes to listening in on the terrorists, what’s the Democratic answer? Just say no. When it comes to detaining terrorists, what’s the Democrat answer?

AUDIENCE: Just say no!

THE PRESIDENT: When it comes to questioning terrorists, what’s the Democrat answer?

AUDIENCE: Just say no!

THE PRESIDENT: When it comes to trying terrorists, what’s the Democrat’s answer?

AUDIENCE: Just say no!

THE PRESIDENT: So when the Democrats ask for your vote on November the 7th, what are you going to say?

AUDIENCE: Just say no! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Here are some questions we’re asking all around the country: Do you want your government to listen in on the terrorists?


THE PRESIDENT: Do you want your government to detain the terrorists?


THE PRESIDENT: Do you want your government to question the terrorists?


THE PRESIDENT: Do you want your government to do whatever it takes to bring justice to the terrorists?


THE PRESIDENT: And so when Republicans ask for your vote on November 7, what’s your answer?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

Maximum care

NATO airstrikes in Kandahar, Afghanistan Tuesday killed dozens of civilians.

And a bunch of livestock. NATO spokesman Mark Laity (used to be the BBC’s military correspondent) says that NATO did everything right: “President Karzai quite understandably and correctly wants us to show maximum care - that’s what we do.” So that’s okay, then. Naturally, he blames the guys we were trying to kill for not making it easier to kill them: “With insurgents who regard the population as a form of human shield for themselves, it obviously makes life very difficult for us, but it does not stop us from making every effort to ensure that we minimize any problems.” What I like about that sentence is that Laity starts by suggesting that the Taliban are self-centered callous bastards who only see civilians instrumentally, and then goes right ahead and says that this mass slaughter of civilians is “making life difficult for us.” Yes, it’s all about yoooouuuuuuuu. I’m guessing that the life of the 75-year old who lost every one of his relatives, 19 of them, might be just that little bit more difficult now too.

Look around the table and multiply the number of children you have by $500

Bush’s radio address, the penultimate one before the elections, focuses, not surprisingly, on tax cuts, the need for which he describes as his “philosophy.” His version of Shrubonomics (Chimponomics?) certainly isn’t the practical science that economics should be, and his supporting statistics are massaged within an inch of their lives, designed to dazzle rather than inform, and what else is new. But when he actually wants us to follow along, he spells it out so a six-year old could get it: “Next time you’re having dinner at home, look around the table and multiply the number of children you have by $500. That’s how much more you will be sending to Washington in taxes if Democrats take control of the Congress. If you have two children, that is an extra $1,000 the Democrats will add to your tax bill every year. If you have three children, that’s an extra $1,500. If you have four children, that’s an extra $2,000.” And if you have five, buy a fucking condom already.

His message between now and November 7, he says, will be “Whether you’re a worker earning a paycheck, or a small business owner who’s thinking about hiring more workers, or a family worried about gas prices or health care costs, the last thing you need now is a higher tax bill.” Earlier he was taking credit for every new job and every wage rise, but if you have to sign over your tax cut to Exxon-Mobil and Blue Cross due to the skyrocketing prices of energy and health care under his Chimperorship, I’m pretty sure he’ll be accepting none of the blame.

Also, Bush is incapable of referring to the “death tax” without saying that Republicans put it “on the road to extinction.”

Friday, October 27, 2006

Staying the course

At that meeting with right-wing commentators, Bush said, “This stuff about ‘stay the course’ — stay the course means, we’re going to win. Stay the course does not mean that we’re not going to constantly change.”

It’s a miniature golf course, isn’t it, George?

Sometimes a dunk in the water is just a dunk in the water

Today’s Gaggle is a delight, as reporters question Tony Snow endlessly about what oh what Cheney might have meant when he agreed that a “dunk in the water” was a “no-brainer.” One might say that they snowboarded the press secretary. The White House line is that Cheney was talking in general about interrogation and wasn’t specifically endorsing waterboarding, and that “dunk in the water” could have meant anything, really.
Q I haven’t drawn any conclusions. I’m asking for an explanation about what “dunk in the water” could mean.

MR. SNOW: How about a dunk in the water?

Snow goes so far as to say that we know Cheney wasn’t talking about waterboarding because he’s such a consummate professional that he wouldn’t “slip up” and talk about specific techniques. In an all-too-rare instance of a reporter giving exactly the response that went through my head, someone pointed out that Cheney was the guy who told Leahy to fuck himself and was the guy who shot his friend in the face, so he may not really be all that perfect.

Now I said yesterday that Cheney was asserting that waterboarding is not torture, but today George “No Brainer” Bush was asked, “do you agree with the Vice President that a dunk in the water is a ‘no brainer’ when it comes to interrogating a terror suspect?” and he answered, “This country doesn’t torture, we’re not going to torture.” Note that the question didn’t contain the word torture, so Bush is the one equating waterboarding (or “a dunk in the water”) with torture. I assume any CIA interrogators who have used the technique will now be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

See, they try to hide behind the language

Bush is running from one campaign fundraiser to another like they’re going out of style. Which they aren’t. He seems to be enjoying himself, which is another sign that he is a sick, sick individual. I’m pretty sure if you phone up the White House, he will be happy to come and act out his visit to Graceland with Koizumi in your living room. Today he told that story in Iowa, where he was campaigning for Jeff Lamberti (or, as he called him, Dave Lamberti), and in Michigan, where he was campaigning for Mike Bouchard. At the former, he said, “You know, when I campaigned here in 2000, I said, I want to be a war President. [sic]” At the latter, he praised Bouchard’s family, and, er, some of his own: “And I know what it’s like to have a loving wife and kids that love you because I’ve got a loving wife.”

He said of Al Qaida: “Look, it’s hard to plan, plot and attack if you’re running or hiding in a cave.” They are fearless, aren’t they? Running in a cave just does not sound safe.

He seemed confused by the way Democrats use words. Nancy Pelosi, he says, “said, It is ‘not right’ to say that, ‘Iraq is part of the war on terror.’ In other words, they don’t believe Iraq is a part of the war on terror.” Er, those are the same words. He continued, “They believe it is a separate theater of some kind. I’m not sure what they believe.” Sad, really. He says Charlie Rangel (by the way, he goes far out of his way not to actually utter the names of Rangel and Pelosi) “couldn’t think of one of those tax cuts that he would extend. In other words, by not extending, he’s raising your taxes. See, they try to hide behind the language.”

