Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Molly Ivins has died. Grr. Some quotes:

“It’s quite difficult to convince people you are killing them for their own good. That’s our basic problem in Iraq.”

The question she’d like to hear GeeDubya (that’s one of hers) asked: “Are you the worst president since James Buchanan, or have you never heard of him?”

Her term for the Texan justice system: the cowboy gulag.

“I had a slightly insane discussion the other day with a winger who wanted urgently for me to understand that the Haditha massacre is the kind of thing that happens in war. Whereas I was trying to point out to him that the Haditha massacre is the kind of thing that happens in war.”

“Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.” (From her final column, and it might be this blog’s motto, as well.)

“Democracy... is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.”

“I believe that ignorance is the root of all evil. And that no one knows the truth.”

“During a recent panel on the numerous failures of American journalism, I proposed that almost all stories about government should begin: ‘Look out! They’re about to smack you around again!’”

“Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.”

Does anyone else have some quotes they’d like to share with the class?

Wherein an entirely rhetorical question is asked

Today, we are informed, George Bush will bring to Wall Street the message that CEO pay should be related to how well they do their jobs. Okay, even Chimpy can’t be so oblivious that he can say that, out loud, without giggling, can he? Can he?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You’re making interesting product

Bush went to a Caterpillar plant in East Peoria today. They let him play with a tractor.

The Chimpy Word of the Day is “product”:
  • “Caterpillar can employ new people because it makes good product that people want.”
  • “People say, I like what the workers are doing, I like the product that’s being put together, we want to invest”
  • “a lot of the product you make here, you sell to somebody else”
  • “In other words, when I talk about numbers, behind the numbers is people who are providing the service and/or making the product.”
  • “Trade is an important subject here at Caterpillar, and the reason why is because a lot of the product you make here, you sell to somebody else, sell overseas to another country. That’s trade.”
  • “In other words, because we lowered trade barriers, and said, you treat us the way we treat you, it has enabled this company to sell more product than ever before, which means people are working, when you have to make the product.”
  • “And people want Caterpillar product.”
  • “I’m confident in our ability to sell American product and services overseas if the playing field is level.”
  • “When you’re dependent on a product, and you import that product, if somebody were to inflict damage on a energy infrastructure, it could cause the price of your energy to go up. Or if you’re dependent upon product from a hostile regime, it means you’re in a position of vulnerability.”
  • “Fifteen years ago, or 20 years ago, if people stood up here and said a lot of people would be using a corn product to drive their cars, they’d have said, man, what -- the guy has kind of lost it, hasn’t he?”
  • “In other words, you’re not only making Cats, you’re making interesting product”

And what to do with all that product? Trade it! “The temptation is to say, well, trade may not be worth it, let’s isolate ourselves. Let’s protect ourselves. I think it would be -- I know it would be a mistake for Caterpillar workers to do that.” So what you’re saying, if I understand you, is that Caterpillar workers should sell their tractors rather than keep them all for themselves. Interesting. Tell me more. “One way to look at trade is this: We’re 5 percent of the people in the world; that means 95 percent live outside of America, and shouldn’t we try to put ourselves in a position where we can sell goods and services to those 95 percent? I think it makes sense to do so.” And to sum up: “Again, I repeat to you, I strongly believe that if we can compete with people on a level playing field, nobody can compete with us.” So we’re competing, but no one else can, so we win, because it’s a forfeit, right? (Who says I don’t understand sports metaphors?)

He added, “I’m very optimistic about meeting the future, because of new technologies.” And the Rapture, that’ll be neat too.

What do you get for the dark overlord who has everything?

Today is Dick Cheney’s 66th birthday. I hereby proclaim a contest, in comments, for the most appropriate gift for the occasion, and I will make the first entry: combining the most famous description of his office with Bush’s description of him as a glass half-full kind of guy, I suggest a bucket half full of warm piss.

Farewell, Emma Faust Tillman, we hardly knew ye

A 114-year-old Connecticut woman (the daughter of slaves) dies just 4 days after becoming the oldest person in the world. For those wondering how some people manage to live so long, in this case one need go no further than her name: Emma Faust Tillman.

Speaking of (arms) deals with the devil, some of you may have been confused by the WaPo story about the State Dept’s report to Congress that Israel may have used cluster bombs bought from the US in ways that violated the terms of sale because it doesn’t make clear that the US is refusing to say whether those terms included a ban on their use against civilians. That’s classified. There is no possible legitimate reason for that to be classified.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The war on prepositions

I think it’s important to acknowledge when George Bush gets something right. In an interview with NPR, he said that he has “no intent upon incur – going into Iran,” and so I’m pointing out that one of those prepositions was used correctly.

He is shocked that people “ascribe, you know, motives to me” of wanting to invade Iran.

Asked about the still-thoroughly-unbelievable reports out of Najaf, he said that he’s learned not to react to first reports off the battlefield. And then he went on to react at some length to first reports off the battlefield, saying that it shows that Iraqis are taking the lead “to do in some extremists” and are “beginning to show me something.”

Asked about tomorrow’s Senate vote on the non-binding resolution, he says that “my feeling to the Senate” (he got a preposition right earlier, wasn’t that enough for you people?) echoes what “Tailgunner Joe” Lieberman said, adding, “legislators will do what they feel like they’ve got to do, and, you know, we want to work with them as best we can to make it clear what the stakes of failure will be, and also make it clear to them that I think they have a responsibility to make sure our troops have what they need to do the missions.” My, doesn’t “working with them” sound an awful lot like “telling them what to do”?

He says of Cheney’s over-confident predictions about Iraq that Cheney has a “glass half-full mentality.” Half full of strychnine.

Bush, whose glass is empty because he drank all the Kool-Aid, says that if we pull out of Iraq, “the country could evolve into a chaotic situation.” Imagine! And the Middle East would go to shit, and “people would look back at this era and say, ‘What happened with those people in 2006? Why couldn’t they see the impending threat?’” We’re being lectured about not seeing the future by someone who forgot to turn the page on his calendar.

Asked about his failure to mention Katrina recovery in the SOTU, he said, “Well, I gave a speech I thought was necessary to give.”

Asked if it was necessary to refer to the “Democrat majority,” he claims it was an “oversight.” “I didn’t even know I did it. ... I’m not that good at pronouncing words anyway”. Or defining them, or spelling them, or using them in a sentence. Especially prepositions.

And then he went on to complain about there being “a lot of politics in Washington,” indeed, “needless politics.” “And it’s almost like, if George Bush is for it, we’re against it, and I – and if he’s against it, we’re for it. And the American people don’t like that.” Yes, like when Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of the correct use of prepositions. “And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it.” Yes, yes he will.

He explained economics to the NPR audience: “The budget is going to be balanced by keeping taxes low. In other words, we’re not going to raise taxes.”

At the end, he asked “Camera’s off? (Chuckles.)” Yes, moron, the radio cameras are off.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Here’s what we’re supposed to believe: in Najaf American and Iraqi soldiers killed 250 militants from a group that no one’s ever heard of before this very day.

The Japanese health minister has graciously apologized for referring to women as “birth-giving machines,” saying, “I’m sorry to call them machines.”

On one of the Sunday talk shows, Joe Biden described the presidential race as a marathon. Just like one of your speeches then, Joe?

