Monday, March 31, 2008

The guilty abroad

Bush has arrived in Kiev, where he is given the traditional Ukrainian greeting of bread and salt. Never has a man looked so perplexed by bread and salt.

(Update: the White House website captions this picture, “President George W. Bush acknowledges the taste of bread”.)

McCain’s daddy issues

Today McCain talked about how every single one of his (male) ancestors has served in the military, killing people for their country. He said that when he was a POW, his father “prayed on his knees every night for my safe return. ... Yet, when duty required it, he gave the order for B-52s to bomb Hanoi, in close proximity to my prison.” You know, if my father had dropped bombs in close proximity to me, I wouldn’t be praising his patriotism, I would consider him a bit of a douche. Of course my father wasn’t in the military, he was in accounting, so I’d also really have to wonder what he was doing with all those bombs. And for that matter, what I was doing in a prison in Hanoi.

(Little artistic license there: my father was not actually in accounting.)

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson held a press conference to propose rejiggering financial regulatory bodies (and preempting state regulation of securities and industry). Which means it’s time for another instalment of our ongoing series, “Everything You Need to Know About the Economy You Can Tell By the Expression on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s Face.”

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not coming to insert American ideas into this process

Totally sincere political statement of the week: Barack Obama: “My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants.”

CONDI GOT NO IDEAS: Condi, in Israel: “I’m not coming to insert American ideas into this process.”

She has been trumpeting, because it’s the only thing she has to show for her latest visit to the Middle East, an agreement by Israel to ease movement in the West Bank by eliminating 50 roadblocks. Not the checkpoints, which will be “upgraded,” just roadblocks. Reporters in her press pool, sensing that the term had been simply made up in order to make Israel look good by agreeing to remove 50 of them without relieving the burden on Palestinian travelers in the tiniest bit, repeatedly tried to get her to define just exactly what constitutes a roadblock, and she rather clearly had no idea. Er, did I say clearly?:
Let me just explain, though, that the whole point here is not to try and isolate and say we remove that or remove that. The whole point here is to have an integrated approach that looks at the security, looks at the movement and access issues, and looks at the potential for economic prospects, and then comes up with concrete steps that can move all three together in an integrated fashion. ...

General Fraser will be following up on the specifics and will be also -- the term that he uses is not verifying, but making certain that, in fact, there are 50 and that they are being removed and that they, in fact, have some impact on the access issue. ...

But the question is not just a category -- roadblocks or checkpoints -- but what does it do to allow people to move freely. ...

But again, we’re trying to take an approach that is consistent with security, movement and economic development so that it’s not just -- so that it’s not just remove something that may not have any effect or that may adversely affect security but is not really critical to economic activity. It really is an effort now to put these three elements together and to make decisions on that basis.

(Update: the Guardian says there are now 580 roadblocks.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Consternation and concern and care

In the afternoon, Bush went to a company called Novadebt in New Jersey, which gives mortgages advice, and wandered amongst the cubicles.

WE HAVE GOT A ISSUE: “And the reason why I’m here is because we have got a issue in housing in America.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “The value of the houses have gone down in some areas, and people’s mortgages are resetting. In other words, the interest rates are going up.”

OO, ALLITERATION: “And that has caused consternation and concern and care.” Oh my.

He also met some of the people who have received mortgage advice, including one Danny Cerchiaro, a New Jersey name if ever I heard one.

BECAME WORKING: “He got -- he called HOPE NOW, and he became working with a mortgage counselor named Penny Meredith.”

WHAT WAS THAT NUMBER AGAIN? “And I want my fellow citizens, if you’re worried about your home, to call this number: 188-995-HOPE [sic]. Let me repeat that again: 188-995-HOPE [sic].”

There have been other defining moments up to now, but this is a defining moment, as well

At the Air Force Museum in Ohio yesterday, Bush gave a speech from which only one line is worth passing on: “You know, when I mentioned justice of the cause, you see that when Americans in full battle gear hand out books to children, hand out books to total strangers.”

The Marine Corps is dropping all charges against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum for his role in the Haditha Massacre (see previous posts), evidently in exchange for his testimony against Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich. According to a press release, “This was done in order to continue to pursue the truth-seeking process into the Haditha incident.” A justice-seeking process might also have been nice.