Rumsfeld warns reality: just back off

The Nicaraguan national assembly has voted 52-0 to ban abortions in all cases, including when the mother’s life is in danger.

Rumsfeld has been doing lots of interviews on right-wing talk radio and elsewhere, while pretending that it has nothing to do with electoral politics. Here he is explaining to someone with the bestest right-wing talk radio name ever, Inga Barks, explaining that the negative perception of the situation in Iraq is due to high-tech news sources. Why, in the good old days, “the newspaper would get a story and people wouldn’t read it for a week, and then they’d see it once. Here, anything that’s on is on -- every 15 minutes it’s on, if something’s burning in Baghdad.” (Rummy flashback, the looting of the Iraqi National Museum, April 2003: “The images you are seeing on television, you are seeing over and over and over. It is the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase and you see it 20 times. And you think, my goodness, were there that many vases?”)

He continues, “I mean, I fly over Baghdad frequently, and it’s where -- within 30 miles of Baghdad is about 90 percent of the violence in the country. And you fly over it and there are people waiting at gas stations, there are people out eating and doing things. The place is not in flames.” He does paint a picture, doesn’t he? People out eating and doin’ things. And they all look like ants from up there. I love how he thinks flying over a place adds authenticity to his description of quotidian life there.

And in a briefing today, a reporter asked Rummy if “benchmarks” have any meaning without consequences for failure. Rummy told the reporter to “just back off”: “I mean, you’re trying to add a degree of formality and finality and punishment to something. My goodness. So you ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it’s complicated, it’s difficult, that honorable people are working on these things together; there isn’t any daylight between them. They will be discussing this and discussing that”.

The key exchange of the briefing:
Q Are the people of Baghdad safer than they were six months ago?

(No audible response.)

We have upheld doctrine

Okay, now there’s a transcript available of Bush’s meeting with right-wing commentators I blogged in my last post. Compared to this event, the press conference earlier in the day was a model of clarity:

“Well, on North Korea, we’re putting in the places to — putting in the parts to make sure that, to the extent that he’s got capabilities of launching a weapon or preventing him from selling the weapon, we’re putting those in place. The missile defense system was designed precisely for this kind of situation, the one we’ve got now, which is ones, twosies, or threesies — it’s not a multiple launch regime, but it’s getting pretty accurate. And all of a sudden, somebody stands up a weapon and aims it and says, “Hands up,” and we say, they’re not coming up, because we’ve got the capacity to stop it.”

On Democrats: “I’m not casting dispersion,” but “it’s an interesting world in which people are not willing to listen to the words of an enemy”.

Earlier in the year the Bushites had moved towards a more realistic assessment of Iraq, acknowledging that every enemy wasn’t a foreign jihadist or a member of Al Qaida. But now, they’ve been reverting, arguing that withdrawal would lead, not to a Shiite-Sunni civil war, but to an Al Qaida takeover. Bush describes the enemy: “They morph. You know, they kind of — there is al Qaeda central, there is al Qaeda look-alikes, there is al Qaeda want-to-bes. They’re dangerous. Some are more dangerous than others.” Probably the ones who can morph are the most dangerous.

Iraq can still avoid civil war: “I think there are two elements around which the country can unite: the army and the oil.” I wonder what the flag would look like?

It would also be an interesting national anthem.

As for us, “And we’re pretty successful. We have upheld doctrine.”

Relating a conversation with some American who’d been kidnapped in Iraq: “I said, what’s it like to be kidnapped, man? It must have been weird – Baghdad, to be kidnapped.”

And this is the helpful part in which he casually threatens a whole country:
Q: Instead of talking to Syria — can’t Syria get some payback for sending all these guys over the border to subvert Iraq? Can’t — shouldn’t Syria be getting subverted in return, in some way?

THE PRESIDENT: Now you’re thinking. (Laughter.)

I’m trying to figure out a matrix that says things are getting better

Cheney, interviewed by radio station WDAY’s Scott Hennen:

Q Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s a no-brainer for me, but for a while there, I was criticized as being the Vice President “for torture.” We don’t torture. That’s not what we’re involved in.

It’s official: Cheney thinks water-boarding is not torture.

Headline: “Bush ‘Not Satisfied’ With Situation in Iraq.” But he’s still self-satisfied, right? Really, really self-satisfied?

Yesterday Bush met with a bunch of right-wing columnists and broadcasters. There’s no official transcript – funny, that – so we must rely on Byron York’s account. Bush seems to have spent much of the session vexed (York’s word) that the Iraq war isn’t being perceived as a success. The problem, as he sees it, is that without body counts – “We have made a conscious effort not to be a body-count team” – there is no way to measure that success. You know, like No Child Left Behind, but for imperialist wars. No Quagmire Left Behind. The Soft Bigotry of Low-Intensity Warfare. Without a score card, Bush said, people get “the impression that [U.S. troops] are just there — kind of moving around, directing traffic, and somebody takes a shot at them and they’re down.” So “the enemy gets to define victory by killing people... And if there’s a lot dying, it means the enemy is winning. (Pause) That doesn’t mean they’re winning.” “And I’m trying to figure out a matrix that says things are getting better. I think that one way to measure is less violence than before, I guess...” And thus “benchmarks” to measure progress in oil, federalism, oil, constitutional reform, oil... “There’s like twenty different things,” Bush said.

I’m a little tired today, and my pancreas (which is the organ in the human body that excretes snark) is a little stressed out, as it always is in a week with a Bush press conference, so I’m just going to repeat without comment: “And I’m trying to figure out a matrix that says things are getting better.”

He also said that he wouldn’t continue this fiasco if he didn’t think it was all noble and shit: “I’m not going to keep those kids in there and have to deal with their loved ones. I can’t cover it up when I meet with a family who’s lost a child. I cry, I weep, I hug. And I’ve got to be able to look them in the eye and say, we’re going to win. I have to be able to do that. And I’m not a good faker.”

In deference to the state of my pancreas (or is it the left kidney?), I’m going to leave it to you, the reader, to complete this paragraph:
He said, “I cry, I weep, I hug.” But to be fair, he also does that when...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Dick Cheney, asked by Sean Hannity about the bad things Nancy Pelosi has said about the Republicans, says, “Well, it would seem to be a little inconsistent to use that kind of language on her adversaries and then talk about trying to restore civility.” Dick Cheney talking about restoring civility is like the pot telling the kettle to go fuck itself.

