Saturday, March 31, 2007

I’m a Plan A man

Today Bush was visited at Camp David by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Said Bush, “You come as a friend, we welcome you as a friend, and our discussions were very friendly.” You know, according to the WaPo, Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat using a vocabulary of only 236 words. Just saying.

You know what’s not so friendly? Malaria. “There is no excuse for malaria to continuing to kill as many people as it does.” That malaria sure does need a good talking to.

As does Iran: “the British hostages issue is a serious issue because the Iranians took these people out of Iraqi water. ...They’re innocent, they were doing nothing, and they were summarily plucked out of water.” Summary plucking, a fate worse than death. And out of water, to boot.

Then he went on about Iran and nukes for a bit, concluding, “And I’m hopeful that the people of Iran will be tired of the isolation. I would hope that there would be some rationality amongst their leaders in choosing a better way forward for the people.” Funny, because that – and you’re all way ahead of me on this one, aren’t you? – is what I’ve been saying about the United States for years.

However, he went on, “the United States does believe that it’s in our interest that we have people-to-people exchanges.” He’s not referring to exchanging the British sailors for the Iranian diplomats or whatever they were who were seized in Iraq in January and still held by the US. No, he means wrestlers: “As I say, we have no problem with the Iranian people. As a matter of fact, we just sent a wrestling team to Iran, all attempting to make it clear to the Iranian people that we’re interested in having a constructive relationship, and it is the decisions of their government that are preventing that from happening.” Because nothing says constructive relationship like homoerotic grappling wrestling.

Speaking of constructive relationships, he reiterated his eternal support for the Gonzolator: “Attorney General Gonzales is an honorable and honest man, and he has my full confidence. He is providing documents for Congress to find the truth. He will testify in front of Congress, and he will tell the truth. ... But I will remind you, there is no credible evidence that there has been any wrongdoing.” So that settles that.

Asked if he had a Plan B if the Doha trade talks fail, he said, “I’ve been asked about Plan B’s before, on different subjects. And that kind of means you’re willing to retreat. I’m a Plan A man”. 236 words. Just saying.

George Bush likes peanuts as much as the next guy

Bush’s weekly radio address attacked the “emergency war spending bills” just passed, including their “arbitrary deadline for surrender and withdrawal in Iraq” and, once again, “secure peanut storage.” He needed to add the word secure so he could get to this little joke: “I like peanuts as much as the next guy...” (They’re not like those pretzels, which you think are your friends, then they try and choke you. Stoopid pretzels.) “...but I believe the security of our troops should come before the security of our peanut crop.” (What he may be admitting here is that the reason he was initially so slow to provide the troops in Iraq with the proper body armor was that he just assumed that, like peanuts, they came with their own natural protective shells.)

Also, the Democrats want to raise your taxes, we need to cut entitlements, special interest projects, reckless taxing and spending, yadda yadda yadda.

What’s wrong with putting a bag over her head?

We knew that members of the police were involved in the reprisal killings in Tal Afar earlier this week. There were even reports, which I haven’t heard confirmed, that the Iraqi military and police shot at each other as the military tried to stop the massacres. 18 of the police were arrested. And very shortly afterwards, the government, provincial rather than national near as I can make out, simply ordered them released. They may or may not have been re-arrested since then.

It’s disheartening when a thuggish and criminally stupid regime that is starving to death those of its citizens it doesn’t beat to death gets the unanimous public backing of its neighbors, as Zimbabwe’s Mugabe just has from the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (listen to its anthem here). That’s all I have to say about that.

Monty Python’s Terry Jones expresses his disgust at the Iranian treatment of the British sailors & marines: “And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God’s sake, what’s wrong with putting a bag over her head? ... It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives...” You get the idea.

Speaking of putting a bag over her head, the Bushies are bitching about Nancy Pelosi’s planned trip to Syria, which sends the wrong message. As opposed to Bush’s meeting this week with Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, the “Butcher of Chechnya.” While they’ve acknowledged that that meeting was a mistake, I haven’t noticed them doing anything to clarify their attitude towards the Butcher.

From the Butcher of Chechnya to the Kangaroo Skinner from Oz. David Hicks, the Australian who fought against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001 before fleeing and selling his guns, being captured and spending 5 years in Guantanamo, plead guilty after his lawyer was kicked out of the military tribunal for refusing to sign an agreement to abide by rules that had not been written yet. The plea agreement includes provisions that he renounce all his previous claims about being beaten and tortured in Gitmo, declare that his detention was entirely lawful, not speak to the media for one year after his release, not sue the US for having been tortured, and not profit from, say, a book deal. And you know something? It’s kind of refreshing. At long last the US has stopped pretending that it doesn’t torture or that it has any interest in investigating allegations of abuse or torture. That the prosecutors had the authority to make such a deal, threatening Hicks with more years of confinement if he persisted in his claims of torture, tells you everything you need to know. He will serve out his sentence in an Australian prison, John Howard being willing to imprison one of his nationals on the basis of this miserable excuse for a trial. One wonders if he’s also promised to arrest Hicks if he violates the gag order.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Every time I come to Walter Reed my spirits are lifted

Bush went to Walter Reed today. “Every time I come to Walter Reed my spirits are lifted,” he said. So that makes it all worthwhile. Also, no one beat him death with their new prosthetic limb, so all in all a very successful visit.