Today Bush met with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who, when asked by an Aussie reporter how he would describe him, he called “Fine lad, fine lad.”

When asked about foreign policy differences with Rudd (Iraq, China, greenhouse gasses, etc), Bush said “I guess it depends if you’re a half-glass empty guy or a half-glass full guy,” adding that he really could see no differences, but maybe that’s because he’d just drunk half a glass of tequila. He didn’t even see policy differences over Rudd’s plan to pull troops out of Iraq. “Obviously the Prime Minister kept a campaign commitment, which I appreciate. I always like to be in the presence of somebody who does what he says he’s going to do.” And yet it never rubs off.

But he didn’t ascribe Rudd’s decision to the will of the Australian people as expressed by the polls, no, that would violate Dick Cheney’s “So?” Doctrine. “I would view the Australia decision as ‘return on success’”. He also demonstrated his understanding of Aussie policy with his usual clarity: “But the commitment of Afghanistan is not to leave Iraq alone; it’s to change mission.”

SOME PEOPLE CAN TELL AN INTERESTING STORY, SOME PEOPLE CAN’T: “And so he told me about an interesting story. He met with the Prime Minister, Maliki. Prime Minister Maliki says to Kevin Rudd -- or Kevin Rudd says to Prime Minister Maliki, what can we do to help you. It wasn’t, what can we do to abandon you. He said, how can we help you?”

MORE PRAISE FOR RUDD: “He’s an expert on China -- it’s clear when you talk to him, he is an expert on China.”

Many of the reporters’ questions focused on Maliki’s... in honor of Mr. Rudd, I’m hereby officially naming it Maliki’s Basra Balls-Up.

A LOT OF DEFINING GOING ON: “I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq. There have been other defining moments up to now, but this is a defining moment, as well.”

IT TALKS! “The decision to move troops -- Iraqi troops into Basra talks about Prime Minister Maliki’s leadership.”

Q&A: “And one of the early questions I had to the Prime Minister was would he be willing to confront criminal elements, whether they be Shia or Sunni? Would he, in representing people who want to live in peace, be willing to use force necessary to bring to justice those who take advantage of a vacuum, or those who murder the innocent? And his answer was, yes, sir, I will. And I said, well, you’ll have our support if that’s the case, if you believe in evenhanded justice.”

IT’S NOT JUST A DEFINING MOMENT: “it is an interesting moment for the people of Iraq”.

WHAT’S SO INTERESTING ABOUT IT? “And so -- the other that’s interesting about this, by the way -- this happens to be one of the provinces where the Iraqs are in the lead -- Iraqis are in the lead, and that’s what they are in this instance.”

IT’S NOT JUST A DEFINING MOMENT AND AN INTERESTING MOMENT: “And this is a good test for them.” Given that Maliki just had to extend his surrender deadline by 10 days, I guess they’re taking an incomplete.

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE ABILITY TO BE CRIMINALS: “And of course, routing out these folks who’ve burrowed in society, who take advantage of the ability to be criminals, or the ability to intimidate citizens, is going to take a while. ... And one of those things that’s been well known is that Basra has been a place where criminality has thrived. It’s a port, a lot of goods and services go through there.”

WHAT HE SUSPECTS MALIKI WOULD SAY: “And I haven’t spoke to the Prime Minister since he’s made his decision, but I suspect that he would say, look, the citizens down there just got sick and tired of this kind of behavior. ... And so I’m not exactly sure what triggered the Prime Minister’s response. I don’t know if it was one phone call. I don’t know what -- whether or not the local mayor called up and said, help -- we’re sick and tired of dealing with these folks. ... But this was his decision. It was his military planning. It was his causing the troops to go from point A to point B.”

SAD MONKEY: “And, yes, there’s going to be violence. And that’s sad.”

Yesterday, Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown showed what two national leaders really need in order to bond: a football.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I remember the rainbow most of all

Headline of the day (AFP): “Moves to Damp down Mozzarella Crisis.”

Yesterday Bush spoke with journalists from European countries he will soon be visiting.