I haven’t said anything about Israeli PM Olmert’s decision to make racist pig Avigdor Lieberman (who wants, among other things, Palestinian members of the Knesset executed for treason for not participating in Israeli independence day celebrations) his deputy prime minister, mostly because I haven’t decided whether or not to call him “Holy Avigdor” Lieberman. The life of a blogger is made up of decisions like these.

Bush press conference: And the reason I’m confident we’ll succeed in Iraq is because the Iraqis want to succeed in Iraq

Caught some of Chimpy’s press conference, which, with the normal press room still under construction, was held in the Hideous Yellow Drapes Room of the White House. No transcript yet available, just my notes, so let’s wing it. (Update: transcript.)

Iraq is “tough for a reason.” There’s a significant difference between benchmarks and a timetable, evidently. The former is so Iraqis know “when are you gonna get this done.” One benchmark will be when the Iraqi troops are able to drive themselves. He did say he wouldn’t put more pressure on the Iraqi government than it could bear. Isn’t that what religious types tell people at funerals that God wouldn’t do to them?

He said something about convincing Iraqis that a civil war would be “not worth the effort.” (Update: “It’s one of the missions, is to work with the Maliki government to make sure that there is a political way forward that says to the people of Iraq, It’s not worth it. Civil war is not worth the effort -- by them.”) A question on what we would do in the event of a civil war was rejected as “hypothetical.” He told the reporters that he could see how people would think Iraq was in bad shape when they “watch your tv screens,” but reminded us that 90% of the – and he actually used this word – “action” takes place in just 5 provinces.

Ah, now I’ve got a partial transcript from CNN. The best bits all seem to have been before I tuned in. “We must not look at every success of the enemy as a mistake on our part, cause for an investigation or a reason to call for our troops to come home.” Notice how he slipped in the bit about no need for an investigation.

Bush’s attempt to formulate a Zen koan: “And the reason I’m confident we’ll succeed in Iraq is because the Iraqis want to succeed in Iraq.”

He explains that the Iraq war is different from World War II, but his grasp on what exactly World War II was seems a bit tenuous: “We were facing a nation state -- two nation states -- three nation states in World War II.” Also, WW II was easy: “We were able to find an enemy by locating its ships or aircraft or soldiers on the ground.”

Iraq’s long national nightmare is over

On Monday, Prime Minister Maliki issued this statement: “The Iraqi government hereby warns all groups with illegal weapons to refrain from any armed activities that undermine public security.”

I don’t know why no one thought of doing this before.

Peace, ain’t it grand.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wherein I make a joke you will find totally tasteless, and repeat to everyone you know

Usually when I pick up a phone you have 2 seconds to speak or I hang up – I hate those automatic dialing machines. Just now I failed to hang up fast enough and got to speak all too briefly with a chirpy young woman with slurred California vowels. She told me that she thought children should have playgrounds instead of prisons, and she knew I felt the same way too. I said “Nope” and hung up.

An Austrian man cut off his finger and presented it, with his wedding ring still on, to his ex-wife, after what Reuters helpfully describes as “an acrimonious divorce.” “He was charged with harassment and assault” – assault? well, to be fair, you can’t say he didn’t lay a finger on her – “but told a preliminary court hearing that he did not regret cutting off the finger and did not plan to get married again.” That’s probably a good plan.

You choose, and I support you

In Florida for another round of fundraising, Bush stopped off at the facility of Gyrocam Systems Inc., which describes itself as “rapidly becoming the industry-leader in airborne surveillance solutions for law enforcement and homeland security.” Spying on people from helicopters, in other words. Bush said, “And in order to make sure that companies such as this little company continue to expand you got to keep taxes low.” Somehow I don’t think it’s the tax cuts that are keeping Gyrocam Systems, which has recently moved into the exciting new field of IED detection devices, expanding.

In an interview with CNBC, Bush described his meetings with his generals: “the role of the commander in chief is to say to our generals, ‘You adjust to the enemy on the battlefield.’ ... I know there’s a lot of speculation about the tactics, but the – what you got to know is the meeting I had with the generals on Saturday was – the meeting went like this: ‘We want to win.’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘What are we doing to adjust to the enemy?’ ‘And here are some options, Mr. President.’ And my answer is, ‘You choose, and I support you.’”

I don’t anticipate losing

Knew I forgot something: part 3 of Bush’s interview by (shudder) Bill O’Reilly.

Bush claims to have recently read three books on George Washington and came to this conclusion: “if they’re still analyzing the first president, the 43rd president ought to be doing what he thinks is right.” Of course Bush could read a Harlequin romance, a Spiderman comic book, or the back of a cereal box, and see them all as parables showing that he should go ahead and do whatever the hell he wants to do.

Bush called a routine question about how a Democratic Congressional victory would affect him a “trick question” and has no plan for that eventuality. “I don’t anticipate losing,” he said. No, wait, let’s edit that quote for clarity: “I don’t anticipate losing.”

O’Reilly insisted that he was the second most criticized person in the country, and Bush is the first. And being O’Reilly, he brought up the “culture war.” They both agreed that secular leftists dislike Bush because he believes in God. “And if people want to ascribe all kinds of, you know, all kinds of motives to my thinking, they just don’t understand me.” Dude, we don’t even ascribe thinking to your thinking.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Benchmarks are from Mars, timetables are from Venus

In today’s Gaggle, Tony Insert-Snow-Related-Pun-Here said that there are indeed benchmarks (“benchmarks” is the word Bushies are using because evidently “timetables” are the devil’s work, or only pussies have timetables, or timetables, we don’ need no stinkin’ timetables, or something) for progress in Iraq: “For instance, by the end of the year, there will be a hydrocarbon law.” See, and you thought it was a quagmire.

Elsewhere in the Gaggle:
Q Is the President responsible for the fact people think it’s stay the course since he’s, in fact, described it that way himself?

All right, then.

Mike Nelson and some of the old Mystery Science Theatre 3000 gang, seeking publicity for their new business, which is a lot like the old one but downloadable and without the bots and not free, have alternate voiceovers for ads for Schwarzenegger


and Angelides.


Waiting for the adults

See Billmon’s post “Babbling Idiots” (tell us what you really think of them, Billmon) and George Packer in the New Yorker about the Iraq Study Group and the paucity of options remaining in Iraq.

I know I can’t wait. What will it be? Partition? because imperialists drawing lines on maps has always been an excellent way of resolving conflicts forever and ever. Pick a new Strong Man? because sooner or later things will get so bad that Achmad Chalabi couldn’t make them any worse. Oh, I just can’t wait.