Newsweek has interviewed Dick Cheney. He said of the Middle East, “I think most of the nations in that part of the world believe their security is supported, if you will, by the United States. They want us to have a major presence there.” By “nations... believe their security is supported,” what he actually means is, “unelected, corrupt, authoritarian governments... believe their security is supported”.

You’ll remember that in the Wolf Blitzer interview Cheney referred to a question about his credibility as “hogwash.” In this interview, he once again reached into his Big Bag O’ Old Timey Homespun Sayings (possibly left behind by Donald Rumsfeld), saying of the non-binding anti-surge resolution, “what’s ultimately going to count here isn’t sort of all the hoorah that surrounds these proposals so much as it’s what happens on the ground in Iraq.” Hogwash and hoorah.

He says the war against “the threat [of] extreme elements of Islam on a global basis” will “occupy our successors maybe for two or three or four administrations to come.” So, including the next two years, and given that an administration can last one or two terms, that’s 10 to 34 years, somewhere between 2017 and 2041.

Asked again about his credibility, he said, “Obviously there was flawed intelligence prior to the war. ... [but] we should not let the fact of past problems in that area lead us to ignore the threat we face today and in the future.” I totally agree with that. Assuming that by “the threat we face today and in the future,” he also meant “Dick Cheney.”

Asked about Gerald Ford’s criticism of him, he insinuated that Bob Woodward made it all up. Newsweek pressed on, asking about criticism of him by Brent Scowcroft and others, saying, “You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t have some reaction.” He did in fact have a reaction – “Well, I’m Vice President and they’re not. (Evil laughter.)” (I may have added an adjective, just to make the transcript more accurate) – but I don’t know where Newsweek got the idea that he’s human.

Of cluster bombs and cluster f... well, you know

Still waiting for an explanation of why the Pentagon initially lied about those 4 soldiers who were abducted in Karbala, taken 25 miles away and executed, saying that they were killed “repelling” an attack, and why it let that lie stand for 6 days until the AP discovered the truth.

Actually, I’m still waiting for any hint that any reporter has even asked why they were lied to.

The Bush administration will admit to Congress that Israel violated its agreement with the US by using American-bought cluster bombs in Lebanon. However, according to State Dept spokesmodel Sean McCormack, “It is important to remember the kind of war Hezbollah waged. They used innocent civilians as a way to shield their fighters.” For the life of me I can’t figure out how that is supposed to justify the use of cluster bombs. Surely the presence of innocent civilians is a reason to refrain from using munitions designed to kill indiscriminately over a wide area.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

We would like to make utmost efforts

AP headline: “Dems, Bush Call on One Another to Be Bipartisan.” Well, when both sides are accusing the other of being partisan, isn’t that pretty bipartisan all by itself?

Bush, for example, in his weekly radio address, complained that “some” congresscritters “gave a reflexive partisan response” to his State of the Union speech, although he did say that others were more willing to “reach across the aisle,” quoting remarks sort of to this effect by Barack Obama and Ben Nelson, not of course that he uttered their names while taking their comments out of context.

Japan’s Health Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa calls on Japanese women, whom he calls “birth-giving machines,” to have more babies, or as he put it, “do their best per head”. Last month he commented that “There are many young people who want to have children. In order to meet such a wish, we would like to make utmost efforts.” I’ll bet.

Certainly emboldens the enemy

Secretary of War Robert
gates 25
attacked the Senate’s non-binding resolution, saying it “certainly emboldens the enemy.” Wouldn’t their emboldenedness also be non-binding? And just how emboldened would they be, on a scale of 1 to 10 on the emboldenometer? “I think it’s hard to measure that with any precision, but it seems pretty straightforward that any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement to those folks.”

In that press conference, a member of the press asked for the first time (as far as I know) about the US bombings in Somalia. Gates didn’t answer. And about whether the bombings killed the people they were supposed to kill, he really didn’t answer.

Asked several times about the policy of killing Iranians in Iraq, Gates tried to give the impression that there was nothing new or even very interesting about this, that it was always US policy to “go after... any foreign fighter in Iraq who’s trying to kill Americans.” But the Iranians are not armed “fighters” like the individual foreign jihadis killed in the heat of battle; they are (allegedly) support personnel, and killing them would not be a straightforward act of self-defense (“force protection”), as Gates is trying to suggest.

There’s been a fight in Britain over whether Catholic adoption agencies, financially supported by the state, would be allowed to discriminate against gay couples. The Catholic Church has been supported by Anglican and Muslim religious leaders. It looks like the government, overriding Tony Blair, won’t allow the Church to discriminate. Those agencies may close down rather than follow the law. The interesting thing is that they’re willing to place children with single homosexuals, but not homosexual couples.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Decision Maker

The Senate voted to approve David Petraeus’s promotion to general (he will always be Colonel Comb-over to me) and to be Commander of the Multi-National Force Iraq. So there was a press conference with the Decision Maker (he will always be Chimpy to me), who proclaimed, “And in that I’m the decision maker, I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster. In other words, I had to think about what’s likely to work. ... And the implementor of that plan is going to be General Petraeus.”

The D.M. was amazed: “One of the amazing things about our country is that we’ve got military folks who volunteer to go into a tough zone to protect the American people from future harm, and they’ve got families who stand by them.” Yes, isn’t it amazing, and indeed an amazing thing unique to our country, that “military folks,” “whether you be a general or a private,” have families, when all other countries grow their soldiers in laboratories.

The Decision Maker scoffs in the face of non-binding resolutions: “One of the things I’ve found in Congress is that most people recognize that failure would be a disaster for the United States. ... I understand, like many in Congress understand, success is very important for the security of the country.” So what I think he’s saying – and see if you can follow this – is that failure is bad and success is good.

Asked about his order to assassinate Iranians inside Iraq, or as he termed it, “helping ourselves in Iraq by stopping outside influence from killing our soldiers,” D.M. Bush said, “We believe that we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically”. Yes, shoot-to-kill orders are the first thing they teach you in diplomat school.

D.M. Bush knows what the Iranians really want better than the Iranians themselves do, he’s Just. That. Good. “As you know, the Iranians, for example, think they want to have a nuclear weapon.” Also, “we want their mothers to be able to raise their children in a hopeful society.” Their fathers, on the other hand, we may have to kill. “My problem is with a government that takes actions that end up isolating their people and ends up denying the Iranian people their true place in the world, driving taxis and running 7-11’s.” I may have added that last clause.

License to kill

So Bush has authorized killing or capturing Iranians inside Iraq. Not civilians or diplomats, although presumably any members of the Revolutionary Guard, to say nothing of members of spy agencies, would not be in uniform, so there might be the occasional little fatal mistake. The story is based on leaks, and the infuriating WaPo refuses to even hint at the motives of the leakers – people worried this will provoke a wider war? people who want this known so that it will provoke a wider war?

And what exactly do they mean by this sentence: “Though U.S. forces are not known to have used lethal force against any Iranian to date, Bush administration officials have been urging top military commanders to exercise the authority.”

A spokesmodel for the NSC says that “Our forces have standing authority, consistent with the mandate of the U.N. Security Council.” One wonders if other members of the Security Council think they gave authority for this policy. And if they did, why was it kept secret? It will be interesting to see what Maliki has to say about this.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Because I told them it had to

Last night I watched the “The Libertine,” a movie set in the 17th century. There was a credit for the company that supplied the mud.