IN THE INTERESTS: On the Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO: “I believe it’s in the interests that there is that clear path forward. ... So the first step, however, is for there to be a clear path forward, so that people understand -- and I believe it’s in our collective interest that we offer a clear path forward.”

He asked a Romanian reporter about a speech he once gave in Romania. Evidently there was a rainbow. He was very impressed by that, and wanted to know if they’re still talking about the “rainbow speech” in Romania. “I remember the rainbow most of all. It was a startling moment.”

You could tell they were foreign reporters because they expected Bush to be able to answer questions like this: “how do you see Croatia future in the NATO architecture in southeastern Europe, regarding its capability to host joint military bases, and primarily NATO forces, and the further development of its armed forces and its readiness to take part in NATO missions and contribute to the common security of the alliance?” Isn’t that adorable? He responded: “Croatia has served as a very good example, following a very dramatic moment, and that is the breakup of Yugoslavia. ... Examples are very important. The question is, would people have predicted 15 years ago that we’d be having this kind of discussion about Croatia. And who knows -- I don’t think many people would have certainly 25 years ago.” He added later, “And Croatia occupies a crucial part -- a crucial space in an important part of the world.”

SNOTTY MUCH? His forthcoming decision not to reduce troop levels in Iraq “will be based upon not politics, or not who can scream the loudest, but based upon whether or not we can maintain the successes we’ve had.”

CHANGING THE CAPACITY: “Congress did change the capacity for -- to have a new look at visa waiver.”

The London Times reporter asked whether Bush’s infatuation with Sarkozy was eclipsing the special relationship. Bush said that he will always love that country, whatever it’s called, and its leader, whoever that might be: “And that relationship was never as special as it was during times of conflict -- whether it be the relationship in the past between, like, Roosevelt and Churchill, or whether it be the current relationship, more modern relationship between Tony Blair and myself. ... And so, your question, ‘our greatest ally’ -- it’s going to be hard for any nation to trump Great Britain as our -- United Kingdom as our greatest ally.”

He announced that he’ll be going to Russia and he might even do the looking-in-his-eyes-and-seeing-his-soul thing with Medvedev, or he may have already met him, he’s not really sure, he’s like a Russian guy, right, yea high? “I haven’t met President Medvedev yet. I may have met him once, but I haven’t had a talk to him, President-to-President, obviously. He’s not even the President yet. I’m looking forward to meeting him.”

“In other words, there’s an invitation out there, and this is really -- the way to look at this is a follow-up to Condi and Bob Gates’s meeting -- which is good.”

The BBC caption for this picture is “Candidates for South Korean parliamentary elections and their supporters bow to traffic in the southern city of Daegu.” Um, okay.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wherein John McCain reveals what he thinks of war

McCain gave his big foreign affairs speech today. Not surprisingly, it was so much like a Bush speech that the absence of “in other words”’s was almost jarring.

He opened with a joke: “I detest war.” No, really, he detests war. “Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war.” Is he implicitly calling George “It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger” Bush a fool or a fraud? Or possibly a frool?

But while he detests war (that just keeps getting funnier), he is a “realistic idealist.” “We cannot wish the world to be a better place than it is.” So throw away those wishes for the world to be a better place: vote McCain!

He says, repeatedly, that the US can’t act unilaterally, that we have to listen to the rest of the world. “There is such a thing as international good citizenship,” he says. Which sounds very reasonable of him, until you realize the forum in which the rest of the world will make its opinions known is his proposed “League of Democracies.” He also proposes booting Russia – excuse me, “a revanchist Russia” – from the G-8.

Oh, what else. Latin America is our back yard and our “natural partners.” China would be less of an adversary if it just shared our values. Eradicate malaria in Africa. No nukes in North Korea or Iran.

The “transcendent challenge of our time” is “radical Islamic terrorism.” Indeed, “Any president who does not regard this threat as transcending all others does not deserve to sit in the White House” (of course McCain has also referred to the use of steroids by professional athletes a “transcendent issue.”)