In the meantime (and for Iraqis, it’s been a very mean time indeed), James Baker and Lee Hamilton have been making numerous appearances on news shows, evidently just to say that they’re not ready to discuss their conclusions and suggestions yet, don’t even bother asking them, and then fill the remaining 10 minutes showing Jim Lehrer pictures of their great-grandchildren. These are election campaign appearances and nothing else, a repeat of the 2000 strategy of surrounding Shrub with “adults,” who would save him from his own callowness. Of course those adults turned out to be Cheney and Rumsfeld. Adults, to be sure, but batshit-insane adults (someone said in 2001 of the Bush Cabinet that there hadn’t been so much pseudo-gravitas in one room since Henry Kissinger dined alone).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Did I say arrogance and stupidity? I meant stupidity and arrogance

A statement issued by Alberto Fernandez, director of public diplomacy for the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs: “Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on Al-Jazeera, I realized that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase ‘there has been arrogance and stupidity’ by the U.S. in Iraq. This represents neither my views nor those of the State Department. I apologize.”

I don’t go back and look at those decisions

We seem to be hearing lately of more “bicycle bombs” in Iraq, suggesting that while they’re not running out of bombs, and they’re certainly not running out of people willing to be suicide bombers, they may be running out of cars.

Israel admits having used white phosphorus bombs in Lebanon.

In the New Yorker, Jane Mayer adds a detail to the story of Khaled el-Masri, that German national kidnapped by the CIA because of mistaken identity, flown to an Afghan prison for months of “interrogation,” then dumped on a mountain road in Albania: the plane that transported him to Afghanistan stopped off at Majorca on the way back, the crew treated to two nights’ at a luxury hotel, on us.

Time magazine has a softball interview with Dick Cheney, even trying to convince him to run for president. They did ask if he regretted dodging military service: “No, I don’t go back and look at those decisions.” I believe him. If there’s one thing he shares with Chimpy, from whom his persona otherwise differs so enormously, it’s that complete lack of self-reflection. Also, they’re both Bubble Boys: asked about the Iraqis not being sufficiently “grateful” to us, Cheney responds, “Well, I talk to a lot of Iraqis, and the ones I talk with have been very grateful and expressed their gratitude.” See, and you thought Iraqis weren’t grateful for all we’ve done to for them.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Constantly changing

Paul Richter and Doyle McManus write in the LAT about the likely change in course in Iraq after the November elections. It starts by pointing out a recent addition to Bush’s speeches I’ve been meaning to mention, a claim that “Our goal hasn’t changed, but the tactics are constantly adjusting”. They suggest that this is his way of making changes without admitting to the failure of his old policies. That’s part of it, but I’d highlight the function of that adverb “constantly,” which is to fend off proper analysis and debate. Every time he’s used the strategy/tactics distinction recently, he’s said that tactics are “constantly” changing. While the strategy and goals are (the Bushies insist) beyond debate because of their set-in-stonedness, there is no point for Congress or anyone else to discuss tactics for the exact opposite reason: they’re changing all the time; by the time you’ve discussed one failed tactic (Operation Forward Together, which was to restore stability to Baghdad, for example), they’re already on to the next one, because they’re “flexible,” see, and they react according to events in Iraq, not Washington.

Speaking of omerta, Bush spoke at the National Italian American Foundation dinner. Here he is doing his Don Corleone impression:

“Some day - and that day may never come - I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”

Go to, the Republican party website, and watch their ad “These are the stakes.”

You can also buy an “I am proud Bush is my president” mouse pad for only $25.

Friday, October 20, 2006

One of the reasons you’re seeing more casualties is the enemy is active and so are our troops

Bush claims to have been reading a lot of history lately. Let’s see the results. At another – you’ll be surprise to hear – fundraiser today, he bemoaned the sad decline of the Democratic Party from “Franklin Roosevelt, who was strong in his confrontation of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan,” through Truman and Kennedy standing up to communism... “And then something began to change” with McGovern, who Bush “quotes” saying, “I don’t like communism, but I don’t think we have any great obligation to save the world from it,” and then that commie-lover Carter. “See, they’d gotten to the point where they didn’t think that we could win. ... they opposed the liberation of Grenada. They didn’t like America’s support for freedom fighters resisting Soviet puppet regimes.” “And now we’re involved in what I have called the great ideological struggle of the 21st century. It’s a struggle between the forces of liberty and the forces of a tyrannical vision that does not believe in freedom. ... This is going to be a long struggle, but in order to prevail, it requires perseverance and determination, and a strong belief in the power of liberty to conquer the ideology of hate. The Democrat Party, that has evolved from one that was confident in its capacity to help deal with the problems of the world to one that is doubting, today still has an approach of doubt and defeat.”

It’s funny that he never quite mentions Vietnam (for example, was that possibly made-up McGovern quote, which does not turn up in a Google search, refer to Vietnam or to Eastern Europe?), and leaves LBJ out of his little history of the rise of the Doubting Dems. He’s trying to analogize Iraq and The War Against Terror (TWAT) to the Cold War rather than Vietnam, which was also portrayed at the time as the central front in a great ideological struggle against villains who wanted to establish a caliphate communist hegemony.

Little-known fact: whenever Bush tells a lie, a new flag appears behind him.

In an interview with AP, Bush explains, “One of the reasons you’re seeing more casualties is the enemy is active and so are our troops, along with Iraqis.” His grasp of military strategy is positively Napoleonic.

A couple of pictures for your captioning pleasure. In the first, Bush is seen with Bailey Reese, who started something called Hero Hugs to send care packages to the troops. She is from Niceville, Florida. Of course she is.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Defining success or failure in Iraq

At the Sherwood fundraiser, Bush both attacked Nancy Pelosi, and gave her a perfect straight line: “[If the D’s win the elections], The Speaker would be a Congressman [sic] who said catching Osama bin Laden would not make America any safer.” Any bets on whether Pelosi will fail to point out that if Bush had done his job properly in the last five years, that wouldn’t still be a hypothetical question?

Parallel to that remark is one from Maliki today, hoping for a quick execution of Saddam Hussein, which he says would help defeat the insurgency. Keep dreaming, Nouri, keep dreaming.