He acknowledged the failures of Walter Reed and put the blame firmly on the non-humans responsible for them: “The problems at Walter Reed were caused by bureaucratic and administrative failures. The system failed you, and it failed our troops.” Also, a building failed our troops and it has been properly punished: “Building 18 has been closed. We’re fixing that which needs to be fixed, including, interestingly enough, putting a new roof on it.”

“This military system of ours, when you really think about it, just across the country, it’s very complex and it’s large.” Sir, you just blew my mind, sir!

“It requires a unique person to come here on a daily basis, and to heal the hurts of those who served our country.” I mean, he added, I only come here once a year or so for a photo op, and afterwards I have the willies for a month.

No, sorry, not the willies: he has his spirits lifted for a month.


Yesterday Secretary of War Robert
gates 28
suggested to Congress that Guantanamo could be closed if only they changed the law to “address the concerns about some of these people who really need to be incarcerated forever, but that doesn’t get them involved in a judicial system where there is the potential of them being released, frankly.”

Thursday, March 29, 2007

You have to keep explaining to them, very patiently, what it is necessary to do

Astonishingly, Blair did not win over the Iranians with his devastating argument: 29 degrees 50.36 minutes north, 048 degrees 43.08 minutes east. Both sides are taking umbrage at a fearsome rate, breaking it down into its constituent particles of outrage and processing it into great steaming piles of righteous indignation. The Iranians had promised to release the chain-smoking sailor Faye Turney, but backtracked when Britain refused to admit it was in the wrong. Then it released a letter written by Turney (assuming her native tongue is Persian-badly-translated-into-stilted-English), admitting the incursion and calling on Britain to pull out of Iraq. Blair said it was a “disgrace actually, when people are used in that way.” He explained his tactics: “What you have to do when you are engaged with people like the Iranian regime, you have to keep explaining to them, very patiently, what it is necessary to do and at the same time make them fully aware there are further measures that will be taken if they’re not prepared to be reasonable.” I don’t know how they can fail to respond favorably to such an approach.

Interesting story in the Indy about how Turkey has restored a 1000-year-old Armenian Christian church abandoned during the Armenian genocide as a symbol of Turkey’s new-found tolerance, but won’t allow it to have a cross or be re-consecrated.

Marijuana, like Viagra, is evidently not kosher for Passover (which the pro-cannabis Green Leaf Party in Israel points out means that it must be kosher the rest of the year). Probably just as well: the munchies and gefilte fish are not a good combination.

Speaking of not a good combination, George Bush spoke today. About the war supplemental bill. “[W]e expect there to be no strings on our commanders,” he said. Really, he should take that up with their tailors.

He also attended a ceremony at which Congressional Gold Medals were awarded to some of the Tuskegee Airmen. For your captioning pleasure, some pictures of Bush with Nancy Pelosi and Robert Byrd.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How to get the attention of the American people in a positive way

As he so fearsomely threatened, Tony Blair has released hard evidence that the British sailors were seized within Iraqi waters (actually, floating on top of Iraqi waters, one would assume). Here is that hard evidence: 29 degrees 50.36 minutes north, 048 degrees 43.08 minutes east. Pretty much conclusive, huh?

Title of a Bush speech: “President Bush Discusses Economy, War on Terror During Remarks to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.”

“It’s good to be with fellow conservationists,” he told the ranchers.

“[T]here’s a fundamental debate in Washington, when you really get down to it,” he told them, “and the debate is who best to spend your money. And I believe a cattleman can spend their money better than the government can.” So there’s a fundamental debate in Washington over whether cattlemen can spend money better than the government. This was in fact a point of division between Madison and Hamilton in the Federalist Papers (Madison, not surprisingly, said it was the cattlemen).

“I say the tax cuts work. Since we enacted major tax reform in 2003, in response to recession and a terrorist attack, this economy of ours has created more than 7 million jobs”. Tax cuts were a response to 9/11?

“When I’m talking to [foreign] leaders and they’ve got an issue with American beef, it’s on the agenda. I say, if you want to get the attention of the American people in a positive way, you open up your markets to U.S. beef.” Also, “Every time we break down a barrier to trade, it makes it more likely somebody who’s raising a cow will have an opportunity to sell that cow into a better market.” Not better for the cow, mind you.

He did not say whether the Iraqis have gotten the attention of the American people in a positive way by opening up their markets to US beef, but he did say – and in this case his inability to correctly use prepositions is accidentally revealing – “And then they elected a government underneath that constitution.”

He’s also not good with verb forms, saying twice that “The lesson of September the 11th must not be forgot.” Or possibly he’s confusing the lesson of September 11 with old acquaintance and auld lang syne.

The Iraqi people, he says, “see positive changes.” In proof of this, he quoted... wait for it... “two Iraqi bloggers -- they have bloggers in Baghdad, just like we’ve got here”. He didn’t mean Riverbend, who hasn’t posted in more than a month. Actually, I don’t know who he meant, since the alleged quote he gave from these alleged Iraqi alleged bloggers about how everything is so much better now, is nowhere to be found on the web, according to alleged Google.

[Update: It’s evidently the blog Iraq the Model (which I don’t know, although its blogroll is entirely right-wing and, while long, fails to include Juan Cole or Riverbend), but the quotes he used seem to be from a Wall Street Journal op-ed by the two rather than the blog. Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the NYT points out that the bloggers met Bush in the White House in 2004.]