According to AP, the US has been conducting more air strikes inside Somalia this week. Funny how that wasn’t mentioned in the SOTU. How many countries have we actually had military operations in since 9/11? Does even the Pentagon remember? Forty years from now American Marines they completely forgot deploying are going to be coming out of jungles in the Philippines or Yemen or wherever, asking if The War Against Terror (TWAT) is over yet, like those Japanese soldiers they were still finding in the 1970s.

Nancy Pelosi says that Bush, asked why this “surge” would work when the previous ones didn’t, told her, “Because I told them it had to.” Makes you wonder what he’s been telling him the last four years.

Today Bush went to a hospital in Missouri to talk about health insurance. He talked about how doctors practice “too much medicine” for fear of “frivolous lawsuits,” but made no mention of how one should deal with incompetent doctors.

Neither did he see anything wrong with the practices of insurance companies, although several small-business owners stood up to talk about how they couldn’t get insurance for their employees. No, the problems in American medicine are 1) the tax system, which doesn’t encourage enough people to give their money to insurance companies, and 2) sick people, who are all like, me me me, without giving a thought to what their sickness is costing those poor insurance companies. “And our view is, is that in order to have -- to worry about health care costs, the more a consumer is involved, the more likely we’ll be able to deal with the increasing cost of health care.” Those sick people just aren’t worrying enough, they’re all, la la la, I’m sick, cure me.

By the way, Bush claims that his proposal is revenue-neutral. It’s amazing how he can always solve all our problems without spending a cent of federal money.

I’ll leave the summation in Bush’s own words, which is cruel of me, I know: “we’ve got to level the playing field, from a taxes perspective. It is by far the most hopeful and fair option of any medical health care option out there today, unless, of course, you want the federal government providing it all, saying, okay, we’ll provide you insurance, but we’ll provide everybody insurance, which would be a mistake.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It won’t stop us

TPM has the transcript of Dick Cheney’s interview on CNN before CNN does. He insists that the world is “much safer” because we invaded Iraq, and claims that Saddam was “not being contained” and had in fact “corrupted the entire effort to try to keep him contained.” He emphatically denies Wolf Blitzer’s comment that there is a terrible situation there: “No, there is not. There is not. There’s problems, ongoing problems, but we have, in fact, accomplished our objectives of getting rid of the old regime, and there is a new regime in place that’s been there for less than a year, far too soon for you guys to write them off.”

Asked about Maliki cozying up to Iran and Syria rather than “moderate” but Sunni-dominated nations, Cheney says, “He’s also an Iraqi. He’s not a Persian. There’s a big difference between the Persians and the Arabs, although they’re both Shia.” So what we’re counting on is that ethnic bigotry will be more powerful than sectarian hatred.

Asked whether the Bushies’ credibility is hurt by their blunders, Cheney says, “I simply don’t accept the premise of your question. I just think it’s hogwash.” In fact, he spends most of the interview saying that various things are wrong, that he disagrees with them, etc. A lot of blank refutations, “that’s dead wrong”s, not a lot of rational discussion.

But then, when he did try that, he compared Iraq now to Afghanistan, where the US was “actively involved” in the 1980s but then just “walked away,” which led to Taliban rule, which led to the Cole and 9/11: “That is what happens when we walk away from a situation like that in the Middle East.” Osama has lived in all sorts of countries, and planned and coordinated terrorist attacks in each one. Should we have invaded all of them? Also, rather than “walk away,” what is it he thinks we should have done in Afghanistan in the 1980s and ‘90s?

He says of the Senate non-binding resolution, which I think hadn’t passed out of the Foreign Relations Committee when the interview was taped, “It won’t stop us, and it would be, I think detrimental from the standpoint of the troops”.

He again says that the reason Iraqi Shiites don’t “stand up and take responsibility” is that Saddam had hammered them into submissiveness.

Bush did this too: asked whether he thinks Maliki will go after Sadr, Cheney evaded: “I think he has demonstrated a willingness to take on any elements that violate the law.” Asked twice point-blank if Sadr should be arrested, he finally said, “Wolf, you’ve got to let Nouri al Maliki deal with the situation as he sees fit. And I think he will.”

Cheney insisted that Wolf was “out of line” to ask about the Christian Right’s criticism of Mary Cheney getting herself knocked up. So Wolf was out of line, but Cheney didn’t bother to work up any indignation towards Focus on the Family. Neither did he stand up for his daughter.

So, George, how’d the speech go over?

They preach with threats

Headline of the day: “Diver Used Chisel to Fight off Shark That Swallowed His Head.”

Bush in the SOTU, about the, you know, bad guys: “They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs...” But they grade on a curve, so that’s cool.

Click here for a screenshot of the Miami Herald “Americas” section, with ironically dueling headlines: “Bush Emphasizes Support for Freedom Cause in Cuba” and “Leftist Protesters Accuse Exiles of Assault,” the exiles in question having beaten up some opponents of their rally in favor of anti-Castro terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.

The Guardian ran a competition for a Gordon Brown t-shirt. “My mate was prime minister for 10 years and all he left me, other than a terminally hostile electorate, was this lousy T-shirt” beat out “Brown knows.”

John Kerry will not run for president in 2008. This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions no one was actually asking.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union: I ask you to give it a chance to work

6:14 “I congratulate the Democrat majority.” He just couldn’t bring himself to say Democratic, could he? (Update: it was Democratic in the prepared version.)

6:15 Evidently they must still “guard America against all evil.” Dude, Cheney’s sitting right behind you, with a hurt expression on his face.

6:19 He’s against earmarks, which I can’t quite recall being mentioned in earlier SOTUs. The time has come to end this practice. I wonder what happened in, say, November that makes this the time.

6:20 I’m watching in high definition and, holy shit, I just caught a glimpse of Ted Kennedy....

6:26 Patrick Leahy is not a high-def kind of guy either.

6:22 A disguised proposal, which I wouldn’t have even recognized had AP not predicted it. Bush’s words: “giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose something better.” What that meant is that he plans to propose letting them use public money to pay for private schools. This is obviously one of those obligatory no-chance-in-hell proposals that so enliven SOTU speeches. He might as well suggest letting them transfer to private schools on Mars.

6:23 Speaking of DOA proposals, here’s his health insurance tax-deduction scheme (order now and get free switch grass!). No reference here to “gold-plated” insurance policies, although poor people will supposedly be helped to get “basic” private insurance.

6:31 We will reduce gasoline use by 20% in 10 years, without a single American having to get out of their car and step on a smelly bus or walk or bike to work.

6:34 “Yet one question has surely been settled - that to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy.”

6:37 Who have “shoreless ambitions”.

6:40 “What every terrorist fears most is human freedom”. And spiders.

“Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies”. Dude, Cheney is still right behind you.

6:42 John McCain is adorable when he’s sleeping.

6:43 “This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it’s the fight we are in.” If it’s not the fight we entered, shouldn’t there be a new vote in Congress?

6:47 “the consequences of failure would be grievous and far-reaching.”

6:48 Shia or Shiite, make up your mind.

6:50 “Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq - and I ask you to give it a chance to work.” I repeat: you mean give it a chance to fail.

