Wednesday, February 28, 2007

But the idea that I’d go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business

So on the day we learn that Walter Reed patients have been ordered not to speak to the press, Bush met with some “social entrepreneurs who have decided to help improve the lives of our servicemen and women and their families,” by, for example, entrepreneurially “helping the chaplains help kids, or... helping a family of the injured”. For example, the person in charge of the project giving families life-size cardboard “flat soldiers” was there. They told George some stories: “One of the most enjoyable things I do as the President is to hear stories of my fellow citizens -- stories of compassion, stories of care.” So glad he’s enjoying himself. So glad he thinks of amputees and brain-damaged soldiers as characters in stories. And supporting characters at that. “I’m proud to be the President of a country with so many decent citizens.” Once again, he seems to think that only Americans are decent.

Speaking of decent citizens, you’ll have heard of the background briefing held on Air Force Two by a Senior Administration Official whose name could not be used, who said, “I’ve seen some press reporting says, ‘Cheney went in to beat up on them, threaten them.’ That’s not the way I work. ... But the idea that I’d go in and threaten someone is an invalid misreading of the way I do business.”

The SAO reported on (or possibly gave a valid misreading of) his meeting with Karzai, who he said was “upbeat” because the US is going to give him lots of money and yet more troops. SAO made it abundantly clear that the sole basis of Karzai’s authority is American backing, and that it always has been: “He told a story to the group there about -- this was the immediate aftermath of 9/11 -- about meeting with a group of tribal elders in one of the remote parts of Afghanistan. He was trying to get them organized to participate in going after the Taliban and governing Afghanistan. And he said the only question they wanted to ask me was, is the United States with you.” SAO doesn’t even realize that there’s anything problematic about that.

The SAO warned that Karzai is a crashing bore: “You sit down and talk with Karzai, he’ll talk about the history of Pashtun rule in the region for 500 years. He can tell you what the Durand Treaty was all about between Afghanistan and India in 1889 or whenever it was, and why that’s important to today’s conflict and so forth.” Will this be on the test? No, sadly none of the reporters dared to follow this up by asking the SAO to explain what he – or she! – learned about what the Durand Treaty (of 1893) was all about and why it’s important to today’s conflict and so forth.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bienvenidos a mi amigo

This morning Bush met with Tony Saca, a minor character on The Sopranos the president of El Salvador. “We spent a lot of time talking together, because I value the advice of the President,” George said, which leads me to wonder how much time ADD Boy considers to be a lot of time, given that he made this comment at 9:51 a.m. I also wonder how much of that time Bush was exercising his linguistic skills. He began their photo-op, “Bienvenidos a mi amigo, Presidente de nuestro amigo de El Salvador. Gracias.”

Bush “expressed my concerns and our condolences about the three gentlemen who were recently assassinated”. Four, actually, but I guess the driver wasn’t a “gentleman,” unlike the son of the guy who ordered an archbishop murdered.

Later in the day he met with the Miami Heat. That’s a basketball team, evidently. At one point he said, “I want to say something to the spouses of the players. Welcome. You’ve got a tough life in many ways with your spouse on the road all the time, and you deserve as much of this championship as they do.” He said “spouse” rather than wives, although I’m guessing they were all wives, because he’s used to saying the exact same thing about spouses of military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His basketball skills are on a par with his Spanish-language skills. At 11 minutes into this video he attempts to dribble a basketball.

In between those events, there was some dreary swearing-in ceremony he had to sit through. So bored. So bored.

Although at the end a thought seems to have perked him up a bit, possibly, “Ah bet Condi’ll be real impressed if ah show her mah mad hoopball skills at that photo-op with Big Shaq. Ah call him Big Shaq.”

Question authority

The International Court of Justice rules that while genocide did take place in Bosnia (although only the once, in Srebrenica), Serbia is not guilty of genocide. The butler did it. Or possibly Norway. It’s always the quiet ones.

Dick Cheney says the bomb at Bagram Air Base sounded like a “loud boom.” A reporter asked him if the “ludicrous” act was a “self-serving symbolic statement” (which left several ludicrous symbolic corpses). Cheney agreed: “I think they clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government. Striking at Bagram with a suicide bomber, I suppose, is one way to do that.”

So the loud boom was a question, sort of like “BOOOOOMMM?”

They text-messaged each other to make sure they didn’t all show up wearing the same outfit.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I like to say we’re in an ideological war that’s going to last a while

The National Governor’s Association, which is the union the governors belong to, or something, is meeting in Washington, so I guess they have to put up with George Bush crashing their party, and laugh at his jokes, no matter how lame: “And we welcome the governors and the spouses. We welcome governors without their spouses. (Laughter.)”

Bush was on his very best behaviour. He didn’t throw his own feces, and even remembered to say ic: “I’ve had some good meetings with the Democrat -- Democratic leadership.”

He wishes he didn’t have to work with the states, or something: “I think about making sure that Homeland Security and our states work closely together. I wish that wasn’t the way it was. But it is.” Or was.