On a visit to Russia in August, Spain’s king Juan Carlos shot a bear. Turns out, it was a tame bear (named Mitrofan) who’d been liquored up with honey mixed with vodka (they got the recipe from Boris Yeltsin’s cookbook 101 Easy Meals Using Only Honey and Vodka).

Talking about Iraq in the ABC interview, Bush said, “I define success or failure as whether schools are being built or hospitals are being opened.” The London Times notes that the last hospital built in Iraq, and that the attempt by the occupying authorities to build a pediatric hospital in Basra has bogged down due to financial mismanagement. Patrick Cockburn also writes about Iraqi health care today, noting that hospital basements are being used as prisons, that doctors have been kidnapped and killed in large numbers, and many have sensibly fled the country, that it is “only possible to reach the front door of one of the main children’s hospitals in Baghdad by jumping over a stream of raw sewage.”

How to make interesting the 5 millionth picture of wreckage left by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, wondered AFP photographer Sabah Arar. I know, I’ll shoot it through the spokes of a bicycle wheel!

The Chimp meets the Macaca

In the previous post, I was just making up the thing about Bush being promised ice cream. But here he is after the Sherwood fundraiser.

Then he went out pumpkin-shopping with George “Macaca” Allen, seen here, on the left, demonstrating his technique for throwing pumpkins at black people’s houses.

Bush then attended a fundraiser for Allen, of whom he said, “He doesn’t need a poll or a focus group to tell him what to think or what to say.” Although he evidently does need them to tell him when to shut the fuck up.

Pictures from the fundraiser:

If you hadn’t guessed, this is a Caption Contest.

Less than a baseball season

Rumsfeld complained (at something called the Air University) that people are impatient with the failed Maliki regime. Why, he exclaims, it’s only been in power 150 days, “That’s less than a baseball season. Think of that. And yet we’re impatient. I’m impatient. Everyone’s impatient.” Will someone please take Rummy out to the ball game, take him out with the crowd, buy him some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, I don’t care if he ever comes back.

Rummy talked about how Coalition forces build schools and whatnot to make it “worthwhile” for Afghans and Iraqis to support democracy. Which is funny, because it’s not actually a native democracy but foreign occupiers who are (supposedly) supplying those things. Sez the Rumster, “For each house that receives clean, running water and electricity for the first time, there is a tangible incentive to keep that house free of extremists or weapons that would place it at risk.” Actually, we seem to be doing a better job ensuring that those houses have a steady supply of weapons and hot and cold running extremists than electricity and hot and cold running water.

Let’s not go crazy, folks. All Bush said was that Iraq “could be” comparable to the Tet Offensive. What he meant was, “it could be, depending on who or what Tet is, you didn’t really think I’d know, did you?” Except, of course, Bush can’t admit to his own ignorance – he thinks we don’t all know he’s ignorant, isn’t that adorable? – so it’s not much of an admission. Also, the Republicans live in an alternative universe where Tet was just a propaganda victory for the Bad Vietnamese, and the war was winnable if not for the peacenik cut and runners. Tony Insert-Snow-Related-Pun-Here characterizes Tet and Iraq as “attempt[s] to use images as a way of influencing public opinion” and says that “the president is determined it’s not going to happen with Iraq, because you have a president who is determined to win.” And LBJ and Nixon were determined to lose?

This, by the way, is Bush’s Determined Face.

Replaced a moment later by glee, because... Ice cream! They promised him ice cream!! if he went to a fundraiser!!!

The fundraiser was for Don Sherwood, who is running on a policy of shipping Robin Hood off to Guantanamo.

Man, was that a weak joke.

But Bush also put in a good word for Joe Lieberman:
This summer, we saw what happens when a Democrat rejects his party’s doctrine of cut and run. Senator Joe Lieberman, a three-term Democrat from Connecticut, supports completing the mission in Iraq, supports victory in Iraq. And for taking this stand, he was purged from his party. Think about what that means. Six years ago, the Democrats thought Joe Lieberman was good enough to run for Vice President of the United States. Now, because he supports victory in Iraq, they don’t think he’s fit to be in their party. There’s only position in the Democrat Party that everybody seems to agree on: If you want to be a Democrat these days, you can be for almost anything, but victory in Iraq is not an option.
Defeated in an election = purged.

He claimed, “You know, there’s an interesting debate in the world about whether or not liberty is universal or not.” Really? Where is this debate taking place? The Oxford Union? Are Norm and Cliff debating this in Cheers?

If you were wondering, Bush is on the Pro side.

Two BBC headlines that you click on, even in the certain knowledge that the actual story will be disappointing:
Oslo gay animal show draws crowds

US undertakers admit corpse scam

Uncle Chimpy doesn’t want you?

Bush went to a school to talk about No Child Left Behind yesterday, and something he said struck me: “I oftentimes say to people that are asking me about -- do you have any recommendations for what I should be doing, and my answer is, teach.” Given how many times he says that being in the US military is the “highest calling,” isn’t it funny that he never seems to encourage people to pick that as a career option?

Kazakhstan, in the middle of its campaign to prove that it is not as backward as the Borat movie might suggest, just issued new bank notes with the word “bank” misspelled.

Cute WaPo headline: “Moderates in Kansas Decide They’re Not in GOP Anymore.”

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I have no idea who she’s talking about

Asked whether North Korea will test another nuclear weapon, Rummy Rumsfeld brings his customary clarity, to the enlightenment of us all: “We’ve seen them do things in multiples rather than singles... There is speculation that they might want to do something additional. There’s also speculation they may not.”

George Bush issued a statement celebrating the birth of the US’s estimated 300 millionth person: “Our continued growth is a testament to our country’s dynamism”. Is that what they’re calling it these days?

From part 2 of Bush’s interview by (shudder) Bill O’Reilly:
O’REILLY: Let me to read you what Hillary Clinton... said about this bill that you voted against, this detain decree bill you’re signing today: “If enacted, this law would give license to this administration to pick people up off the streets of the United States and hold them indefinitely without charges and without legal recourse.”

BUSH: You mean pick the enemy up off the streets?

O’REILLY: She says people — “pick people up off the streets.”

BUSH: I don’t know who she’s talking about. But this law will enable us to find people who would like to kill Americans. Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda affiliates and be able to find out their plans and be able — more protect this country. I have no idea who she’s talking about.


Bush was interviewed a couple of days ago by (shudder) Bill O’Reilly.

O’REILLY: Sixty percent of Americans are now against the Iraq War. Why?

BUSH: Because they want us to win. They believe - they are wondering whether or not we have the plans in place to win. They want to know whether or not we have the flexibility on the ground to constantly meet the enemy.