6:50 “The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others.” Notice the shift: when he first started talking about this being the “struggle of a generation,” he meant a fight that fell to one particular generation. Now he uses “generational” to mean a fight that will last at least a generation.

6:54 We will “continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur.” So, just talking about it, then.

7:02 Instead of the usual God bless the United States of America, or the creepier May God continue to bless, we just got a perfunctory “God bless.”

Oh, I forgot: the state of the union is strong. He really does have a tiny vocabulary, doesn’t he? We’re lucky he didn’t say the state of the union is interesting.

Well, this wasn’t a very interesting post, but then it wasn’t a very interesting speech. No would-be stirring phrases, no new formulations like “axis of evil,” no clarion call to stop human-animal hybrids. No one will remember a word of it tomorrow.


Chimpy needs all the help he can get

The White House has released a list of people who will be sitting with Laura Bush at the SOTU address. It includes Wesley Autrey, the guy who jumped onto the tracks of the NY subway to rescue a man who had fallen in front of an oncoming train.

Nope, no metaphors here.


More than 24 hours without blogging. Just had nothing to say (well, I had one thing, which I didn’t post because it was a stupid joke). I have created a label for posts on previous State of the Union speeches.

Liz “No, I’m the other one” Cheney has an op-ed in the WaPo in which she bemoans that Hillary Clinton will do whatever it takes to become president but not to win the war. She points to the waffling of Hillary and others about the war and says that Holy Joe Lieberman is “the only national Democrat showing any courage on this issue.” I can think of a few national Democrats who have shown courage in opposing the war, Russ Feingold, for example, but I guess in her definition of the word, courage can only be displayed by people who support wars.

(“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” Mark Twain)

Courage is not the only thing Liz says opponents of her father’s war can’t demonstrate: “And by the way, you cannot wish failure on our soldiers’ mission and claim, at the same time, to be supporting the troops. It just doesn’t compute.” Yeah, that would be like claiming to support Mary Cheney while denying her right to marry.

The LA Times examines just how little evidence has been offered about the alleged Iranian support for insurgents in Iraq.

Monday, January 22, 2007

My legacy will be written long after I’m president

In an interview with USA Today, Bush says that in the State of the Union Address he’ll scold Congress about earmarks. Well how about this? The Bushies have decided to let a student loan company called Nelnet (say that six times in a row and you turn into Jerry Lewis)(not a one of you said that six times in a row, did you?)(if you’re reading this at work, say it six times in a row in a loud clear voice and they’ll probably give you the rest of the day off) keep $278 million in federal money they weren’t entitled to (I don’t really understand the scheme, but the bottom line is that the Education Dept believes the subsidies were improper but isn’t asking for them back). Nelnet, one finds out in the 17th paragraph but suspected in the first, is a major donor to Republicans.

USA Today asked Bush whether he supported Schwarzenegger’s mandatory health insurance plan. He seems rather to have avoided answering, but did say that it was “interesting” that Arnie, Jeb, and Mitt worked on plans to “meet the needs of their particular states,” which suggests that some states don’t need to have children’s health insured.

Bush more or less admitted that the “surge” plan has convinced no one. In fact, he’s still using the “People want to know whether or not we’ve got a plan to succeed” line. Fortunately, “people” are entirely irrelevant: “the best way to convince them that this makes sense is to implement it and show them that it works”. Hmm, I wonder if there’s a more appropriate way of presenting that sentiment?

But just when will all this convincing take place? Will we, for example, be out of Iraq by 2009? “That’s a timetable; I just told you we don’t put out timetables.” So I ask again, when will we know that “it works”? Here’s a hint from elsewhere in the interview: informed that historian Eric Foner has declared him the worst president ever, he says, “My legacy will be written long after I’m president.” Oh, man, that was the sort of straight line that gives me an ice cream headache.

How about LBJ and Vietnam, they asked, any, you know, lessons from that? “Yes, win. Win, when you’re in a battle for the security … if it has to do with the security of your country, you win.” Really, it’s so simple, I don’t know why Johnson didn’t think of it.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Death squads, you say? Why did no one tell me of this before?

In Israel, Richard Perle, who brings a ray of sunshine to any gathering, promised that if Iran gets close to having a nuclear weapon, within the next two years anyway, Bush will launch a military attack on it.

Say, wasn’t the United States fighting in the Somali civil war a couple of weeks ago? Whatever happened with that?

There’s a piece of hilariously transparent spin-doctoring going around. According to the AP version of it, “Iraq’s prime minister has dropped his protection of [Muqtada al-Sadr]’s Shiite militia after U.S. intelligence convinced him the group was infiltrated by death squads”. See, the reason Maliki has hitherto protected the Shiite militias isn’t that he owes his political position to their leaders, or that he personally is committed to establishing complete Shiite domination of the Iraqi state by violently subjugating the Sunnis, no no no, it was that he had somehow been entirely unaware of the sectarian violence until now. I feel so much more confidence in Maliki now, don’t you?

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Actually, doesn’t “I’m in, and I’m in to win” sound like something Bill Clinton might have said, but in, um, entirely different circumstances, if you know what I mean?

Headline of the Day, from the Sunday Telegraph: “Stressed Doctor Cuts Off Patient’s Penis.” Boy if you think the doctor is stressed...

The London Review of Books has a very good, comprehensive article by Perry Anderson on Putin’s Russia.

She’s in

Hillary Clinton announces for the presidency with the words, “I’m in. And I’m in to win.” Because it’s all about her. And it’s also about Bush, or more specifically, “the bold but practical changes we need to overcome six years of Bush administration failures.” Is anyone’s pulse set racing by the words “bold but practical”? Also, by January 2009, there’ll be 8 years of Bush administration failures to overcome.

She’s going to start a “national conversation” right now. “So to begin, I’m going to spend the next several days answering your questions in a series of live video Web discussions.” That’s Hillary’s idea of a national conversation: her answering questions. I call her Hillary, by the way, because “Clinton” seems to have gone the way of “Rodham” and those headbands she used to wear; by 2008 she may have run out of names. References to Bill in her website are avoided almost as scrupulously as mentions of her original strong support for the Iraq war.

Her statement is full of the usual content-free clichés: renewing the promise of America, the future is calling us, true to our values, etc etc. I should be excited by the prospect of an election that replaces George Bush; Hillary just makes me feel tired.

A gut feeling

Remember the 4 mercenaries who were killed in Fallujah and strung up on the bridge, giving the US an excuse to besiege and bomb the city? Their families are suing the “security” company that employed them, Blackwater, and now Blackwater has counter-sued for $10 million, claiming that the lawsuits violated the dead men’s employment contracts. Kenneth Starr is involved in this in some way I’m not clear on.

In Basra, British military spokesmodel Major Chris Ormond-King told reporters that he had absolutely no evidence of Iranian arms, money, or anything else in the region but “As a gut feeling we know there is Iranian influence.” Hey, we’ve invaded countries on less than that!