He told the governors about all the shit he likes: “I like to say we’re in an ideological war that’s going to last a while.” “I like to remind people that if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here.” “The thing I like most about the law [No Child Left Behind] is that when we find a youngster who is struggling with reading, that we provide extra help to make sure he or she gets up to speed early, before it’s too late.”

That’s the second time I’ve heard him use that “before it’s too late” line recently , which not only suggests that some children will be left behind, because it’s “too late” for them, but is an insult to everyone in an adult literacy program, or indeed anyone who continues to educate themselves throughout their lifetime. But then your understanding of learning must be pretty impoverished if you think it can be reduced to a number: “I don’t see how you can fix a problem unless you measure the problem.”

Not that even he can’t occasionally learn a new word: “Another exciting technological breakthrough is going to come with cellulosic ethanol. It’s a long, fancy word for making gasoline -- or making ethanol out of product other than sugar and corn, like switchgrass or wood chips.” Actually, it’s two words, but thanks for playing.

Caption contest:

We are only left with the suicide bombs and car bombs

Ahmadinejad says Iran’s nuclear program is like a train without brakes or a reverse gear. And the dining car is out of spoons.

Smintheus on the disappearance on the White House website of links to old interviews by top officials, including many of the embarrassing ones – they’ll greet us as liberators, last throes, that sort of thing. This reminded me that several years ago I linked to this article, about the site’s attempt to keep search engine robots from cataloguing pages on certain subjects. For some reason, the Bushies don’t want us to be able to look up what they said in the past.

Holy War Joe Lieberman has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he warns against “parliamentary trench warfare.” He says, “I understand the frustration, anger and exhaustion so many Americans feel about Iraq, the desire to throw up.”

Oh, sorry, “the desire to throw up our hands and simply say, ‘Enough.’”

His solution is for everyone in Congress to shut up for six months. “Gen. Petraeus says he will be able to see whether progress is occurring by the end of the summer, so let us declare a truce in the Washington political war over Iraq until then.” Finally, Joe Lieberman has found a form of “war” that doesn’t make him as giddy as an inordinately giddy schoolgirl.

(Update: Glenn Greenwald has also read Lieberman, and lobs dozens of whizzbangs into his trench with great force and precision.)

A WaPo story on Operation Imposing Law said of the security stations that are supposed to be built in Baghdad: “Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a U.S. military spokesman, said that although part of the stations’ function is to encourage Iraqis to visit, their locations would not be disclosed because of concern within the Iraqi government that such information would facilitate attacks.”

The story does, however, quote one Baghdadhoovian who sees improvement: “Thank God now the mass abductions and the militias seem to be slowing down, and we are only left with the suicide bombs and car bombs.”

This one is getting intriguing: Eduardo D’Aubuisson, son of evil 1980s death squad leader and evil politician Roberto D’Aubuisson, was killed last week along with two other Salvadoran politicians and their driver in Guatemala (driving to the Central American Parliament, which the three men were members of) and the bodies set on fire. The head of the Guatemalan national police’s organized crime unit and three of his subordinates were arrested for it and within a couple of days mysteriously killed during a prison riot – shot in their cells.

The worst micromanagement of military affairs

Sunday morning Condi Rice was interviewed on ABC and Fox.

The theme of today’s Condi-pics, by the way, is hands.

Chris Wallace asked, twice, if the US can “live with” (i.e., refrain from overthrowing militarily) the government of Iran if they “clean up their act.” She evaded the question twice, as Iran will surely have noticed.

She also wouldn’t say if Bush would veto a bill restricting him in Iraq because she “can’t imagine a circumstance” in which Congress would do so. She said it would be “the worst micromanagement of military affairs” (has she forgotten Donald Rumsfeld already?) to interfere with the “clean relationship” (don’t ask, don’t tell) “between the commander-in-chief and the commanders in the field.” She said such disruption of the chain of command “always served us badly in the past.” She wasn’t asked to what she was referring.

She played up Al Qaida’s supposed role in Iraq in a way that bolsters the theory that the Bushies are going to claim, if Congress does do the thing Condi can’t imagine, that military operations in Iraq are covered not by the 2002 authorization of force in Iraq but by the 2001 one against terrorism in general. She asked, “how do you possibly distinguish what is going on in Baghdad, for instance, from the fight for al-Qaida -- with al-Qaida? We have to remember that some of these car bombs may indeed be the work of an organization like al-Qaida or al-Qaida affiliated allies.” Also, “how can you separate, again, what is going on in places like Anbar from what is going on in Baghdad?” Also, since Al Qaida supposedly started all this with the Samara mosque bombing, “how do you separate al-Qaida’s having helped to spike this sectarian violence from stopping this sectarian violence?” The scary thing is that she thinks this sort of thing is a logical argument in support of her position.

Here’s another one: asked if the change in the nature of the war in Iraq since the 2002 authorization of force doesn’t justify rewriting it, she said: “it would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then the resolution that allowed the United States to do that so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.” Isn’t that a convincing analogy?

She says of Maliki, “The Prime Minister has been tireless in going out and promoting the Baghdad security plan.” Not going out in Baghdad of course, that would be crazy.