“If the House bill becomes law, our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars.” And they’d probably mark them with smiley faces. SMILEY FACES!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

He doesn’t recall having recollections

Dana Perino clears up the question of whether Alberto Gonzales was involved in the decision to fire the US attorneys: “he says he doesn’t recall having recollections about having deliberative discussions about the ongoing process”.

How many of these stupid alternative fuels photo ops can Bush hold? Today he went to see some Post Office and FedEx trucks which are powered by electricity or switch grass or clean coal technology or possibly windmills. He said, “The goal I laid out of reducing gasoline by 20 percent over 10 years is a realistic goal. In other words, this isn’t a pipe dream,” adding, “In other words, this isn’t a dream about a pipe.”

Don’t make him cartographical. You wouldn’t like him when he’s cartographical

Tony Blair says that if Iran doesn’t hand back the 15 British sailors, “this will move into a different phase.” He may be forced to bring out... the maps. And coordinates. Which will prove (somehow) that they were in Iraqi and not Iranian waters. Said a Blair spokesmodel early in the day, “We so far have not made explicit why we know that, because we don’t want to escalate this.”

Blair said, “In the end, it is a question really for the Iranian government as to whether they want to abide by international law or not.” After all, it’s not like the British military is in Iraqi waters as part of a war that violates... oh, you know.

Tuesday Blair also attended a service at Westminster Abbey to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. A black protester shouted that the queen should apologize, both for the slave trade and for what she was wearing.

Condi does it in parallel and with each of them bilaterally

At the last press conference (I pray to great muppety Odin) of Condi’s triumphal trip to the Middle East, she repeatedly called Abbas and Olmert “serious people.” Maybe the joke was just too subtle for her.

NO USE SITTING ALONE IN YOUR ROOM: “And so I think the really important thing that we’ve done over the last few months is that they’re not in their corners; they’re in the same room and they’re going to walk down a path together.”

NOT, REPEAT, NOT A DOUBLE ENTENDRE: “As you will remember, when I came here I talked a lot about doing this in parallel and doing it with each of them bilaterally”.

REALLY, NOT EVEN SLIGHTLY A DOUBLE ENTENDRE: “But last time I was here, I think we were able to regroup in a sense. We were able to hold the trilateral. But then the question became what would the Palestinians and Israelis be able to do together.”

Fixating and sensationalizing

The city of New York is asking federal court to keep the records of police surveillance and infiltration of activist groups prior to the 2004 Republican National Convention sealed. It offers superb arguments: 1) the media would “fixate upon and sensationalize them”. Yes, that would be just like the media (at least, now that the long national nightmare of waiting to find out what drugs were in Anna Nicole Smith’s system is over). They might indeed “fixate” on them rather than, as the NYPD would prefer, “ignore” them (and the details I’ve seen so far do not require further sensationalization). 2) The “documents were not written for consumption by the general public.” So, if I’m following this logic correctly, they should be kept from the general public because the spies didn’t want the public to see them.

Another George Monbiot article on why biofuels suck. Judge it for yourselves.

Odd headline in the WaPo about the referendum on various authoritarian measures in already authoritarian Egypt: “Apathy Marks Constitutional Vote in Egypt.” The opposition called for a boycott, so maybe the low turnout is just possibly the result of something other than apathy.

Headline of the day (AP): “Report: Boy Competent in School Killing.”

Monday, March 26, 2007

Alberto Gonzales and his (snicker) integrity

Alberto Gonzales was interviewed by NBC today (the link is to the transcript. The 10-minute video on the page is only viewable 1) after watching a commercial, 2) on Internet Explorer. I’m not sure which is more obnoxious). He says that he and his family have been “pained” by the attacks on his credibility. “I grew up with nothing but my integrity. And someday, when I leave this office, I am confident that I will leave with my integrity.” Well, can you remember when you last saw it?

He denied that he personally had any improper motives in firing the attorneys. “I know the reasons why I made the decision,” he said several times, although he doesn’t actually say what those reasons were and he’s claiming a Reaganesque management style such that he didn’t know anything at all about the work of his US attorneys and left the decisions on who to fire up to subordinates who do. One wonders what he actually does all day. Looks under couch cushions for his integrity, I guess.

He also said, repeatedly and specifically, that there was “nothing in the documents” to prove improper motives. If that isn’t reassuring enough, “I’ve asked the Office of Professional Responsibility at the department to look into this. And — they will be working, along with the Office of Inspector General, to make it clear and reassure the American people that nothing improper happened here.” Because nothing is more reassuring than the investigators’ boss telling us what the results of the investigation will be before it has taken place.

Gonzo & Goodling & Die Yort

Alberto Gonzales’s senior counsel Monica Goodling will refuse to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Goodling took a leave of absence earlier this month. Whether that’s paid or unpaid I don’t know. It should be paid since she’s doing the same job, ensuring that the truth is not told to Congress, that she did before going on leave.

Okay, regular readers will have figured out right away that the reason I’m writing about this is because I want to point out that if there was ever a perfect name for an employee for the Department of Justice (she used to be its spokesmodel, too), it is Monica Goodling.

The Justice Dept website’s front page currently shows Gonzales putting a, ah, er, good face on things (click to enlarge, if you dare).