Speaking of gut feelings, Hugo Chavez says that the Venezuelan telecom company CANTV has been spying on him on behalf of “the empire” (whether the United States or CANTV’s part-owner Verizon, he didn’t say). Sigh. Of course it might be true, it might very well be true, but I like for accusations like that to be accompanied by some scintilla of proof. Chavez plans to nationalize CANTV along with... well, we’ll have to see what else he’ll nationalize, because he’ll do it all by decree power, which he claims is a “completely democratic process,” and I know some of you will explain to me in comments how it really is a completely democratic process and I can’t wait for that. To me the fundamental restructuring of a nation’s economy should follow an open national debate involving representative institutions, but what do I know?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

There’s a “series of tubes” joke in here somewhere, I just know there is

From AP: “Ted Stevens, the Republican senator, has said that his wife, Catherine, has frequently been identified as Cat Stevens and stopped on US flights.” And the funny thing is, it’s not that they have the same name: they actually look uncannily alike.

An insurance company in Spain failed to get a court to order a man to return €550,000 they’d paid him in compensation for having been 90% blinded in a traffic accident, when he was stopped by police two years later driving a car at 96 mph. He said he’d just asked his wife to let him drive on a straight stretch of road.

Yesterday Maliki claimed that his forces had arrested 400 followers of Sadr. Possible, but who trusts anything Maliki says to be true? So was no one actually arrested? 400 random people, “Casablanca” style? 400 not-so-random Sunnis? Will we ever know?

A cute detail about the ethics measure passed by the Senate today: not all travel paid for by lobbyists would be banned; AIPAC can still pay for trips to Israel, although Sen. Stevens may have trouble getting his wife through security.

All the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people

Alberto Gonzalez testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. His opening remarks included a plea for Bush’s judicial appointees to be treated “at least as fairly” as Clinton’s. He also said that “At the Department of Justice, every day is September 12th.” Also, their VCRs keep blinking 12:00.

He said that the secret ruling held after a secret hearing, which allegedly gives him the power to continue wiretapping, will remain secret even from Congress. He said that it took him two years to come up with a program that could survive even this farcical approximation of judicial scrutiny because “It’s not something you just pull off the shelf.” Only my renowned sense of decorum prevents me suggesting from whence he did pull it.

[P.S. Glenn Greenwald actually (shudder) watched the hearings, and has much more.]

The military tribunals will allow hearsay evidence, under trial rules issued today, including in capital cases. The Pentagon says that this is fair because both sides can use hearsay evidence, which “levels the playing field,” except of course that the defense is unlikely to have access to hearsay evidence originating with American military personnel or people living in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

Statements obtained by “coercion” may also be used, although it doesn’t look like the defense is allowed to torture anyone. So much for a level playing field. Pentagon lawyer Dan Dell’Orto says this affords “alien unlawful enemy combatants” (my, what a long list of scare words that is!) “all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.” I would be interested in hearing his definition of “civilized.”

To be fair, there are many improvements over the original proposed rules, which isn’t saying much. There will be no secret evidence not seen by the defense, but only the judge gets to decide if redacted classified material introduced at trial accurately represents the whole. Like hearsay, that’s a violation of the defendant’s constitutional right to confront the evidence against him (and presumably the defense doesn’t get to check other classified files for exculpatory evidence).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Short-term plus-up

Pentagon website headline: “Gates Wants to Build on Success in Afghanistan.” And if he had ham, he could have ham and eggs, if he had eggs. In order to “sustain” all of our success in Afghanistan, and not at all because insurgent attacks are up 300%, he’d like to send more troops. Now, I know you’re all wondering what they would call such an increase in troop levels. Not a surge. Not an escalation. Not an augmentation. A “short-term plus-up.” My theory is that even at the Pentagon they don’t really speak this way: at this point they’re introducing silly Orwellian euphemisms just so they can giggle when Fox News anchors slavishly repeat them on-air. The deployment of troops in Baghdad will be called Operation Desert Boogers.

Obviously, we’re all very concerned about cancer

Digby picked up a bit of the Bush interview on McNeil-Lehrer that I somehow missed, Bush on the subject of sacrifice: “Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night.”

Today, George Bush visited the National Institutes of Health, which he said was “an amazing place because it is full of decent, caring, smart people, all aiming to save lives, in other words completely unlike me in every way.” I may have made up the last nine words. They talked about cancer. “Obviously, we’re all very concerned about cancer,” he said. At the end of the presentation, he thanked them for “the work being done at the grassroots level.” Evidently he thinks cancer comes from grass. “I thank you for your articulate presentation, both of you all. And this government supports what’s happening in order to save lives, and we will.” Completely unlike him in every way, including articulativity.

The man speaking here is Dr. Marston Linehan, chief of Urological Oncology, talking about urological oncology, one assumes. Personally I’m with Bush on this one, more hands-over-the-genitals than hands-nonchalantly-in-pockets.

To celebrate Haloscan functioning normally again, a caption contest.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We still have a chance to move beyond the broken egg

Amsterdam will soon get a bronze statue of a prostitute. According to the Dutch news agency ANP, “The statue represents a self-assured woman, her hands on her hips, looking sideways towards the sky, and standing on a doorstep”. ANP also says that “The precise place where the statue will be laid and its title have not yet been announced”.

Speaking of bronze prostitutes, Bush was interviewed on McNeil-Lehrer today. He says the Iraqi regime “fumbled” the recent hangings – yup, they really dropped the severed head ball on that one – and said this reinforced doubts that the Maliki government “is a serious government. ... this is a government that has still got some maturation to do.” Boy, when George W. Bush accuses you of being immature...

He said that Saddam’s execution “looked like it was kind of a revenge killing,” but on the other hand, he said (because Bush likes to see the bright side of executions) that it “closed a terrible chapter... In other words, there’s people that were around Iraq saying, well, I think he may come back. And that obviously is not going to happen.” Given Bush’s track record in predicting events in Iraq, I’m expecting Zombie Saddam to show up right about now.

He says if we “don’t crack this now,” “the violence will spiral out of control.” Yeah, imagine what that would be like. And if that were to happen, the spiraling thing, “it will embolden Iran; it will provide safe haven for Sunni killers”. Yeah, why should Sunni killers be the only people in Iraq to have safe haven?

There was an odd exchange:

LEHRER: Just today, another 35 people were killed in bombings; 80 over the weekend.

BUSH: Yeah, there is a difference between - look, death is terrible - but remember, some of these bombings are done by al-Qaida and their affiliates, all trying to create doubt and concern and create these death squads or encourage these death squads to roam neighborhoods. And it’s going to be hard to make Baghdad zero - to make it bomb-proof, blather blather blather...

What point was he trying to make here? A difference between what and what? Clearly, he believes there’s some “difference” we should “remember” that somehow mitigates these 115 deaths, but I don’t get it.

Asked if he has any feeling of personal failure, he sidesteps the “personal” part, and just says that failure in Iraq would be bad and that he is “frustrated with the progress.” You’ll notice that in just four sentences, failure turned into progress, although progress whose pace he is frustrated with. Why, “If you were to take it and put me in an opinion poll and said do I approve of Iraq, I’d be one of those that said, no, I don’t approve of what’s taking place in Iraq.” Boy, no wonder he doesn’t pay any attention to opinion polls.

Says “No question, 2006 was a lousy year for Iraq.”

Asked how success will be measured, says “A success means a Baghdad that is, you know, relatively calm compared to last year”. Dare to dream, Mr. President, dare to dream.