She also praises the “excellent cooperation” of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia against Al Qaida: “More al-Qaida have been caught in Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia than any other place in the world. And so they are working very hard with us.” Of course, more Al Qaida have also not been caught in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia than any other place in the world.

(Update: and you know what no one asked her about in either interview? Her trip to the Middle East. That’s how significant it was.)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Identical cousins?

From the London Sunday Times: So in May 2006 the Israelis blew up a car carrying a Palestinian family that was in the wrong place at the wrong time, killing the mother, grandmother, uncle and young son, and turning Marya Aman, now 5, into a quadriplegic. There is no medical facility capable of treating her back in Gaza, so she’s stuck in a hospital in Jerusalem, as is her father, who can’t leave the hospital grounds for fear he’ll be deported back to Gaza. This means they can’t see the remaining members of the family, including Marya’s 3-year old brother, also injured in the blast. She will need medical care for the rest of her life and of course the Israeli government is refusing to kick in.

Gosh, there’s nothing much going on that I feel like writing about, so let’s balance that out with some pictures. Cheney in Australia:

They dress alike, they walk alike,
At times they even talk alike.
You could lose your mind.
When cousins are two of a kind.

Capitol Hillary:

That’s almost as disturbing as the Marya Aman story.

A temporary feeling of goodness

Sgt Paul Cortez of the 101st Airborne got 101 100 years for participating in the Mahmudiya massacre, gang-rape, and barbeque. Where one of his accomplices at his own trial explained his actions with the words, “I hated Iraqis,” Cortez said “I still don’t have an answer. I don’t know why.” We’ll check back in 100 years.

Plan your next vacation now: the Guardian visits the Welsh National Wool Museum.

Army chief of staff Peter Schoomaker, who used to run the operation to capture Osama bin Laden, says that it isn’t really that important to capture Osama bin Laden, now that he thinks about it. “I don’t know that it’s all that important, frankly,” he said, and if we did succeed, “then what? There’s a temporary feeling of goodness, but in the long run, we may make him bigger than he is today.” That’s exactly how I feel about Scarlett Johansson not answering any of my letters and emails and invitations to join me in a trip to the Welsh National Wool Museum, and getting that restraining order. I mean, now that I think about it, I don’t know that she’s all that hot, frankly. And if I did succeed, then what? There’s a temporary... okay, I’ll stop there.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Because nothing says democracy like a good old-fashioned rally

The BBC provides an inaccurate but amusing headline today: “Afghan Warlords in Amnesty Rally.” 25,000 “warlords” held a demonstration in favor of the law granting total immunity against war-crime prosecution for mujahedeen, Taliban, etc etc. It has passed both houses of the Afghan parliament, so the demo is to pressure Karzai to sign. Appropriately enough, it was held in Kabul’s Ghazi football stadium, the site of so many public executions. If the United States government has any opinion on the bill, it sure isn’t trumpeting it.

Yes, “police” is in English.

What stirring slogans would be chanted at such a rally? Okay, most of them began “Death to...”, but perhaps we in the WIIIAIosphere can do better. CONTEST: complete the following: “Hey hey, ho ho, ____”

Today (or, with the time difference, yesterday or possibly next week) Dick Cheney was in Australia, which used to be Britain’s Guantanamo Bay. He said, “When Americans think of Australia, we think of a place with a pioneering spirit much like our own.” No we don’t, we think of kangaroos. “We think of a country that shares our founding commitments to liberty and to equality, and to our traditions of justice and tolerance.” Nope, kangaroos. “We think, above all, of the character of the Australian people -- self-reliant, practical, and good-hearted.” Kangaroos. That’s it.

Speaking of rallies for warlords...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Immensely proud

The “intelligence” that US spy agencies have provided the IAEA about the Iranian nuclear program has largely turned out to be wrong.

I know, stunning, isn’t it?

For entertainment, listen to BBC interviewer John Humphrys repeatedly demand that Tony Blair apologize to the Iraqis for fucking up their country.


Blair does not apologize.

Indeed, he is “immensely proud.”

He came close to demanding that the Iraqis apologize to him for fucking up his vision of the Ruritanian paradise he planned for them. Mostly, though, he insisted that the chaos and violence had nothing to do with a failure on the part of the invaders to plan for the security of the Iraqi people, but rather its is entirely the fault of terrorists who are simply using the invasion of Iraq as an excuse, instead of, as would have been only fit and proper, thanking us for our magnanimous actions in liberating them.

Feel the warmth

In Tokyo, Cheney met, in what the White House website calls “a greeting,” with the parents of a girl who was kidnapped in Japan by the North Koreans in 1977, when she was 13. Below is that greeting, in its entirety. Notice how Cheney connects with the Yokotas on a deep personal level, as fellow parents and fellow human beings:
MRS. YOKOTA: (As interpreted) Thank you for taking time to visit with (inaudible).