O’REILLY: Is one of the reasons they’ve turned against the war in Iraq is that the anti-Bush press pounds day in and day out in newspapers, on the network news, in books like Bob Woodward’s, that you don’t know what you’re doing there. You have no have a strategy. You don’t listen to dissent. You’ve got this thing in your mind and you’re stubborn and you just can’t win it.

BUSH: Well, I’m disappointed that people would propagandize to that effect because the stakes are too high for that kind of illogical behavior.

So to summarize, Americans oppose the war because they want to win the war, and it’s illogical to... oh, I give up, what it’s illogical to do is tug on Superman’s cape, spit into the wind, or try to make fun of a man who is already as absurd as it is possible for a human being to be.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A mark of separation

Saddam Hussein accuses the prosecutors in his trial of dividing Iraqis by giving evidence of his repression of the Kurds, and selflessly offers to give up being tried. For the children. For the children.

Speaking of children, everyone should lay off Madonna. That’s her African baby, she’s got a receipt and everything.

Tony Blair has weighed into the British discussion of whether Muslim women should wear the veil. Any feminist substance in this debate was sidelined pretty early on, perhaps because of the paradox of trying to claim that Jack Straw was just trying to protect Muslim women from being told what to wear by men when he, a man, was telling them to take their veils off, but more likely because British politicians and pundits don’t really care about the women as individuals but as symbols of Muslim Otherness.

Blair said that the veil is a “mark of separation, and that is why it makes other people from outside the community feel uncomfortable.” Clearly, then, they should take their lead from Tony Blur himself, who has never quite admitted to being a Catholic because it would have been bad for his political career, and who changes his accent according to what audience he’s addressing. He says there is a need for British Muslims to get “the balance right between integration and multi-culturalism,” which may be more or less true as a general principle, but becomes coercive and intolerant when expressed as a command by the prime minister. As for the notion that bigots people outside a community who feel uncomfortable should have some sort of a veto over the appearance of members of that community, that’s a shameful argument to still be hearing (in the nineteenth century, this logic was used to ban Salvation Army processions, which often came under attack from hooligans, until Beatty v. Gillbanks [1882] overturned that logic of the mob veto and said that peaceful activities could not be banned simply because other people reacted to them violently; the point of my historical digression is that Blair’s line of argument was considered and rejected as being unfair to people peacefully practicing their religions by those epitomes of tolerance, the freaking Victorians) (and the Sally Army had those great big drums, which is surely a lot more annoying than the inability to see a woman’s hair). (Update: just as I was ready to post, I saw Blair’s press conference on C-SPAN. He didn’t just say that the Muslims need to get the balance right, etc, he said “people” meaning non-Muslims “need to know that” British Muslims are getting the balance right. So the judgment of what the right balance is, how much Muslim-ness Muslims are allowed to express, is to be made not by the Muslims but by everyone else.)

While Blair is whittering on about getting the balance right between integration and multi-culturalism, the Rev. Ian Paisley may become prime minister of Northern Ireland next month, although maybe not because he just stormed out of talks in an attempt to force Sinn Féiners to swear an oath supporting not just the law, but the Northern Irish police (whose current name I forget, but were provocatively entitled the Royal Ulster Constabulary until a couple of years ago) (No wait, I remember there was a plan to call them the Northern Irish Police Service, then someone realized what the acronym would be...)

Blair also said that British military forces would not “walk away” from Iraq or Afghanistan. I should hope not; that would be quite a long walk.

Calling evil by its name

Today Bush signed the Torture Bill. He said this: “This nation will call evil by its name.” He also said this: “I want to thank the Vice President for joining me today.”

Just sayin’.

Monday, October 16, 2006

We have to use drones

Bush held an Iftaar dinner at the White House, which I’m sure was in no way awkward. Some of the guests were Muslim paramedics and members of the NYPD who were at the Twin Towers. He told them, “All of you bring credit to your faith,” which I’m sure they did not see as being in any way condescending.

This is Bush bowing his head during the prayer...

delivered by this man, Imam Talal Eid.

We can all be grateful that Bush resisted the temptation to grab the hat off his head and try it on.

The population of the United States will reach 300 million Tuesday morning. Could everyone scootch over a bit? Thank you.

I haven’t seen the Connecticut senatorial debate, but I gather the Republican tried to distinguish himself by attacking illegal immigration. “We have to use drones,” he said. At which point Lieberman said, “Hey, I resent that!”

Lieberman droned that Lamont’s “finger-pointing... is the last thing Washington needs more of,” adding, “There’s too much personal hatred.” He did not say how much personal hatred was the optimal amount. No one ever does, and I’d really like to know.

Militias should reconsider their existence

Secretary of War Rumsfeld calls the Iraq war “winnable and doable,” adding, “Yeah, I’d totally do Iraq.”

Bush phoned Iraqi PM Maliki to assure him that there will be no “timetables,” that no matter how big a failure Maliki is, and however long he’s a big failure, the US will continue to back him. To prove this continuing support, the White House released this picture of Bush talking to Maliki on the telephone.

Maliki, so inspired by the idea that timetables for US troop withdrawals are a Bad Thing, has decided not to set any timetables for the disbanding of death squads and militias: “Regarding setting a time, I don’t think we could determine it specifically. The problem of militias, in countries throughout the world, requires time. The most important thing is that we have started and started strong. We have given a clear message: Militias should reconsider their existence.” So maybe the end of this year, he tells USA Today, maybe early next year, you know, whatever. “The problem that we face in disbanding militias — and the militias have to be disbanded — is that there are procedures, steps that need to taken, which take time.” Procedures. So people will continue to be blown up, beheaded, tortured with electric drills, etc, because of red tape. That darned paper work, it’ll get ya every time.

But Maliki said those procedures are just humming along. A week ago, for example, he “formed a committee to work on disbanding militias”.

It’s also a question of PR: “During the period of time required for this approach, our security forces become stronger and the crimes committed by militias become clearer and clearer to everyone. Then, when we confront the militias, there will be no negative reaction to confronting them, especially from the people.”

So anyway, that’s the guy Bush called today to tell we still support him.

Fully inform voters

More fun with the California voter pamphlet: candidate statements.