See, that’s what he and the US attorneys should be doing, is the message here, combating the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in Colorado. Troy Eid is not as justice departmenty a name as Monica Goodling, but it is Die Yort spelled backwards, for whatever that’s worth.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I’m quite flexible on what geometry we use

Some more diplo-gibberish from Condi in the Middle East, much of it about the “road map.” She explained, “The roadmap is really a kind of framework.” How will we use this roadmap, which is really a kind of framework? “We’ll use many different geometries, I’m sure, as we go through this process, but the key is to continue down this road toward a two-state solution.” And in a press briefing, she added, “I’m quite flexible on what geometry we use.” I’m not sure, but the different “geometries” may have something to do with the “political horizon” she keeps talking about (“if you’re going to talk about a political horizon, you have to know what issues people think are blocking the horizon”), or possibly about her holding talks with Abbas and Olmert separately, that is, “I think they have to move more also in parallel”. Somehow, I don’t think Condi remembers any more of her high school geometry than I do.

She accused Iran of “putting negative Iranian influence into an already difficult situation”.

She says Bush is really quite involved in the Middle East process, really he is. “[A]nd you know I’m with the President a lot, and it is almost always a subject when we are together.” Hoo baby. “He is, after all, the author of the two-state solution more than you will probably ever know because when he was putting that speech together, it was the President who insisted on being clear that we were talking about the formation of a Palestinian state and even clearer what it would be called.”

Readers may suggest in comments what Bush wanted to call the Palestinian state. Not-Jew-istan?

Asked in Egypt why the US didn’t pressure Israel to give up its nukes, Condi replied, “we’ve long said we hope that the day will come when there is no need for any state to contemplate the need for weapons of this kind in the Middle East.”

So while I was looking for a nice picture of Condi to put on this post – you know, this sort of thing...

... I ran across this picture, which the AFP has captioned, “Members of the Hamas security forces show off their combat skills during their graduation ceremony in Gaza City”.

Reading three of these transcripts in a row is doing funny things to my brain. A reporter, following up about Saudi Arabia’s role, said, “Yeah, but you said hope and assume...” At which point I thought, “Yes, and if you assume, you make an ass of u and me; and if you hope, you make a ho pee.” I think it may be time to lie down and watch tonight’s Simpsons.

Talking about the political horizon in parallel

Condi Rice is in the Middle East, doing her darndest to solve that region’s problems. While Israeli PM Olmert is insisting that Palestine shouldn’t even have formed a government before the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Condi is spewing platitudes and inanities about “establish[ing] a common agenda” and how “I think it can help all of us to have a destination in mind. I think this time it is best to talk about that political horizon in parallel. But I sincerely hope in the future the parties themselves can talk about the political horizon themselves.”

Fareed Zakaria lists the many promises the Maliki regime has made about reconciliation which have not been kept.

The Novgorod police broke up the demonstration yesterday, with great violence. A spokesmodel for the city claimed it was necessary to protect the children in the area. But as I mentioned yesterday, it was the government itself that put them there, in a children’s festival they scheduled in the location the demonstration organizers had announced they would be using.

In a statement about the British sailors seized by Iran in the Tonkin Gulf the territorial waters of Iraq and/or Iran, Tony Blair seems rather worried that Iran isn’t getting the message that he doesn’t, you know, like that sort of thing: “I hope the Iranian government understands how fundamental an issue this is for us. We have certainly sent the message back to them very clearly indeed. They should not be under any doubt at all about how seriously we regard this act, which is unjustified and wrong.”

Caption contest:

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Once again in today’s radio address, Bush attacked the Iraq bill for including funds for non-war-related things such as peanut storage. Peanut storage is sort of a sore subject for Bush, who as a child had to be taken to the hospital 57 times after stuffing peanuts up his nose.

Speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership, Dick Cheney demanded “that Congress should make all the tax cuts permanent -- and that includes ending the federal death tax.” The death tax is sort of a sore subject for Cheney, because he is one of the undead, which is kind of a gray area, death-tax wise.

Cheney went on to accuse Congress of “not supporting the troops, they’re undermining them.” He went on, “And when members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines, or other arbitrary measures, they’re telling the enemy simply to run out the clock and wait us out.” It’s interesting that it’s deadlines he labels arbitrary, since there are hardly any objective criteria for the achievement of “victory.” If Bush declared “victory,” it would be (to quote the dictionary definition of arbitrary), “based on random choice or personal whim... contingent solely upon one’s discretion.”

The Sunday Times of London says that Russian tv stations have been given lists of politicians who may not ever be mentioned on-air. Un-persons, if you will. And up in Socialist Heaven, George Orwell is saying, “1984 wasn’t meant to be a user’s manual, you know.”

The WaPo Style Invitational is good this week. Unreal facts. Some of them:
A man in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, has created a ball of string the size of the planet Jupiter.

The plays of Shakespeare were actually written by a different person with the same name.

In Kenya, the native land of Barack Obama's father, the word "barack" can be translated as either "clean" or "articulate."

In France, the musical "Les Misérables" is known as "The Miserables."

One out of every 14 e-mails offering big money for help in an African currency exchange is genuine.

An unopened can of Spam found in a pharaoh's tomb was still edible after 4,000 years.

No two snowflakes are completely different.

Before World War II, Almond Joy candy bars contained real joy.

Eskimos have more words for "snot" than for "snow."