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, this is a very important issue. I know it means a great deal to the Japanese people. The Prime Minister discussed it with me last night in our meeting. And I know you had an opportunity to meet with President Bush, I guess, last year.
Clintonesque, really.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


One problem Hillary Clinton has with refusing to say that her Iraq war vote was wrong is that it implies she thinks it was right. Since it clearly wasn’t that, she needs some other adjective. Today she chose one: she wasn’t wrong, she was... wait for it... sincere. “My vote was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time.” As the patron saint of this blog said, once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made. Hillary, of course, does not have it made.

She also said “I have taken responsibility for my vote.” Isn’t that nice of her? Like if she hadn’t gone out of her way to take responsibility, whatever that means, she wouldn’t actually be responsible for her vote.

Speaking of responsibility, and indeed speaking of faking sincerity, Tony Blair has no doubt that his decision to join the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with any subsequent difficulties in that country: “The reason it is tough in Iraq and is difficult is because terrorists are making it difficult. ... We did not cause the terrorism, the terrorists caused the terrorism,” adding, “We will beat them when we realise it’s not our fault that they’re doing this. ... We will win if we don’t apologise for our values.” Yes, but do you take responsibility for your values?

Actually, I’m a little unclear on how not apologizing is relating to the capacity to win a military engagement.

Although the British will be pulling some troops out of Basra, they will be deploying Prince Harry to Iraq. And the Japanese are deploying Prince Pickles. A Defense Agency official explains: “Prince Pickles is our image character because he’s very endearing, which is what Japan’s military stands for.” Among other things.

George Bush, the hair follicle benefit, and Porkers

Bush was in Chattanooga today to tour a hospital

and talk about health care. But first, he bestowed yet another of his hilarious nicknames: “Mayor Claude Ramsey of Hamilton County. I told the Mayor, I said, in Texas, we call them county judges. (Laughter.) So I said, I might just call you Judge. And he said, well, Mr. President, you can call me whatever you want to call me. (Laughter.)”

Right off the bat he misspoke: “Now, I believe the federal government has a solemn responsibility to take care of the sick -- I mean, the disabled, the elderly and the poor.” Phew, he almost said that the government had a responsibility to the sick, thank god he caught himself in time.

Most of the speech was the same old same old. He did suggest that one problem with insurance plans is that states add mandates to cover things like “the hair follicle benefit -- well, you don’t need hair follicles, particularly if you have hair.” So he doesn’t believe in a solemn responsibility to take care of the bald.

He didn’t say what states actually require coverage of baldness treatment and if that’s for regular male pattern baldness like some people I know – hi Chris! – or for chemotherapy and the like.

All that health talk made him hungry, so he went to a restaurant called Porkers for some ribs.

Seems a little scared of those ribs. By the way, he went to Porkers with Senator Corker, which sounds like a children’s book.

Chicken hawk on the Kitty Hawk

Cheney, on his way to practice the art of diplomacy in Japan (poor Japan),

gave a speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, stationed in Tokyo, because the only audiences who will still put up with his shit are 1) captive military audiences, 2) who can’t walk out without falling into the water and going “splash.” They do look like they’re weighing that option very seriously, though.

He told them “the American people will not support a policy of retreat.” He told them “We want to complete the mission, we want to get it done right, and we want to return with honor” and they replied “Sir! Who is this ‘we’ of whom you speak, sir!”

He told ABC that the British decision to withdraw some troops from Iraq with honor, or possibly honour, was actually “an affirmation of the fact that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well.”

He called the Congressional resolution on the war “posturing on Capitol Hill,” said that “it’s important to remember that this is a Sense of the Congress resolution, that it doesn’t have any binding impact or effect” and complained that Senate Republicans were not allowed to present their resolution that wouldn’t have had any binding impact or effect. He said of that, “So there’s a certain amount of politics involved, I suppose.” He then went on to accuse Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha of having a “policy of defeat” and validating Al Qaida strategy.

Asked about McCain’s recent criticism of Rumsfeld, Cheney said, “I think Don’s a great secretary [sic].” He also said that McCain is a big pussy: “John said some nasty things about me the other day” [i.e., that Bush listens to Cheney too much] “and then next time he saw me, ran over to me and apologized. Maybe he’ll apologize to Rumsfeld.”

Giuliani: “With a campaign built on traditional 9/11 values, and with the help of every citizen who believes in the 9/11 dream, I want to make 9/11 great again.”

Al Kamen informs us that John Bolton is working on a book, but that it has no title. I believe that means it’s time for a CONTEST! YAY! To start you off: “Memoirs of a Quintessential Kiss-Up, Kick-Down Sort of Guy,” “The Time Has Come, The Walrus Said, To Talk of Many Things.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The rape of the Sabrine woman

I try to treat any claims about Iraq with a healthy scepticism, so I knew the (alleged) gang rape of Sabrine al-Janabi was going to cause me some difficulties. I really don’t want to suggest that she is lying, nor do I think she is, but so far I only have her word, and the accusation is culturally powerful and is already having significant political repercussions, so a little caution is called for. Unlike Riverbend (note: she has two posts on the subject), I don’t consider it impossible that an Iraqi woman would lie about being raped “simply to undermine the Baghdad security operation.” Lying publicly about rape would be a new, previously unthinkable phenomenon in Iraq, but so is suicide bombing. Indeed, telling the truth about being raped is also nearly unthinkable in Iraq, which, as Riverbend herself has pointed out in the past, is why there is almost certainly much more rape being perpetrated under cover of this war than we will ever hear about.