These statements cost the candidates $20 per word, which we know from the statement of the Green Party candidate for insurance commissioner, who spent $20 per word to complain about having to spend $20 per word: “Candidate statements, once free, now cost $20 per word. Fight pay-to-play government—Vote Green.” Is pay-to-play $20 or $60? The Green running for treasurer (who actually has a fairly lengthy statement), says “Corporate money should not buy political influence, so I don’t take contributions from big business!” I’m sure they were lined up around the block, too.

While that $20 per word cost scared off some of the poorer campaigns, like that of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it produced a commendable pithiness from the Peace and Freedom candidate for controller: “Raise taxes on the rich; lower taxes on workers.” In others, it just produced irony. Here is the complete statement of the Libertarian candidate for secretary of state: “Fully inform voters.” Some candidates just direct you elsewhere: the Greens’ controller candidate asks, “For details of why I have hope, please see my website...”

The P & F candidate for governor suggests “VOTE YOUR CONSCIENCE! NOT YOUR FEAR!” Um, okay. The Libertarian candidate for lieut. governor wants us to vote for conscientious objector status in the war on drugs, running on a Marijuana Peace Plan platform (“Please join with me and Willie Nelson to help save family farms with industrial hemp”). Last time around the Libby candidate for this post ran on a platform of legalizing the ownership of ferrets.

The Green candidate for Lite Gov tells us “Don’t be fuelish” – and instantly lost any chance I’d vote for her.

The Democratic candidate for secretary of state isn’t bad, and states that “California must never be like Florida or Ohio,” which is true for just so many reasons, but I think voting rights would be better protected by someone from a smaller party. Unfortunately, the P & F candidate, while calling for new technology to improve voter turnout rather than give us insecure and faulty voting systems, has her email account at Hotmail. And the Green Party’s aptly named Forrest Hill explains, “I am a Financial Advisor with a Ph.D. from MIT in Marine Biology. I have the qualifications to fix our system and bring Free and Fair elections to California.” Only if global warming continues and we’re all voting underwater.

The Green candidate for attorney general tells us, “Most Californians prefer life imprisonment without parole to the death penalty.” Er, personally, I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy either one.

Fortunately, if the two-party system too often seems like a choice between lethal injection and life imprisonment without parole, we do have other options. So read their statements to be fully informed, check their websites to find out why they have hope, vote your conscience not your fear, join Willie Nelson, don’t be fuelish, and make sure that California is never ever like Florida or Ohio.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Let me make one thing perfectly clear

GeeDubya spoke about North Korea in his weekly radio address, using his current favorite word “clear” three times in as many minutes: “The logic behind this approach is clear”, “we will send a clear message to the North Korean regime”, “Our goals remain clear”. For an easily confused man, clarity (some might say over-simplifying) is a virtue even in a completely impotent policy.

The US accidentally paid for 328 men in Swaziland to be circumcised. Yes, you could click here for more details, but honestly, isn’t “The US accidentally paid for 328 men in Swaziland to be circumcised” already a kind of perfect news story?

A presidential candidate in Catalonia, Albert Rivera, has appeared naked in a poster (and believe me, I tried hard to find a Homage to Catalonia pun, but failed). The caption (which is about overcoming the divisive Catalan politics of identity through the power of public nudity, or something): “We don’t care where you were born. We don’t care which language you speak. We don’t care what kind of clothes you wear. We care about you.”

Speaking of caring about you, it’s time for some more personal ads from the London Review of Books (LRB):
I suppose the end began with me paying for the meal and all the drinks. The brief relationship was practically over by the time he told me that he hadn’t brought cash with him and could I pay for the taxi? The formal departure, however, came with his attempt to push his debit card into my mouth and tap out his pin number on my forehead after I’d asked simply ‘do you think I’m an ATM?’ (You know who you are). LRB-reading men – either you have small change always about your person or it’s long walk home back from beautiful and, until last Friday week, reasonably tolerant of even the most stupid of men F (London, 43). Box no. 18/03

This advert originally contained a 300-word paragraph about cats but I edited it out. Woman, 36. Box no. 18/04

Stare at the back of your hand for 30 seconds. Now stare at this advert for 15 seconds while squinting your eyes. Now fully open your eyes and stare at the back of your hand for another 30 seconds. And again at your hand. Now stare at your mother. Back of your hand. Advert. Hand. Advert. Mother. Mother. Hand. Mother. Wall. Feet. Now wipe the tears away. Back at the hand. Advert. Hand. Mother. Man, 43. Hand. Advert. Mother. Hand. Hand. Hand. Box no. 18/07. Mother.

My winning streak in this column is about to come to an abrupt halt with the placing of this ad. Man. 38. Box no. 19/06

I composed this advert on the anniversary of the first performance of Das Rheingold for a very good reason. Man, 59. Box no. 19/08

I got it bad and that ain’t good. Amateur jazz singer (F, 54) seeks glockenspielist/gynocologist for nights of atonal ramblings through both my medicine cabinet and your prescription pad. No crazies. Box no. 20/05

Consult the spirits to measure our compatibility:
Goodbye Box no. 20/09

At first I was sceptical about writing this ad but slowly the idea won me over. Box no. 20/10

[More of my LRB favorites here.]

Caption contest:

It’s a small, um, ahem, *cough* after all

George Bush has declared Oct. 15-21 National Character Counts Week. Nope, I can’t think of a single solitary snarky thing to say about that.

Carl Truscott, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms 2004-6, abused agency resources by, among other things, ordering 20 employees to help his nephew make a documentary about the ATF for a high school project. The nephew received an A, so your tax dollars weren’t completely wasted.

The US will pump up to $42m into Palestinian politics, three times as much as was spent by all the main parties in January’s elections, to build up an opposition to Hamas and, according to an official document, “create democratic alternatives to authoritarian or radical Islamist political options”. I don’t know what sort of “alternatives” can be “created” by a foreign nation’s secret funding, but they can’t be deemed “democratic” by any reasonable definition of the word.