Of course they couldn’t have done the children’s festival thing with Chavez, because everyone knows he eats babies

From the Guardian, more on the increasing authoritarianism of Russia. Lots of details, including the banning of yet another party, but here’s my favorite bit:
The mayor’s office [in Nizhny Novgorod] announced a children’s festival on the site of the proposed march, and blocked off the road to carry out what it said were urgent repairs.
Speaking of rallies, the US’s Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, at the Council of Americas, said that Argentina shouldn’t have allowed Hugo Chavez to hold his rally in Buenos Aires at the same time as Bush was in Uruguay earlier this month. “I didn’t think that was the right thing to do.” Really, when George Bush is speaking, it’s just good manners for everyone on whatever continent he’s speaking on to keep quiet and still and listen respectfully. Were you people born in a granero?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Because the pig is really more of an autumn

Tom Tancredo says of proposed immigration legislation, “It’s another attempt to change the color of the lipstick they keep putting on the pig.” You know, putting lipstick on a pig really sounds like a job you’d hire an illegal immigrant to do.

It soothes my spirit to be with you

Today George Bush celebrated Greek independence day, the anniversary of the day Delta House declared independence from the tyrannical rule of Dean Wormer.

And then he looked into the big brown eyes of Archbishop Demetrios...

“One of the joys about being the President is you get to meet some pretty interesting people,” he said. “And it gives me great -- it soothes my spirit to be with you,” he said. “I thank you for your spirituality,” he said. And then he celebrated a little Greek independence of his own, if you know what I mean.

The Democrats have sent their message, now it’s time to send their money

The House passed its war spending bill, such as it is. Bush was furious. He was furious in front of that painting of George Washington, and some guys in funny hats, and little girls dressed identically.

The “narrow majority,” he exclaimed, had “abdicated its responsibility” to do what he told them to do. It was “political theater” “to score political points” because the bill “has no chance of becoming law” (remember, when he persists in something that has no chance of succeeding, it’s principled steadfastness, when others do so, it’s theater, and you know what sort of people do theater: homosexuals!) (I may be over-interpreting here).

Congress “set rigid restrictions that will require an army of lawyers to interpret.” Dude, I have a compromise: send the army of lawyers to Iraq and bring the regular army home. That way, everyone’s happy (except the lawyers, who don’t count). As Shakespeare said, “Let’s draft all the lawyers.”

“Democrats want to make clear that they oppose the war in Iraq. They have made their point. For some, that is not enough.” I know! like impotently making their point wasn’t enough for these people, they actually wanted to translate it into concrete action of some sort. “The Democrats have sent their message, now it’s time to send their money.” Whose money?

Interesting typo in the transcript (I hope it’s a typo, I haven’t seen the video): “Our men in women in uniform should not have to worry that politicians in Washington will deny them the funds and the flexibility they need to win.”

Anyway, Congress “needs” to send him a “clean bill.” Because cleanliness is next to godliness, or something.

Bush doesn’t make it explicit here, but the new line from the Bushies is that if funding is delayed, new troops won’t be trained for Iraq, so they’ll have to extend the tours of the soldiers over there now, and it’ll all be the Democrats’ fault.

The madness of anti-war crowds on the internet

With all his folksy mannerisms, Bill Clinton could make you forget that he was very much an elitist, top-down type of leader, not at all welcoming of activists and activism. He reminded us of this yesterday when he suggested that poor Hillary is being portrayed, in relation to the Iraq war, in a way that’s “just not fair,” in order “to allow [Barack Obama] to become the raging hero of the anti-war crowd on the Internet”. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which phrase is more condescending and/or contemptuous, “anti-war crowd” or “on the Internet.”

He went on to insist (in a conference call to Hillary fundraisers) that the 2002 resolution wasn’t really a vote for war but for “coercive inspections.” I guess it all depends on what the meaning of “coercive inspections” is. Still, I don’t recall her saying “Wait, that’s not I voted for” when Bush used that resolution as permission to invade Iraq. Bill says that Hillary’s refusal to apologize for her vote is from concern that future presidents might need similar resolutions for coercive inspections. Wonder which countries he has in mind to be coercively inspected?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

You’re welcome, Jon Stewart

Couldn’t help but notice that last night’s Daily Show (the clip “Reasonable Proposal”) contained the exact same response to Bush’s remark about the US Attorneys – “I named them all” – as I posted Tuesday, a joke about Bush’s propensity to assign nicknames to people, right down to one of those nicknames being “Stinky.”

I’m sure my check is in the mail.

Been in this process too long

As the talks with North Korea are on the verge of breakdown, US chief negotiator Christopher Hill comments, “The day I’m able to explain to you North Korean thinking is probably the day I’ve been in this process too long.” That’s actual Bush administration policy, you know: on the actual day you finally master the skills necessary to do your job competently, they fire you.

Which brings us to the US attorneys, specifically a WaPo editorial telling everyone to just calm down, to let go of the “stubbornness and overheated rhetoric on both sides,” which “threaten an unnecessary constitutional crisis that would only bog down the inquiry in a distracting fight over process.” I really dislike these lazy editorials that come up during every scandal – or “supposed scandal,” as the editorial calls this one – accusing both sides of being equally unreasonable. It’s the editorial equivalent of a Joe Lieberman “oh everybody in Washington (except me) is just so unreasonable and partisan” speech. The authors could write them in their sleep, and most likely do.

You know there’s something seriously wrong with it when the piece characterizes Bush’s take-it-or-fuck-off offer as “Alberto R. Gonzales would set the record straight in new hearings...” Yeah, Gonzales... record... straight...