Maliki went into full cover-up mode with a blatant lack of interest in discovering the truth. With unaccustomed efficiency he had “investigated” and completely exonerated the three policemen within hours and “ordered that the honourable officers accused be rewarded.” No word on what the reward is for not gang-raping a prisoner. Is it money? A medal? He accused “known groups,” which he did not name, of being behind the charges. Janabi is accused of taking money, and of having recanted her story, by other government officials. Maliki’s office is saying medical examination proved that she had not been raped, but other Iraqi officials, Sunni ones of course, are saying the opposite. She seems to have been examined by US military doctors, who aren’t talking. Al Jazeera says she was (also?) examined at an Iraqi hospital which an official in the vice president’s office describes as an “unbiased hospital.” (Update: the unbiased hospital is American-run, not Iraqi. A military spokesmodel for the hospital, trying to be as uninformative as possible, said “She received the care she needed.” Actually, that implies that she needed medical care for something.) Much more sliming and lying to come, I’m guessing.

Oh, the alleged crime for which she was arrested was suspicion of having cooked for insurgents.

Speaking of which, oh goody, presidential election ads already. Here’s Romney’s ad, if you want to see a white guy speaking before an all-white audience with a giant flag in the background.

Well, I think he’s running for president. It says “Mitt Romney. President.” Also “Strong. New. Leadership.” “Period. Button. Stuck.” “.......”

Interestingly, it called him “the Republican governor who turned around a Democratic state.” Should presidential candidates be defining states, even their own, as Republican or Democratic?

At least he didn’t call it a Democrat state.

Romney has also been having difficulties explaining why he voted in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary. He’s attempting to portray himself as having been a rabid R for longer than he actually was (he also contributed to D candidates) and he’s contradicting his previous explanation that he voted for Paul Tsongas because he was from Massachusetts, but let’s put that to one side, because what he’s saying now about that vote tells us something about what sort of a politician he is. He’s saying that he wasn’t voting in favor of Tsongas, he was voting against Clinton, that he was voting for the weakest Democratic candidate because he actually wanted Bush the Elder to win; Bush had the R primary locked down, so Romney was free to use his ballot... to cause mischief. A terrible civics lesson from a man with an impoverished, cynical understanding of democracy.

Michael McConnell, the successor to John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, was sworn in today at an Air Force base, for some reason.

Remind you of anyone?

And Chimpy was there too. “I’m comfortable in knowing this is a good man who cares about one thing only, and that’s his country. And I thank his family for supporting him as he returns to government service.” Especially since Bush just said he only cares about one thing, and it’s not his family.

“I’ve asked him to ensure that our intelligence agency focus on bringing in more Americans with language skills and cultural awareness necessary to meet the threats of this new century.” Honestly, Bush talking about language skills takes all the fun out of blogging, it’s just too damned easy.

“He’ll find that I value the intelligence products that you create. He’s going to find that the intelligence product is an important part of my strategic thought, and important part of helping me get this government to respond to do our most important duty, which is to protect you.” Bush had to call it “intelligence product,” because otherwise that sentence would have been “He’s going to find that intelligence is an important part of my strategic thought and... why is everyone laughing?”

McConnell warned that “today’s threats move at increasing speeds. The time needed to develop a terrorist plot, communicated around the globe, and put it into motion has been drastically reduced. The time line is no longer a calendar, it is a watch.” So any Muslim found in possession of a watch will henceforth be sent to Gitmo.

That would have been a funnier joke if people hadn’t actually been sent there for having a brand of watch (Sanyo?) favored by terrorists.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wooden teeth versus wooden head

Congress is considering a resolution asking Japan to apologize for forcing women into sexual slavery during World War II. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso says the resolution is “not based on objective facts. It doesn’t take into account Japan’s response to the issue, and is extremely regrettable.” It would be interesting to hear what Aso considers the objective facts to be.

And that on the official birthday of George Washington, who once said that reports of his chopping down a cherry tree were not based on objective facts. To celebrate, Bush went to Mount Vernon and hung out with someone he may or may not have realized was only an actor pretending to be George Washington.

Bush also pretended to be George Washington: “Today, we’re fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life. And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone.” Of course, that was just what Washington said only after he falsely accused Canada of having blunderbusses of mass destruction and being part of an axis of evil with England and Hesse (although cynics said he wanted to start a war to get hold of Canada’s whale oil).

Well, if you think you can do better than that (and how could you not?), have a go at captioning these pictures:

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What I would consider a success tomorrow is that we have gotten started

Condi is in the Middle East for a summit with Olmert and Abbas. She isn’t really expecting much in the way of accomplishments, or indeed, physical coordination: “I am not going to ask anyone to run when we really need to walk for a while, because, as I said, I think if we ask everybody to run somebody is going to fall down.” Really, if they both show up, that’s good enough for Condi: “Nobody is at the point of talking about a deal... What I would consider a success tomorrow is that we have gotten started.” That woman is the guru of low achievers everywhere. Following her example, if I get out of bed tomorrow, I will consider it a success. If I put my pants on, it will be a triumph.