We must win the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims (yes, he really said hearts and minds, although the phrase was in quotation marks in the prepared text). Indeed, “In this struggle, scholarships will be far more important than smart bombs.” Says the guy who doesn’t know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

And of course, we have a “moral responsibility” never to leave Iraq: “It would be an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation, if we were to walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to the horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing, and possibly genocide that would follow a reckless, irresponsible, and premature withdrawal. Our critics say America needs to repair its image in the world. How can they argue at the same time for the morally reprehensible abandonment of our responsibilities in Iraq?” Yeah, how can they do that?

Do so do so do so

Today Bush went to a printing company in Virginia to talk about the economic stimulus package, which he says will benefit the very company in whose plant he is speaking: “It will benefit from it because if they make -- if Jim decides to purchase software or machinery, there is a tax incentive to encourage him to do so. He’s made the decision to do so, and his company will be encouraged to do so through the tax code.” You ever notice how if you say “do so” over and over, it loses all meaning?

HE HAS AN MBA YOU KNOW. FROM HARVARD AND EVERYTHING: “And that’s important because when he buys the machine, or when he buys software, somebody has to manufacture that. Therefore, there is a direct link between the stimulus package and jobs.”

WHAT GEORGE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO: “in the second week of May, a lot of folks are going to be getting a sizable check. And I’m looking forward to that day, and I know they are as well.” What will Bush spend his rebate check on? Suggestions in comments (alternatively: what should Bush spend his rebate check on?)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wherein is revealed what shows that Hillary Clinton is human

In Idaho, a man running for US Senate changed his name to “Pro-Life” (I guess it’s one of those hyphenated last names like Courtney Cox-Arquette), and the state legislature reacted with emergency legislation to require that his “traditional name” be included on the ballot as well. Reminds me of when a drag queen named Sister Mary Boom Boom ran for, I believe, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in 1980 I think, and a bill to force candidates to use normal names was put forward by Supervisor Quentin Kopp.

Hillary Clinton about her “mis-statement” about having flown into Bosnia under fire: “So I made a mistake. That happens. It shows I’m human - which for some people is a revelation.” True: robots never remember being shot at when they have not actually been shot at, but humans make that “mistake” all the time. For example, I remember being disappointed by something last night, but was it finding out that The Daily Show was a repeat, or was there a mortar attack on my living room? I just can’t be sure.

What I find amusing is her attempt to turn this back on the people bringing it up, as if people pointing out her lies is an illegitimate, under-handed attack, like Samantha Powers calling her a monster. Political jiu-jitsu at its lamest.

She also claims it was the first time she “mis-spoke” in 12 or so years.

Better to be free for an hour than to be a slave for 40 years

Today Bush celebrated – for the very last time in the White House – Greek Independence Day. As usual, he did not say from whom Greece became independent. But then, he may think that Cyprus is one of the 50 states: “Ambassador Kakouris of -- to Cyprus is with us -- from Cyprus to U.S. is with us.”

ALSO, OLIVES. THEY’RE VERY COMMITTED TO OLIVES: “Throughout their history, the people of Greece have been committed to liberty. They’ve also been committed to the important principle that liberty only survives when brave men and women are ready to come to its defense.” Oh dear, he’s been watching his DVD of “300” again.

“In the years leading up to Greece’s war for independence, one of the rallying cries of the Greek people was that it was better to be free for an hour than to be a slave for 40 years. Those are the kind of folks who had their priorities straight.” But of course 9/11 changed everything.

He thanked Greece for sending troops to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Lebanon, telling the ambassador to “thank your governments [sic] for those strong signals that liberty is universal, and that liberty will bring the peace we all hope.” How do Greeks with guns send strong signals that liberty is universal, a gift from Zeus or whatever?

You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out; you put your right foot in, and you shake it all about.

Bush and the fisher folk

Yesterday Bush commemorated the 4,000th American military death in Iraq with a visit from the Easter Bunny. Today, he met with the winners of some sort of fishing competition (is there something inherently different about the way men and women catch bass that requires separate divisions?).

HE THOUGHT IT WAS IMPORTANT: “And I thought it was important to welcome these champs here to the White House so that -- you know, to encourage people to fish.”

ELIOT SPITZER MIGHT DISAGREE: “There’s nothing better than fishing,” he added.

GOOD: “This is a good, clean sport. It’s a sport that requires good conservation in order to make sure our fisheries are good”.