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS: Jim Lehrer asked if Iraq was like a broken egg that we’re now saying the Iraqis should put back together. Bush responded that Iraq is a cracked egg, not a broken egg, “where we still have a chance to move beyond the broken egg... and you know, if I didn’t believe we could keep the egg from fully cracking, I wouldn’t ask 21,000 kids - additional kids to go into Iraq to reinforce those troops that are there.”

He says he’s “spent a lot of time during my presidency talking to the American people and educating the American people about the stakes and what we’re trying to get done.” Does anyone actually feel more educated, more knowledgeable after listening to Bush speak? I just feel like I’ve been struck on the head with a ball-peen hammer, and I need to lie down.

Caption contest. The first picture is “Bush helping paint a mural at a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday volunteer day at a high school in Washington.”

The second is Bush with the St. Louis Cardinals, who I’m told are a baseball team which won some sort of contest.

Iraqi process

So two more executions in Iraq, and 24 hours later the video (and there is video) still hasn’t turned up on the internet. I had 12 hours in the pool. The video was shown to international reporters to prove that there were no unseemly incidents this time. Unless you count the whole thing being filmed and then shown to reporters. I saw an Iraqi official on the BBC news saying that this time the executees weren’t “subjected to any mistreatment.” Unless you count the part where they were hanged, and that head-ripped-off thing.

Condi, while granting that the executions might have been carried off with more “dignity,” for example if the hangman had worn a tuxedo instead of a ski mask, says “Let me just say that the decision concerning the execution of Saddam Hussein and the two defendants today were made according to Iraqi process and Iraqi law.” Because nothing says “Iraqi process” like having your head torn from your body.

Monday, January 15, 2007

But now I’m here, guess I’m goin’ to stay, and lick you into shape

Bush’s questioning of whether the Iraqis are showing “a gratitude level that’s significant enough” reminded me of an article about Cuba: Louis Pérez, Jr. “Incurring a Debt of Gratitude: 1898 and the Moral Sources of United States Hegemony in Cuba,” American Historical Review, 104:2, April 1999. Check your public library’s website; I was able to download the pdf through mine. It’s about how Americans were bewildered that the Cubans didn’t show sufficient gratitude for our generosity in liberating them from the Spanish. And they weren’t the only ingrates: Gen. Otis Howard, a former director of the Freedmen’s Bureau, wrote an article in 1898 suggesting that Americans were developing a prejudice against Cubans, who “have not properly appreciated the sacrifices of life and health that have been made to give them a free country,” similar to the “dislike of black men in 1863... because so many of them did not seem to understand, or be grateful for, what had been done for them.”

When the US was pressuring Cuba to accept the Platt Amendment denying it the right to its own foreign policy, ceding Guantanamo Bay, and giving the US the right to intervene militarily in Cuba at will, Secretary of War Elihu Root thundered, “If the American people get the impression that Cuba is ungrateful and unreasonable, they will not be quite so altruistic and sentimental the next time they have to deal with Cuban affairs as they were in April, 1898.”

This more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger-although-actually-pretty-angry-too-now-that-you-mention-it attitude persisted for decades, as did the belief that the history of the country only began when the US became interested in it: Teddy Roosevelt often said “Cuba owes to us her birth,” just as Bush last week described Iraq as a “young society.” In October 1959 a reporter asked President Eisenhower what he supposed was “eating” Castro. Ike admitted bafflement: “The whole history – first our intervention in 1898, our making and helping set up Cuban independence... and the very close relationships that have existed most of the time with them – would seem to make it a puzzling matter to figure out exactly why the Cubans and the Cuban Government would be so unhappy.” Rep. Mendel Rivers in 1960 called Cuba “a country that was conceived by America, delivered by America, nurtured by America, educated by America and made a self-governing nation by America. ... When ingratitude on the part of a nation reaches the point that it has in Cuba, it is time for American wrath to display itself in no uncertain terms.”

Cuba cartoon Punch.gif

(Click here for larger image.)

They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq

I didn’t see Bush’s 60 Minutes interview because the cable was out and I could only watch one program with the antenna, so I went with “24,” just to see how long it took for the writers to resort to their favorite piece of dialog, “What are you talking about?” Less than five minutes. And again before the end of the hour. I fully expect by the end of the season there will be a scene in which two characters, possibly Jack and Chloe, just repeat “What are you talking about?” over and over while applying electric shocks to each other. It’ll be the highest-rated episode ever.

No, I didn’t say they were naked, that’s just how you pictured it in your filthy, filthy mind.

But there is a transcript of the interview, you’ll be pleased to hear.

Bush said he really did seriously weigh the pros and cons of withdrawing from Iraq, and he takes us step by step through his thought process: “I thought long and hard about would withdrawal cause victory or cause success. And the answer is I don’t believe so, and neither do a lot of experts. And so then I began to think, well, if failure’s not an option and we’ve gotta succeed, how best to do so? And that’s why I came up with the plan I did.” The man uses logic like a scalpel, doesn’t he?

Asked if the instability in Iraq wasn’t caused by, you know, him, Bush said, “Well, our administration took care of a source of instability in Iraq. Envision a world in which Saddam Hussein was rushing for a nuclear weapon to compete against Iran.” Dude, for the 9,000th time: there was no nuclear weapons program.

Asked about the mistakes he admitted in Wednesday’s speech having made, Bush said, “Abu Ghraib was a mistake.” Oops?

Other mistakes? “Using bad language like, you know, ‘bring them on’ was a mistake.” Yeah, but at this stage I don’t think “bad language” even makes it onto the list of your top 100 mistakes, Georgie.

And troops levels, he admits after prompting, “Could have been a mistake.” He says that he referred to mistakes in the speech because he didn’t want anyone blaming the military. “Well, if the people want a scapegoat, they got one right here in me ‘cause it’s my decisions.” Of course just ten seconds before that, when admitting that troops levels could have been a mistake, the Scapegoat-in-Chief subtly slipped in a mention of “John Abizaid, one of the planners. And ten seconds later, asked if there are enough troops there now, he responded, “Let’s let the historians work it out.” My, but that “cause it’s my decisions” thing sure didn’t last long. And it gets worse:

PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

BUSH: That we didn’t do a better job or they didn’t do a better job?

PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.

BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we’ve endured great sacrifice to help them. That’s the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that’s significant enough in Iraq.

PELLEY: Americans wonder whether . . .

BUSH: Yeah, they wonder whether or not the Iraqis are willing to do hard work necessary to get this democratic experience to survive. That’s what they want.

Pelley asked twice “Is Muqtada al-Sadr an enemy of the United States?” Bush sidestepped the question both times: “Anybody who murders innocent people or frustrating the ambitions of the Iraqi people and the United States” ... “If he is ordering his people to kill Americans, he is.”

He also sidestepped on whether Iran’s (alleged) interventions in Iraq amount to an act of war against the United States: “I’m not a lawyer. So act of war is kind of a . . . I’m not exactly sure how you define that. Let me just say it’s unacceptable.” So it’s an act of unacceptability.

Asked what he would tell the Iranian president: “I’d say, first of all, to him, ‘You’ve made terrible choices for your people. ... You’ve threatened countries with nuclear weapons.” He threatened which countries with what nuclear weapons? “‘You’ve said you want a nuclear weapon. You’ve defied international accord.’” Then he’d tell Ahmadinejad, “it’s in your interest to have a unified nation on your border.” Yeah, remember back in the ‘80s when you had a unified nation on your border? Good times, good times.