She met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, which may or not have produced any tangible results, and who cares because Condi & Tzipi meetings always produce such fabulous photos:

There were more French troops fighting for American independence at Yorktown than American troops, did you know that? I didn’t know that.

John McCain gave a speech promoting abstinence to a bunch of South Carolina teenagers at a rally sponsored by one of those religious anti-abortion “pregnancy centers.” In yesterday’s story announcing the rally, the AP chose to use this 3-month old picture, presumably because McCain seems to be trying to hold up his pants. Which is surprisingly immature of the AP, and I wish I’d thought of it first.

I’m frustrated that the only coverage of the speech I’ve found, from the AP, is sketchy but tantalizing. So we know he told the teenagers, “Sometimes I’ve made the wrong choice,” and he seems to have compared high school peer pressure to his experiences at the Hanoi Hilton, where the North Vietnamese “wanted to make us do things that we otherwise wouldn’t do.” More, dammit, we want more!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Not just random black market activities

One of the people who gave that anonymous briefing accusing Iran of smuggling IEDs into Iraq (I am calling them IEDs because I have decided that EFPs are in fact IEDs with better PR, which the Pentagon is pretending are a new scary weapon precisely because they need a new scary weapon to blame on Iran) is now known to be Gen. William Caldwell IV, Military Moron. News-googling shows that Caldwell claimed earlier this week that the Iranian government had to be behind the IEDs because if these were “just random black market activities,” everyone would have Iranian weapons, but, he insisted darkly, it’s only the Shiites that have them. Quod erat demonstrandum, says the master of logic. He speaks as if the black market is like a supermarket that anyone can shop in, but of course Iranian arms smugglers would be far more likely to have links with Shiite Iraqi arms smugglers (also, Sunni regions do not border Iran).

Holy Joe Lieberman went to the Senate on the Sabbath to vote against the surge resolution (assholery knows no day of rest), but John McCain would not violate the far greater sanctity of a campaign stop in Iowa, where he said that the resolution endangered our ability to overawe the president of Iran, “whose name I refuse to learn to pronounce.” Oh, snap! Ahmadinejad will no doubt sob bitter tears into his pillow when he hears of this snub.

That was the first time I have ever written “Oh, snap.” It will be the last.

Capitulating to Jihadist Joe

Headline of the day that doesn’t mean the sort of thing it sounds like it means, from the Miami Herald: “Gay Mayor Reaches out to Hardaway.”

Another headline of the day, from the AP: “U.S. Expects Change After Fidel’s Death.” Lack of breathing, decomposition, that sort of thing.

Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia (another congressional doctor who diagnosed Terri Schiavo by video as not being brain–dead): “What we’re doing with this resolution is not a salute to G.I. Joe, it’s a capitulation to Jihadist Joe.” Now with kung fu grip.

Note to Hillary Clinton: I didn’t consider it especially important that you acknowledge that your vote in 2002 allowing Bush to invade Iraq was a mistake, until you dug in so hard against it. Your line that you wouldn’t have voted as you did if you knew then what you know now is intended to make it seem that your failure was to see the future, when it was actually a failure to see what was going on in the present.

An opera version of “The Fly.” Help me, help me.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Straight line

George Bush had two moles removed from his head today. Comments?

The resolution may be non-binding, but would anyone mind if we bound Joe Lieberman and stuffed him in a closet? Anyone?

Holy Joe Lieberman hang-doggedly warned today that the non-binding resolution will turn into a constitutional crisis, “an escalating battle that threatens to consume our government over many months ahead, a battle that will neither solve the sprawling challenges we face in Iraq nor strengthen our nation to defeat the enemies of our security throughout the world from Islamist extremists.” In other words – and I suspect you’re all way ahead of me here – exactly like the war in Iraq.

He said that the resolution “proposes nothing.” He said it “is a strategy of ‘no,’ while our soldiers are saying, ‘yes, sir’ to their commanding officers as they go forward into battle.” Um, yeah, that’s kinda the point.

He finished with a call to “reach out to one another to find that measure of unity that can look beyond today’s disagreements and secure the nation’s future and the future of all who will follow us as Americans.” Which is the emptiest of empty rhetoric since he, to borrow a phrase, proposes nothing, signally failing to describe what measure of unity can be found between rabid militarists like himself and, you know, sane people.

The White House response to the resolution pointed out that even if Congress doesn’t support Bush’s “surge,” “This plan enjoys the support of the Iraqi government and U.S. military leadership, including Gen. David Petraeus”. And as we know, the United States Constitution states that “the government of the United States shall consist of three branches, the (Iraqi) Executive, the (dirty hippy) Legislative, and the US military leadership, including Gen. David Petraeus.”

Signs of progress

A spokesmodel for Gen. Qanbar went on Iraqi state television to brag that “only” ten murdered corpses were found in Baghdad last night. Hurrah!