Speaking of America exporting its ideology, employees at EuroDisney in France filmed themselves simulating sex while in costume (Goofy and Minnie got it on, evidently). Sadly, Disney forced YouTube to take down the video, so I haven’t seen it, and shall feel for the rest of my life that I have missed out on something glorious.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Up close

Bush appeared with Hastert (“I have worked with him up close”) at a fundraiser for a couple of Congressional candidates in Illinois. Nothing new in the stump speech – and dear god, I thought Koizumi’s retirement would make Bush stop talking about their trip to Graceland in every single speech. I would like to point out, if I haven’t already, that he keeps telling people to treat everything the D’s say about, f’rinstance, taxes as a barefaced lie and everything Al Qaida says about Iraq being a central front and establishing a caliphate and so on as unvarnished truth. Anyway, to summarize: calling of our time, they’ll raise your taxes, frivolous lawsuits, we are a nation at war, Japanese-style democracy, blah fucking blah... but a creepy picture is worth a thousand words:

Been meaning to mention the incident where Chinese troops shot at Tibetan refugees trying to escape into Nepal, killing several and taking the children captive. Actually, I thought there would be so much discussion that anything I said would be redundant, but in fact there’s been very little, despite the whole thing having been witnessed by a bunch of Western mountain-climbers. More details are in the several posts on this at the Baltimore Group,
including a (distant) picture of a young (17 or mid-20s, depending on the report) nun who the London Times,,3-2401899,00.html
says China has now admitted having killed, “but said the soldiers acted in self defence.”

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Muslims make a practice of killing Iraqi citizens who are Muslim

Bush went to a renewable energy conference today. I believe there was a coronation ceremony.

He explained with his accustomed eloquence the importance of reducing reliance on oil: “we get oil from some countries who don’t particularly care for us. They don’t like what we stand for. They don’t like it when we say, for the sake of peace, let us work in a way that we don’t develop nuclear weapons, for example.” “We”?

Bush failed to mention conservation or public transportation, indeed suggested that technology alone will solve all our energy problems, and came out in favor of every possible form of energy production: hybrids, coal, nuclear plants (“You might remember, we’ve had a time in our country where people liked nuclear power, thought it was a strong solution to energy independence, and then we just shut her down because of engineering concerns”), off-shore oil drilling, solar, wind, ethanol, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas...

A protester made it into the conference, to tell Bush that “Soldiers are not renewables!”

Yesterday Rumsfeld held a briefing along with Gen. George Casey, whose title is Commander of Multi-National Force – Iraq, or COMFI, as in, “Are you comfy? Good, because you’ll be stuck in Iraq at least through 2010.” Casey said that “violence and progress coexist in Iraq, and we shouldn’t be distracted from the positive things that are going on there amidst all the violence.” “Distracted,” he calls it. Also, how do violence and progress coexist? It can’t be peaceful coexistence, so it must be either violent coexistence or progressive coexistence. Or progressively violent coexistence.

Actually, General COMFI says that “we and the Iraqi government are not comfortable with the levels of sectarian violence in the center of the country”. He didn’t say what level of sectarian violence he would be comfortable with.

Gen. COMFI says that the bad reputation of the police in Iraq is “undeserved,” and says there is a reform program now, which will give each police brigade “three weeks of police training and loyalty training.” That’s what they were missing: loyalty training.

Gen. COMFI disputed the Lancet estimate of 655,000 dead Iraqis, which he doesn’t “give that much credibility at all.” What figure does he give credibility? 50,000. Where did he see this credible figure? “I don’t remember, but I’ve seen it over time. ... It’s either from the Iraqi government or from us, but I don’t remember precisely.” Well, I’m convinced.

At this point Rummy interjected to clarify, as only Rummy can clarify: “I think it’s important to appreciate that the insurgents and al Qaeda make a -- Muslims make a practice of killing Iraqi citizens who are Muslim. And it is a -- they do it aggressively, they do it purposely, and they do it successfully.”

Give me your tired, your poor, your chubby masses...

The AP reports that a group of Mexicans trying to reach the United States via storm drains were caught when one man got stuck. Too fat to make it to America? That guy is already such an American.

Stephen Colbert’s sage advice to the parties.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bush press conference: I stand by the figure a lot of innocent people have lost their life

Bush held a press conference this morning.

The problem with North Korea is that it also has a Decider: “And my point to you is that it’s the intransigence of the North Korean leader that speaks volumes about the process. It is his unwillingness to choose a way forward for this country -- a better way forward for his country. It is his decisions.”

But Bush is responding with strong, aggressive... phone calls: “And I thank the leaders of -- listen, when I call them on the phone, we’re strategizing.” “And so in my phone calls that I recently made right after the test I lamented the fact that he had tested to Hu Jintao and also lamented the fact that Hu Jintao had publicly asked him not to test.” Er, what?

And more phone calls: “I talked to the South Korean president, and I said, It ought to be clear to us now that we must continue to work together to make it abundantly clear to the leader in North Korea that there’s a better way forward; when he walks away from agreement he’s not just walking away from the table with the United States as the only participant. He’s walking away from a table that others are sitting at.” Maybe he just had to pee.

On Iraq: “There are extreme elements that use religion to achieve objectives.”

For weeks he’s been talking about “achieving objectives” constantly. 10 times in this press conference alone. Another: “And one way to make sure that we’re able to achieve our objective is to have other people join us in making it clear to North Korea that they share that objective.”

“I like to tell people we’re in an ideological struggle.” That’s nice; everyone should have a hobby.

“And I firmly believe that with North Korea -- and with Iran -- that it is best to deal with these regimes with more than one voice.” Yes, if the Edward G. Robinson voice doesn’t work, try the Clint Eastwood voice. Although I understand Kim Jong Il likes Daffy Duck, so that might be worth a try.

Using one of his voices, he explains the diplomatic process: “Because I understand how it works. What ends up happening is that, you know, we say to a country such as North Korea, Here’s a reasonable way forward. They try to extract more at the negotiating table or they’ve got a different objective. And then they go and say, Wait a minute; the United States is being unreasonable. They make a threat. They could -- you know, they say the world is about to fall apart because of the United States’s problem. And, all of a sudden, we become the issue.”

He rejects as not “a credible report” the study which says that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the invasion (he says the report has been out before and its methodology is discredited, which I take to mean that he’s confusing it with the earlier, unrelated Lancet study), adding, “I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to -- you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.” Asked whether he still stands by his own guestimate some time back of 30,000 dead civilians, Bush says, “I, you know, I stand by the figure a lot of innocent people have lost their life.”

Says Democratic assertions that they plan to raise taxes only on the rich are “just codeword.” At least, according to his Karl Rove Secret Decoder Ring.

On Mark Foley, he implies, I think for the first time, a Democratic plot (a response Will Durst describes as the best defense being a ludicrous offense): “You know, we want to make sure what we understand what Republicans knew and what Democrats knew in order to find the facts.”

Says the border is difficult to close: “I don’t know if you’ve ever been down there. But it’s a pretty vast part of the country down there.”