Judy Wong, who exalts in the title “Women’s Bassmaster,” then said something that probably only sounds incredibly filthy: “I would be glad to take you any day on Toledo Bend.” Adding, “And bring Laura, as well.”

When everybody’s somebody, then no one’s anybody

There’s so much awfulness in Dana Peroxide’s comments on the 4,000th American military death in Iraq, including her insistence that almost all their survivors wish the war to continue so the deaths won’t be “in vain,” and her claim that Bush “gets a report about every single soldier who passes away, and he always pauses a moment...” – how long is a “moment,” I wonder – “ think about them and to offer a prayer for their loved ones and their family and friends,” which puts me in mind of the reports which, as governor of Texas, he used to peruse for as long as five minutes before signing death warrants.

But what’s been going through my head all day is her response to the question of whether Bush even considers the number to be significant in any way: “President Bush thinks that every single loss is tragic, from the very first several years ago to the ones that sacrificed yesterday.” Like Jenna and Not-Jenna, he loves every single one of his “sacrifices” equally. But hidden inside the cheap faux-sentimentalism, I think there’s a little piece of unintentional insight. “Tragic” is treated as a superlative, the highest level of emotion. So 4,000 deaths is not only not more tragic than the sum of each individual death, it isn’t even 4,000 times as tragic. It can no more be multiplied than can infinity – or zero. By this strange emotional calculus, the fuzziest of fuzzy math if you will, they might as well go on throwing bodies into the meat grinder forever, because 5,000 deaths, or 50,000, would be no more tragic than 4,000 or 1.

(Update: asked the same question about the 4,000th death, Cheney said “So?” Oh okay, what he actually said was, “You wish nobody ever lost their life, but unfortunately it’s one of those things that go with living in the world we live in.” See? It’s not the fault of the Bush administration; it’s the fault of the entire world we live in. Stoopid world.)

Update II: Tom Toles:

Monday, March 24, 2008

A very Chimpy Easter

Caption contest, White House Easter Egg Roll:

The Reuters caption for this one

says that Jenna “enacts one of the monster characters of the book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’”. I wonder who she would imitate to enact a monster character?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A sexual Switzerland

Today’s must-read: the WaPo on the regime we’ve imposed on Fallujah.

Myself, I seem to have nothing to say at the moment, so here are some more London Review of Books personals. (More of my LRB faves here.)
If partaking of the grape too eagerly after a messy break-up has taught me anything, it’s that answer phone messages can never be retrieved and are admissible in divorce courts as evidence of ‘unreasonable behaviour’. But if you’re a 35-45 year old guy who knows when a lady needs space and is able to take threats of physical assault and arson in the humorous, ironically edgy way in which they’re intended, then write to beautiful, vivacious, newly-medicated F, 38. Box no. 02/06

By reading this advert you have unwittingly become the latest in my mind experiments in which I persuade the subject to believe I’m a 6’4, sandy blonde Abercrombie and Fitch model with the world at my feet and a lifetime of excitement ahead of me. Man, 57. 6’4, sandy blonde Abercrombie and Fitch model with the world at my feet and a lifetime of excitement ahead of me. Worthing. Box no.02/08

I grazed my knee writing this advert. Accident prone F, 35. Box no. 02/09

I’ve spent my adult life fabricating reciprocal feelings from others and I don’t intend to stop now, nor at any other London Review bookshop event I’m summarily ejected from. Yes, once the history section had emptied and we were left alone his voice said ‘I’m not interested’, but his eyes very clearly stated ‘please follow me home and observe me from the shrubs in the park opposite until squirrels start to burrow into your legs, believing you to be a tree.’ Woman, 43. Reading between the lines even when the lines aren’t actually there. Don’t pretend you don’t love me. Box no. 06/08

Most partners cite the importance of having a loved one who will listen and understand them. I’m here to debunk this theory. The more you listen to your loved one, the more you will realise they talk crap, whine a lot, and make a lot of unreasonable demands regarding holidays together (since when is a car-ferry better than a plane, since when is a museum tour stop better than drunken evenings talking to oiled-up Italians on a beach?) I’d like to state here and now that anyone responding to this advert and winding up in an emotional (or, even better, purely sexual and frequently tawdry) relationship with me will never be listened to at all. That way we can carry on the pretence of enjoying each other’s company for many an ignorant year. No lawyers. Woman. 38. Box no. 06/10