A Venezuelan court imposed a fine of $20,000 or so on an opposition newspaper after a humor writer wrote a parody of a conversation between Hugo Chavez and his 9-year old daughter, whose privacy the writer is accused of violating by writing fictional dialog for her, following a Chavez speech in which he recounted how his daughter complained about the horse in the nation’s coat of arms galloping towards the right, which was subsequently changed.

Speaking of privacy, as in “right of,” Tennessee state rep Stacey Campfield (a man) has introduced a bill to require death certificates for aborted fetuses, thus putting the names of their mothers into the public record. Campfield (a white man) was last seen attempting to join the legislature’s Black Caucus, saying that the KKK has “less racist bylaws” than it does (he didn’t get in)(to the Black Caucus, I mean, not the KKK). Oh, and he’s also a blogging white man.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Victim of circumstances

Trust the Chinese to screw up what should have been a hilarious news story about a fraudulent investment scam involving the breeding of giant ants by sentencing its organizer to death.

Putin has hinted with his usual subtlety that his successor next year will be Sergei Ivanov, promoting him from defense minister to first deputy prime minister.

The two have worked together since the good old KGB days. His resume isn’t encouraging, and as defense minister he’s often threatened Georgia and other neighboring countries, but I can’t say I know much about him as a person. Two years ago, his son was not charged for running over and killing an old lady while speeding through Moscow and probably running a light (according to a witness who was never seen again). Several other members of the Putin clique, all from St Petersburg, were also promoted.

And Putin fired the “elected” president of Chechnya, Alu Alkhanov, in favor of 30-year old prime minister slash death squad leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Not sure what that’s all about (or whether this changes the date of the next elections from 2008); I’m embarrassed to say I’ve rather lost track of Chechnya. Alkhanov has been given the job of deputy justice minister in Russia.

I’ve just created a new label for posts about Chechnya. I see that in a 2001 post, I quoted Ivanov calling a colonel who raped and strangled an 18-year old Chechen woman a “victim of circumstances.” Lovely.

The London Times reports that, as Spain is beginning a trial for the Madrid train bombings of 2004, the US is refusing to allow Spain access to the Al Qaida leader who was in charge of the ring, Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, currently being held in one of our fine secret prisons. Spain can’t file for extradition, because the US never officially arrested him. Here’s the killer detail: the US used to let Spain question prisoners held in Guantanamo (before the bombings, they were trying to find out about Setmarian), but no longer does so, to punish Spain for pulling its troops out of Iraq by increasing the likelihood that future terrorist attacks on Spain will succeed.

Out of chaos would become vacuums

Today Bush paid a visit to his ideological enablers at the American Enterprise Institute, which he kept calling by its initials. He said “I appreciate what the AEI stands for,” but he might have been thinking it was the Affiliated Engineers Inc. or Appalachian Education Initiative or Azimuth Error Indicator or Alleanza Evangelica Italiana.

Prepositions are really not his friend: “there is one principle of which every member of every party should be able to agree on”. If you’re wondering, that one principle is “We’ve got to fight the terrorists overseas, so we don’t have to face them here at home again.”

In this speech, Bush’s favorite adjective “interesting” was back with a vengeance: “One of the interesting things that I have found here in Washington is there is strong disagreement about what to do to succeed, but there is strong agreement that we should not fail.” Isn’t that interesting? “It’s an interesting enemy, isn’t it?” Aren’t they just? “Isn’t it interesting that NATO is now in Afghanistan?” Fascinating. There were also “interesting” stories and quotations and, not quite the same thing, I know, but he said that various things, usually military, were “in our interests” no fewer than 10 times.

Some things are more than interesting; they are, in fact, amazing. 9/11, for example, “was an amazing turning point in the history of our country, really, when you think about it.”

It’s very important for you all, as citizens, to understand the blindingly obvious: “It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand a mother in downtown Baghdad wants her child to be able to walk the streets peacefully, just like mothers here in America want their children to be able to go to a playground and play peacefully.”

“And the reason why I mention success is, it’s important for us to succeed.” At least he had a good reason for mentioning it.

His rhetoric flew to new heights of rhetoricity: “If we were to leave this young democracy before the job is done, there would be chaos, and out of chaos would become vacuums, and into those power vacuums would flow extremists who would be emboldened; extremists who want to find safe haven.”

Most of the speech was devoted to Afghanistan.

“Under the Taliban, free enterprise was stifled. Today, the Afghan economy has doubled in size since liberation.” Admittedly, that gain was entirely in the, ahem, agricultural sector. But of course he wants to put an end to that: “I have made my concerns to President Karzai pretty clear -- not pretty clear, very clear”. And there is nothing more terrifying that George Bush trying to make himself very clear.