Bush says he saw “some of” the Saddam snuff film – on the internet! – but didn’t really enjoy it: “I was satisfied when we captured him. I’m just not . . .revenge isn’t necessarily something that causes me to react. In other words, I’m not a revengeful person.”

He says of the Congressional opponents of escalation: “we’ve got people criticizing this plan before it’s had a chance to work.” No, we’ve got people criticizing this plan before it’s had a chance to fail. Which is kind of the right time to be criticizing it.

Asked about the perception that the administration has lied, rather often, to the American people: “The minute we found out they didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, I was the first to say so.”

Asked if he feels let down by his subordinates, he says Cheney’s a “great” veep and Rumsfeld “did a really fine job.” “I feel like this country is blessed to have those kind of people serving.” As they say on “24,” what are you talking about?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

You can’t fault that logic

Condi tells Israeli television that the very fact that Israel is threatening to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities “just shows how very serious it would be to have Iran continue its programs unabated.”


Stupid death of the week: Jennifer Strange participated in a Sacramento radio station’s “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest in which whoever drank the most water without having to pee won. A few hours later she died of water intoxication.

Dick Cheney was interviewed by Chris Wallace this morning.

On Iraq: “Chris, we have, in fact, made enormous progress.”

On the New Way Forward (TM): “Why don’t we get together in a couple of months and see how it worked.” Yes, let’s do that.

On Congress’s complete inability to halt the New Way Forward (TM):

CHENEY: So Congress clearly has a role to play.

Q: That’s a consultative role.

CHENEY: It is a consultative role. ... you cannot run a war by committee.

(Pardon my not blockquoting, by the way, there’s a bug in New Blogger that screws up line spacing after a blockquote.)

On Democrats in Congress: “But then they end up critical of what we’re trying to do, advocating withdrawal or so-called redeployment of force, but they have absolutely nothing to offer in its place. I have yet to hear a coherent policy out of the Democratic side with respect to an alternative to what the President has proposed in terms of going forward. They basically, if we were to follow their guidance, the comments, for example, that a lot of them made during the last campaign about withdrawing U.S. forces, we simply go back and re-validate the strategy that Osama bin Laden has been following from day one, that if you kill enough Americans, you can force them to quit, that we don’t have the stomach for the fight.”

So-called redeployment. And clearly, the way to invalidate Osama bin Laden’s strategy is to let them kill many, many more Americans. That’ll show ‘em we have the stomach.

On Chuck Hagel: “And for us to do what Chuck Hagel, for example, suggests or to buy into that kind of analysis -- it’s really not analysis, it’s just criticism -- strikes me as absolutely the wrong thing to do.”

Just criticism. Notice that now “criticism” is a pejorative term.

Polls, elections, he’ll ignore them equally:

Q: By taking the policy you have, haven’t you, Mr. Vice President, ignored the expressed will of the American people in the November election?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Chris, this President, and I don’t think any President worth his salt can afford to make decisions of this magnitude according to the polls. The polls change.

Q: This was an election, sir.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Polls change day by day, week by week. ... you cannot simply stick your finger into the wind and say, gee, public opinion is against, we better quit. That is part and parcel of the underlying fundamental strategy that our adversaries believe afflicts the United States.

The key word in the sentence “This President does not make policy based on public opinion polls” is “polls,” because it’s a red herring, a distraction from what he’s really saying. Let’s try the sentence again without it, and see if anything is clarified: “This President does not make policy based on public opinion.”

Bush will be on 60 Minutes tonight. A preview: “I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude and I believe most Iraqis express that.”

Informal museum of agricultural vehicles

In the Bay Area, next to I80 (exit 36) about 10 miles east of the Carquinez Bridge heading towards Sacramento, somebody has arranged on their farmland, alongside miscellaneous cows and donkeys, a bunch of antique tractors and other farm vehicles in a sort of impromptu outdoor museum, lined up so as to be “toured” from inside one’s car in the 30 seconds or so it takes to drive past on the freeway. I like the idea very much.

Due to the position of the sun, I couldn’t see a damned thing through my camera’s viewfinder, so I snapped about 20 pictures more or less at random (not thinking to use the zoom) and hoped for the best. Wish I had a closeup of the carts on the right in the first picture, which might be 19th century.

6 pictures for you

6 pictures for you

6 pictures for you

6 pictures for you

6 pictures for you

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Iraqis killing Iraqis is something that Americans really don’t understand

Bush’s weekly radio address mostly reiterated his Wednesday speech on Iraq, but I would like to point out this characterization of Anbar: “America will step up the fight against al Qaeda in its home base in Iraq -- Anbar province.” He went on, “Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders”. In that order. Or not.

Bush reached out to Congress, well, reached out to slap them: “Members of Congress have a right to express their views... But those who refuse to give this plan a chance to work have an obligation to offer an alternative that has a better chance for success.” I.e., get out now doesn’t count. “To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible.” This is like an alchemist insisting his critics should shut up unless they have a better way to turn lead into gold. Like saying, all right, smartypants, if you don’t think my perpetual motion machine will work, let’s see you make one with a bicycle chain, three coat hangers, a baby stroller with one wheel missing, some string, an Atari joystick, and an old mayonnaise jar.

(What sort of spellcheck program doesn’t recognize “smartypants”?)

Bush added, “We recognize that many members of Congress are skeptical. Some say our approach is really just more troops for the same strategy. In fact, we have a new strategy with a new mission: helping secure the population, especially in Baghdad.” So for the last four years, we haven’t been trying to secure the population?

He also informs us that “Secretary Rice has gone to the region to continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.”

Actually, Condi herself says, “I’m not coming with a proposal, I’m not coming with a plan” and “this time, I think we want to have consultations to see where people are”, so possibly her definition of urgent diplomacy is different from her boss’s.

Speaking of urgent diplomacy, here she is with Israel’s deputy prime minister and minister for strategic threats, Unholy Avigdor Lieberman, whose threats against Palestinians have done so much to help bring peace to the Middle East.

Lieberman told her that it was just “a matter of time” before Israel re-invaded Gaza.

(I’m just going to mix together quotes from that briefing and the 1, 2, 3, 4 other interviews Condi gave yesterday. Oh, and I think I deserve some sort of prize for reading all of them. Cash, a back rub, cash, antidepressants, cash, something.)

Condi spoke about propping up Palestinian PM Abbas: “we continue to work on how to help Abu Mazen and how to help the Palestinian people to create governing structures and security forces that can actually secure the Palestinian people.” These are the exact same terms the Bushies use about Maliki and Iraq. “Secure” has been the Bushies’ favorite verb for the last couple of weeks. I’m never sure whether they mean it in the sense of to make safe, get possession of, tie down or fasten, to pledge something to assure payment, or to cover openings and make movable objects fast.

While unwilling to talk to Iranian leaders, Rice does say “we’re reaching out to the Iranian people. We’ve had a delegation of medical personnel here. They had a wonderful trip, went down to Atlanta to the CDC, seeing how America does these health matters. But we also have the American wrestling team going to Iran fairly soon. So we’re going to continue to reach out to the Iranian people, a great people, a people that shouldn’t be isolated.” Wrestled, but not isolated. Got it. Who needs diplomacy when you’ve got wrestling.