The Post suggests that Gonzales and other Justice Dept officials testify first and then, only “if questions remain” should Karl Rove and Harriet Miers be interviewed. Of course, any familiarity with the facts makes it clear that the decision to fire the attorneys was made in the White House rather than the Justice Dept, that Gonzales has never made a big decision by himself in his whole career, so it is clearly impossible for Gonzo and the Gonzettes not to leave questions remaining (which is why I’ve sadly had to forgo calling this scandal GonzoGate).

The WaPo thinks Rove and Miers should testify on the record but needn’t do so under oath because it’s already illegal to lie to Congress. If it really makes no difference either way, there’s no reason not to swear them in. Makes you wonder why anyone is ever sworn in. (I’m not sure what the legal difference is, possibly that the oath to tell the whole truth is a higher standard, that the statute against lying to Congress doesn’t cover lies by omission.)

The Post thinks Bush should accept its eminently reasonable recommendations: “If Mr. Bush is serious about wanting the truth to come out, he will relent on this issue.”

You know someone’s been in the editorial-writing business too long if they can write, without laughing uproariously for hours, the phrase “If Mr. Bush is serious about wanting the truth to come out...”

Elsewhere in the paper, the WaPo reports on political interference in the government lawsuit against the tobacco companies. But what you never hear much about is the policy, dating from Ashcroft, of Justice systematically ordering US attorneys to demand the death penalty in cases where they didn’t think it warranted, as part of a policy to spread the federal death penalty evenly over the country, imposing it on non-death-penalty states, in other words overriding the prosecutors because of policy rather than the facts of the individual cases. I know of no case in the last 6 years that went the other direction, with a US attorney who wanted to seek the death penalty ordered not to.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Quite a considerable Tonga population in the U.S.

Today Bush met with New Zealand’s prime minister, Helen Clark.

Bush said of their discussions, “We talked about the South Pacific.” No doubt he gave a rousing rendition of “There is Nothing Like a Dame.” “And I praised the Prime Minister on her leadership in dealing with some difficult issues. I assured her that our government would want to help in any way we can. We understand this is a -- some of the countries there have got difficult issues”. There was no Q&A, perhaps because they were afraid somebody would ask him to name some of the countries there in the South Pacific, and give a précis of their difficult issues.

Clark informed him that there is “Quite a considerable Tonga population in the U.S., as well as in New Zealand.” Lord only knows what Bush thinks a Tonga might be.

She also made this unlikely statement: “The president is very familiar with the work New Zealand has been doing in Afghanistan”. Really, any statement about Bush containing the words “is very familiar” is by definition unlikely.

Bush summarized their discussions thus: “All in all, I found it to be a constructive conversation, such a good conversation I’ve decided to invite her for lunch.”

We can only conjuncture whether she found this condescending and obnoxious. Nevertheless, I entitle this series of photographs, “Dear God, how I loathe him.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I enjoyed walking up and down the line, shaking people’s hands

Today, Bush went to a Ford assembly plant in Missouri at which they make hybrid SUVs and suchlike.

I’ve always assumed that Bush’s grammar is so bad in part because he never actually listens when other people speak and thereby learns how English am to be spoken, but mostly because he’s lazy and sloppy and can’t think two words ahead. From this speech, for example, “it makes sense for us to promote that kind of technologies” and “it’s now becoming in the marketplace” and “in a relatively quick period of time.” Sloppy. Here, though, he actually stops and uncorrects himself: “My impressions are -- is that American automobile companies are essential to keeping us competitive”.

Simple pleasures for simple minds: “I enjoyed walking up and down the line, shaking people’s hands.”

He said that one way to reduce gas use 20% in 10 years – “I call it Twenty Ten” – is “to encourage consumption of hybrid automobiles.” They’re delicious with steak sauce. Although they’re not exactly “zero emissions,” if you know what I mean.

He wisely informed the plant workers, “Remember, oil is the feedstock for gasoline.”

“It may sound far-fetched to some that one of these days we’ll be making a product that can go into a Ford pickup truck out of wood chips”. Wait, is the fuel made out of wood chips, or the pickup truck?

He finds himself sooooo interesting: “It’s really interesting, isn’t it, for the President to be talking about one of these days people driving pickup trucks driven by ethanol -- fueled by ethanol from wood chips? Is it real? I think it is. Otherwise I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you about it.” Well, I’m convinced.

Caption contest:

The proposal I put forward is the proposal

While I was taking a nap, Bush spoke to reporters about the firing of the US Attorneys. Of course, the only error was in the PR, not the policy: “Neither the Attorney General, nor I approve of how these explanations were handled.”

And of course we can’t have anyone testify under oath with transcripts: “if the staff of a President operated in constant fear of being hauled before various committees to discuss internal deliberations, the President would not receive candid advice, and the American people would be ill-served.” If the possibility of having to repeat what you say privately in public produces “constant fear” in you, maybe you shouldn’t be saying that stuff in private either.

“Yet, in this case, I recognize the importance of members of Congress having -- the importance of Congress has placed on understanding how and why this decision was made.” Phew, for a minute there, he almost acknowledged that there exists a right of Congressional oversight, before he caught himself and said that it’s only Congress that places importance on this. Even then, he notes that Republicans don’t believe in this, describing his offer of limited, secret, unsworn, interviews as being “offered to the majority in Congress”. But “we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.” The word “partisan” in this context is a gratuitous insult of the motives of members of Congress, more so when coupled with a description of Karl Rove et al as “honorable.” The denunciation of “fishing expeditions,” of course, is the last refuge of people with a whole lot of rotten fish to hide (is that a mixed ichthyological metaphor?). He went on to warn Democrats against “head[ing] down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials”. Will a reporter ask him who is demanding show trials? I can’t wait to get to the Q&A part of the transcript and find out.