For example, what does he really think about poppy production? “These poppy growers are trying to make a living. And the idea is to provide these farmers with credit, and seeds, and fertilizer, and assistance to bring their products to market.” Well, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

We’re helping Afghanistan in other ways as well: “it’s in our interest and the interest of NATO countries to provide training so they have more, more strong fighters.” Also, we’re helping restructure the country’s hilariously corrupt judicial system because “There’s nothing more discouraging when justice is not fair.” We’re sending them prosecutors, judges and lawyers to help, because when you see a country that’s really fucked up, your first thought is “I know! Let’s send lawyers!” He says this job “must be neat, really.” But it is a thankless task: “And I cannot thank our citizens for taking time out of their lives to go.”

What we really need to send are some cowboys: “Taliban and al Qaeda fighters do hide in remote regions of Pakistan -- this is wild country; this is wilder than the Wild West.” Like Deadwood, but without all the creative swearing.

And why is it important again? “And a victory for the forces of liberty in Afghanistan will be a resounding defeat in this ideological struggle.”

It means I’m trying to protect our troops

Some additional points about Bush’s press conference:

Language Log’s Benjamin Zimmer points out that Bush used the term “Democrat” in its insulting sense three times (Democrat leadership, Democrat senators, Democrat members).

Dana Milbank points out that Bush used the phrase “I believe” no fewer than 18 times (Among others: “I believe that success in Baghdad will have success in helping us secure the homeland,” “I believe an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be very dangerous for world peace,” and the somewhat contradictory “I believe Iran is an unbelievably vital nation.”) He also used “in other words” eleven times; the frequency of that one has been steadily increasing for a while now.

Bush said that people could disagree with his Iraq policy and still be “as patriotic a person as I am.” That is, he added, as long as they don’t actually act in any way on their beliefs, and do, in fact, act exactly the same way they would if they thought he was a veritable tactical genius: “Can somebody say, ‘we disagree with your tactics or strategy, but we support the military’ -- absolutely, sure. But what’s going to be interesting is if they don’t provide the flexibility and support for our troops that are there to enforce the strategy that David Petraeus, the general on the ground, thinks is necessary to accomplish the mission.” Wouldn’t a better definition of patriot be someone who actively opposed a policy they considered disastrous?

Another much-repeated phrase, in discussing alleged Iranian explosive devices in Iraq, was the need to “protect our troops” (seven times). But he specifically denied manufacturing evidence in pursuit of a war with Iran: “Now David says, does this mean you’re trying to have a pretext for war? No. It means I’m trying to protect our troops.” But he’s spent the last five plus years telling us that self-protection must be preemptive: fighting them over there, smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud, Bush Doctrine, lessons of 9/11, etcetera etcetera.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dare to dream

Today Bush met with Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. He did not use her as a pillow, and it showed.

He pointed out that this was the second time they’d met: “The first time we met you were wondering whether or not it was possible to achieve your dreams, and you asked for our help.” For example, that dream she had about shaking hands with a talking monkey.

Bush press conference: Iran is an unbelievably vital nation

[I’m updating with pictures, which I couldn’t easily add to the post when I wrote it on the library computers near where I was getting a smog check.

You’ll be happy to hear I passed my smog check.

And so did my car.

Ba DUMP bump.]

For Valentine's Day, George Bush presents us with a bouquet of bullshit press conference.

He says he's been talking with Petraeus (aka Capt. Combover): "We talked about the fact that our coalition troops that are heading into Baghdad will be arriving on time. In other words, I'm paying attention to the schedule of troop deployments to make sure that they're there," adding, I'm taking attendance. I'm reading out their names, and when they hear their names, they'll answer with Here, or Present, or Yo, or Surging.

He says Iraqi and US military forces are coordinating. "In other words, there's good conversation, constant conversation between the commanders of our troops and their troops, and that's a positive development." Granted, they don't speak the same language, and we fired all our interpreters because they were all gay and stuff, but still... constant conversation. "What was that?" "I didn't understand you." "I'll speak a little louder, maybe you'll understand me then."

"I fully recognize we're not going to be able to stop all suicide bombers. I know that. But we can help secure that capital; help the Iraqis secure that capital so that people have a sense of normalcy". Normalcy with suicide bombers. Normalcy plus, we're calling it.

"I believe that success in Baghdad will have success in helping us secure the homeland."

Asked how he knows Iranian leaders are responsible for EFPs in Iraq, he admits he doesn't. Fortunately, that's irrelevent: "Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?" I don't recall him asking that question about Abu Ghraib.

Then he twice called Iran "Iraq" ("We have a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iraq [sic]. There's a variety of issues that we have with Iraq [sic].") which is almost ridiculously telling.

Then he went out of his way to praise Iran, saying "Iran is an unbelievably vital nation." And boy does he plan to change that. "It's got a great history, it's got wonderful traditions". None of the reporters asked him to name any of those traditions or recite any of that history.

Asked whether Iraq is in a civil war, he whittered on for a bit, then was asked the question again and said, "it's hard for me, living in this beautiful White House, to give you an assessment, firsthand assessment." Funny, I can tell pretty clearly from my home. Guess it's just not beautiful enough.

When talking about the Congressional resolution, he repeatedly used the word "opinion," as in "they're just like assholes, everyone has one," as if Congressional resolutions were of no more consequence than "I thought that episode of the Gilmore Girls was kind of lame."