She criticized the skepticism expressed by senators about the Maliki regime: “And the undercurrent that because they’ve not performed in the past, they won’t perform this time, I think was -- is just -- there isn’t a natural automaticity there”. And even if they succumb to unnatural automaticity and don’t perform, “we’re not pulling the plug on Iraq.” Hard to see how that matters: it’s not like they have electricity anyway.

She says she has told Iraqi officials that the impatience of the American people has increased “as Americans watch Iraqis killing Iraqis. Because while we understand fighting al-Qaida, while we understand fighting Saddamists, while we even understand insurgency, Iraqis killing Iraqis is something that Americans really don’t understand.”

But the real pressure on Maliki will come from Iraq’s vibrant democratic process: “The Iraqi people have lost patience... the Iraqi people are fed up”; “Well, the compelling forcing mechanism is that this government is not going to survive its own people if it doesn’t take control of the situation in Baghdad.” Wow, a government forced to change its failed policies because the people are fed up – I guess we could never have a system like that in this country, huh?

Friday, January 12, 2007

That’s not an escalation, that’s just good policy

Condi is in the Middle East, but says she comes with no proposal to end Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I think anything that is an American plan is bound to fail.” Yes, that has certainly been the experience of the last six years.

And she again denied that what Bush plans for Iraq is an escalation. Yesterday she said it was, rather, an “augmentation.” Today she said, “I don’t think there is a government in the world that would sit by and let the Iranians in particular run networks inside Iraq that are building explosive devices of a very high quality that are being used to kill their soldiers. That’s not an escalation, that’s just good policy.”

Speaking of Iranians, the alliterative Peter Pace told the Foreign Relations Committee, “I think one of the reasons you keep hearing about Iran is because we keep finding their stuff in Iraq.” Tell me about it, I lost yet another hat somewhere this week, and don’t even get me started on umbrellas or explosive devices of a very high quality.

The pause that refreshes

The soldiers who met Bush at Fort Benning yesterday were banned from speaking to reporters.

Monday the Supreme Court refused to overturn a 9th Circuit decision allowing the prosecution of seven Iranian refugees for supporting the People’s Mujahadeen of Iran, which the State Dept considers a terrorist organization. This means that they will not be able to question that designation in court (the 9th said it literally doesn’t matter if the designation is correct). So you’ve got all wrapped up in one unconstitutional ball a bunch of things antithetical to justice and fairness: 1) secret evidence (used in the designation, which is an administrative process but has the effect of making the giving of aid to certain organizations a criminal act), 2) guilt by association, 3) collective guilt, 4) and in this case the designation was even made retroactive. The Bush admin had told the Supreme Court that this wasn’t about free speech (or freedom of association) at all but the regulation of financial interactions.

Secretary of War Robert
gates 23
testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that members of the Bush administration and the military have been persuaded that Maliki and other Iraqi leaders “finally have the will to act against all instigators of violence in Baghdad.” “Finally.” Even the Bushies (including DCI Hayden, in a reference I’ve misplaced) are having to admit that these people have always acted in a sectarian manner in the past and that the only guarantee they won’t do so in the future is that they say they won’t. Gates: “The record of fulfilling their commitments is not an encouraging one. But I will say this: they really do seem to be eager to take control of this security.” Yes, they are eager to be unleashed to repress the Sunnis.

Yesterday the House voted for federal support for stem cell research. The NYT chose to run the story with this picture

Delicious, thirst-quenching stem cells

of Rep. Diana DeGette and her staff toasting the victory with plastic cups of delicious, thirst-quenching stem cells.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A good opportunity to really crush this group of folks

At the Senate hearings today, Condi told Biden, “I have met Prime Minister Maliki. I saw his resolve.”

There are some straight lines even I won’t touch.

Asked whether Bush’s remarks about Iran and Syria yesterday meant we might attack those countries militaries, she said that Bush “isn’t going to rule anything out to protect our troops,” but doesn’t have any immediate plans to do so. Color me reassured.

Speaking of the Decider, this morning he got all choked up and weepy while giving the mother of a dead marine his posthumous Medal of Honor.

Sad monkey

Poor sad monkey. Within three hours he was recovered and whooping it up with future dead troops at Fort Benning, playing hide and seek,

Bush at Fort Benning, 1.11.07   1

eating delicious mashed potatoes or possibly potato salad,

Bush at Fort Benning, 1.11.07   2

and enjoying the Fort Benning Amateur Theatrical Society’s reenactment of the hanging of Saddam Hussein.

Bush at Fort Benning, 1.11.07   3

He told the soldiers, “Everywhere that warriors from this base serve, you leave your mark”. Well, mark their territory, if you know what I mean.

He told them, “the sectarian violence needs to be challenged and stopped in order for this young society to advance.” That young society he’s talking about is, oh what’s it called again, Mesopotamia? Babylonia? oh yes, I remember, Iraq.

George’s memory was also troubling him, as he failed to come up with the name Samarra: “They [Al Qaida] bombed holy -- important holy site, they killed innocent people”.

And you know what’s worse? They’re not even really religious: “I, frankly -- well, speaking about religion, these are murderers. They use murder as a tool to achieve their objective. Religious people don’t murder. They may claim they’re religious, but when you kill an innocent woman, or a child to create a political end, that’s not my view of religion.”

Shrub is always willing to generously acknowledge the deep, deep wisdom of others: “One of the wisest comments I’ve heard about this battle in Iraq was made by General John Abizaid -- smart guy, a great soldier. He told me -- he said, Mr. President, if we were to fail in Iraq, the enemy would follow us here to America.”

GeeDubya inspired the troops with his visionary, um, vision of the transformation to come in Iraq: “you’ll begin to see a society that is somewhat more peaceful.”

In a fascinating insight into the workings of his, for the lack of a better word, brain, Bush explained how he crafted the surge policy: “I understand the consequences of failure; they’re not acceptable. And so I thought long and hard how best to succeed. That’s what I’m interested in, is success. The American people are interested in success. And I laid out a plan that is our best chance for success.”

You can really tell how committed Chimpy is to democracy in Iraq by the way he keeps quoting tribal sheiks in Anbar province that have supposedly come over to our side. “They’re tired of foreigners and killers in their midst,” Bush said, without a hint of irony, “That’s what the commanders have told me. And they [I’m not sure if he means the sheiks or the commanders] believe we have a good opportunity to really crush this group of folks.”

A good opportunity to really crush this group of folks. Here’s the link to the transcript again, just in case you want to check that I’m not making that up.

One of the things people are curious about from last night’s speech was his reference to Patriot missiles. Fortunately, today he cleared that up completely: “I also talked about Patriot missile systems in the region, to help others deal with the external threats.”

He also reminded the soldiers of the Big Picture, the larger context:
It’s very important for people to understand -- put this situation in Iraq in a larger context, and that is the ideological war that we’re seeing. I talked to you about the consequences of failure. The best way to defeat the totalitarian of hate is with an ideology of hope -- an ideology of hate -- excuse me -- with an ideology of hope. It matters whether or not people are resentful in the Middle East. It matters if people are hateful and look to strike out at a convenient target in the Middle East. Our security depends on there to be a alternative to the ideology of hate. Because if there’s resentment and hate, it’s easier to recruit 19 kids to get on an airplane and kill 3,000 people.