He says it is common for people to complain about the US attorneys. “Some complained about the lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases, while others had concerns about immigration cases not being prosecuted.” The choice of the word “cases” suggests that there in fact were cases, i.e., violations of the law requiring prosecution, which the attorneys chose to ignore.

He tells Democrats it’s “not too late... to drop the partisanship” and not “waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation”. Wow, that wasn’t partisan and confrontational at all.

In the Q&A, he repeats that the admin did nothing improper, but since the US attorneys “serve at the pleasure of the president,” this is rather like saying the US doesn’t torture, using a ridiculously high standard for what constitutes torture. Bush repeated the “pleasure of the president” thing, adding, “I named them all.” You know, Stinky and Big Guy and Lammikins and Igloo-man...

“And I put forth what I thought was a rational proposal, and the proposal I put forward is the proposal.”

Bush is, of course, the only person in government who matters. Asked if Gonzales can be effective when no one supports him, Bush said, “Yes, he’s got support with me. I support the Attorney General. I told you in Mexico I’ve got confidence in him; I still do.”

Q: How about now, Mr. President?

Bush: Yes.

Q: And now?

Bush: Yes.

Q: Well, what about now? ...

His eyes are following me, aren’t they?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chimpy & the Gators: I congratulate all those who pick up the towels

On the presumably solemn occasion of the beginning of the 5th year of the war in Iraq, Bush scheduled a visit, not to Walter Reed, not to a military base, but with a college football team, the Florida Gators, in which he told jokes and generally yucked it up. And he got a t-shirt and a football. He’d show up at the amputee wing of Brooke Army Medical Center more often if they gave him a t-shirt and a football.

He called the Gators “a well-coached team.” Compare and contrast with the US military. And indeed, compare and contrast his speech earlier in the day – “I’m grateful to our servicemen and women... I’m grateful to our military families for all the sacrifices they have made for our country” – with the photo op with the Gators: “And so I congratulate not only the players, but I congratulate the coaching staff. I congratulate all those who pick up the towels and make the program run.”

Caption contest:

Happy 4th birthday, Iraq War! They’re so cute at that age.

Bush gave a little speech for the 4th anniversary (8 Friedman Units) of the Old Iraq War, with a painting of Teddy Roosevelt, presumably in Cuba, behind him. He didn’t spend much time on the Old Iraq War, which was initiated “to eliminate the threat [Saddam Hussein’s] regime posed to the Middle East and to the world.” He moves right on before you can ask, “Without the WMDs you said he had, what threat was that, monkey boy?”

It’s another clean-slate moment for George, like quitting drinking and 9/11. He wants us to forget the boring Old Iraq War and focus on the New Iraq War, the “Baghdad security plan.” The New Iraq War is bright and fresh and, ya know, new, and isn’t bogged down after four long years, no, it’s “still in the early stages,” so what are you people being all impatient about? It will “take months, not days or weeks.” So, 4 or 30 times longer.

“It can be tempting,” he says, “to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run” but blah blah contagion of violence blah safe haven blah blah. Yes, opposition to the war is all about giving in and doing what’s “satisfying,” it’s just self-indulgence and you people make me sick.

I think that the way I would characterize it is so far, so good

I’m half-way through watching An Inconvenient Truth, so it’s cheering to hear Hillary Clinton talk seriously about energy conservation: “I turn off a light and say, ‘Take that, Iran,’ and ‘Take that, Venezuela.’ We should not be sending our money to people who are not going to support our values.” I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which “values” her comment illustrates.

She also said that the war in Iraq should never have been started but that now, “we have to end the war in the right way.” I wonder how many people throughout history have died pointlessly because someone wanted to end a war “in the right way.”

On Face the Nation (pdf), Secretary of War Robert
gates 4
adopted the cheery optimism about Iraq that made his predecessor so beloved: “I think that the way I would characterize it is so far, so good.”

He did, however, distinguish himself from Rumsfeld in one respect. Where Rummy had his staff affix his signature to letters of condolence to the families of dead soldiers with an autosigner, Gates says, “I always add three or four lines in handwritten personal feelings at the end.” It’s the least he can do. The very least.

He utilized what is evidently a new bit of Pentagon terminology, for the practice of insurgents leaving Baghdad during the “surge” and carrying on as usual elsewhere in Iraq: “a squirting effect.”

Speaking of surge ‘n squirt, Gates said he had “too much on his plate” to think about revising Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Yeah, yeah, you were all thinking it.

Are the protesters all gone yet?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

If you’re going to San Francisco, Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

The agreement forming the new Hamas-Fatah Palestinian government includes a standard phrase that there is a right to resist Israeli occupation. The United States opposes this, a State Dept spokesmodel saying, “The national unity government’s platform reference to the right of resistance is disturbing and contradicts the Quartet principles of renunciation of violence”. So it is official US policy that Israeli occupation of and military actions in Palestine may not be resisted.

The LAT has an editorial about the 2,264 ethnic Japanese people that the US took from Latin America, mostly from Peru, during World War II and interned in Texas. 13 countries cooperated with the US in this mass kidnapping, usually without putting anything down on paper, since it so blatantly violated international law. A few of them were exchanged for Americans captured by Japan, some were still interned in 1948, and very few were ever allowed to return to the countries that had connived in their seizure. When the US started paying reparations to interned Japanese-Americans in 1990, it refused to pay these internees (eventually some did get paid, 1/4 as much) for the reason – which the LAT doesn’t make clear enough – that they had been... illegal immigrants.

Moving on without any ironic segue whatsoever, Republicans are gearing up to object to any move to close down Guantanamo and move those prisoners into US military brigs on the mainland. Various congresscritters are saying they don’t want them in Florida or South Carolina or wherever. Says John Boehner, “If Democrats seriously want to import known terrorists -- captured in the field of battle against American troops -- perhaps we can set them up with a nice sunny spot in San Francisco?” Sunny spot? Has he ever been to San Francisco?

How come the WaPo quoted only part of a pro-war banner held by counter-protesters in Washington, “You dishonor our dead on Hallowed ground” (meaning Arlington), and left out the words above that, visible in a picture in the LAT, “Go to hell traitors”?

The WaPo, in an unrevealing article about how McCain is joined at the hip with the Iraq war, quotes a stump speech in Iowa, in which he claims that the people fighting us in Iraq aren’t really interested in Iraq per se: “I am convinced that if we lose this conflict and leave, [the terrorists] will follow us home. It’s not Iraq they are trying to take.” Then why don’t they just skip the Iraq segment of what McCain calls “this titanic struggle between good and evil” and come here now?

Friday, March 16, 2007

No, George, no you shouldn’t

Bush, at a “shamrock ceremony” with Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, proved that he speaks Irish just as well as he speaks Spanish: “good morning --or should I say, ‘top o’ the morning.’” (At 5:18 into this video)

Way too happy about getting a bowl of weeds shamrocks.

In Britain, the coroner in the “We’re going to jail, dude” case, in which American planes fired on a British convoy in Iraq, has ruled that the pilots acted unlawfully by disregarding their rules of engagement.

Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s office sent a letter to the editor of the house organ of an Arab political party, saying, “The Shin Bet security service will thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law,” with the “force of the principle of a democracy that defends itself.” I assume that’s a misprint and they intended to say “the farce of the principle of a democracy”.

Worth it

The Pentagon finally admits that “Some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a ‘civil war,’” (crappy writing: the term civil war describes Iraq, not the other way around), although they add “The term ‘civil war’ does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq.” I’m telling you: crapfest.

Tony Blair, on the other hand, won’t (Word document): “it’s not a country at civil war. The majority of people in this country [Iraq] don’t want this violence. ... What is happening is that small numbers on either side of extremists – no, hang on a minute – who don’t represent the majority, are trying to provoke people into a civil war. That is a completely different thing.” Are referenda usually held before the start of a civil war, and they’re called off if there isn’t an absolute majority in favor?

Asked a couple of times if the Iraq war “was worth it,” he answers that it was and is the “right thing” to do, which isn’t exactly the same as being worth it. His shying away from the phrase is an interesting mirror-image of the outcry in the US when Obama and McCain said that soldiers’ lives were “wasted.” I want McCain and every other supporter of the war to be asked if the deaths of American soldiers was worth it.

The Sky interviewer, Adam Boulton, asked if Blair thought Maliki is a democrat. Blair: “I do believe he is a democrat, he was elected, right, and he was then chosen as the President...” Boulton points out that Robert Mugabe was also elected and “just being elected doesn’t make you a democrat does it?” Blair: “Er, well I think it is quite a good indication”.

We’ve secretly replaced the president of the United States with a bowl of shamrocks. Let’s see if anyone can tell the difference.


The word of the week: responsibility. As we’ve seen in previous posts, Bush used it repeatedly in Mexico Wednesday, and Gonzales claimed he was accepting responsibility, a term, as I said, stripped of any meaning by the Bushies. And now Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has declared himself “responsible” for every terrorist action ever. Is he a megalomaniac or a fantasist? Was he acting under pressure? Was it a cunning scheme to make a “confession” so obviously over-blown that it would be dismissed as unreliable by most Americans while at the same time convincing Muslims that it must have been the product of torture? Since he knows he will be getting a show trial that could never lead to his release, he knows whatever he says will not affect his fate one iota, so he can speak to serve other ends: disinformation, propaganda, self-aggrandizement, whatever.

What I like is how they asked him if he was confessing under duress. He answered no. The real answer is yes. He is in a secret prison with secret courts, where he has already been tortured, anything he says can be and has been censored by his captors, and he will remain in the place where he was tortured after his “trial.” So duress permeates everything that happens there. Guantanamo is one giant machine of coercion, and anything he or any other prisoner says reflects that fact. The one thing a “trial” taking place in the heart of that machine cannot do is determine facts and evaluate evidence.

Bush met Iraqi’s Shiite Vice President Adil Abd Al-Mahdi yesterday and told him, “It’s hard work to overcome distrust that has built up over the years because your country was ruled by a tyrant that created distrust amongst people.” Yes, there has certainly been no reason for distrust amongst people in Iraq since Saddam fell.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


A quick all-photo post.

Bush and Patrick Leahy at a St Patrick’s Day luncheon, both clearly hammered.

And on the way to that luncheon, Bush passed (that’s his limo) some PETA protesters nakedly protesting seal-hunting in front of the Canadian embassy.

The Mayan cleansing ritual in Guatemala.