It’s a jungle out there! Confused librarian. Box no. 06/11

There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to make love to all the women I want to make love to, so I’m going to start with you, nubile 21-year old choreographer and tantric masseuse, preferably French or able to adopt a French accent or not talk at all. Must know how to spoon-feed. Man, 78. Box no. 06/14

Everyone in this column has an agenda. Not me. Man, 41. Box no. 06/13

Sexually, I’m more of a Switzerland. F., 54. Box no. 06/12

Friday, March 21, 2008


Yesterday I asked if Bush’s claim that Iran had “announc[ed] they want to destroy countries with a nuclear weapon” and “declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people” was a new escalation of his usual false claim that the Iranian government has said it wants nuclear weapons. Evidently it was just “shorthand.” White House spokesmodel Gordon Johndroe explains: “The president was referring to the Iranian regime’s previous statements regarding their desire to wipe Israel off the map. The president shorthanded his answer with regard to Iran’s previously secret nuclear weapons program and their current enrichment and ballistic missile testing.”

Shorthanded. I prefer to think of it as a Reese’s peanut butter cup moment: “Hey, you got your lie about Iran wanting to wipe out Israel in my lie about Iran saying it wants nuclear weapons!” “Hey, you got your lie about Iran saying it wants nuclear weapons into my lie about Iran wanting to wipe out Israel!”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The dark ages

Cheney followed up his surprise visit to Iraq with a surprise visit to Afghanistan. He said repeatedly that before the US invasion, “this country was in the dark ages”. Given the nature of the Taliban regime, that may sound unexceptionable, but there’s a bit of history of nations justifying their conquests by claiming that the conquered nations were less evolved, were at an earlier, inferior stage of historical development, so that the conquerors were acting in the interests of the benighted primitives.

Fortunately, help has arrived. He told American troops at Bagram Air Base, “A lot of history is being made here every single day.” So are they up to the Renaissance yet?

Where can I get me one of those hats?

Please don’t be discouraged by the slogans that say America doesn’t like you, because we do

Yesterday, Bush gave brief back to back interviews with three taxpayer-financed propaganda outlets, the Voice of America Persian News Network, Radio Farda (which broadcasts into Iran), and the Pentagon Channel.

Mostly he talked about Iran, and to any Iranians who might be listening. He prophesied, “My message to the young in Iran is that some day your society will be free, and it will be a blessed time for you.” He reassured the Iranian people: “And so my message is, please don’t be discouraged by the slogans that say America doesn’t like you, because we do”. Well, we like you, but we don’t like you like you. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I did, however, detect some sexual tension in his comments about the Iranian government, in whom he pointed out certain traits that he just cannot abide: “It’s just sad that the leadership is in many ways very stubborn”... “they haven’t told the full truth”... “The government has been duplicitous to the world. Very few people trust your government.” It must be awful to be ruled by people like that.

IN OTHER IRONIES WORDS: “In other words, I -- once a nation hasn’t told the truth, it requires a lot of work to convince people that they’ll be telling the truth in the future.”

Speaking of telling the truth, he lied for, I don’t know, the five millionth time, about what Ahmadinejad has said: “such as announcing they want to destroy countries with a nuclear weapon.” Is this an expansion of the usual false claim that Iran has said that it wants nukes? You will also have noticed his avoidance of the name Israel. Similarly, in the Radio Fardo interview he said, “they’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people -- some in the Middle East.” You know, some.

IN OTHER WORDS: “There’s a way forward. In other words, I don’t know what the Iranian people believe about the United States, but they must believe that we have proposed a way forward that will yield to peace.”

In the Pentagon Channel interview, he claimed that wounded soldiers he’s visited usually tell him that they “can’t wait to get back in the battle”, and that family members of members of the military killed in his wars “to a person, nearly” tell him “whatever you do, Mr. President, complete this job.” Like those wounded soldiers, he’s pretty darned brave too: “I’m not afraid to hug a mom or hug a wife or hug a husband and cry.”

IN OTHER WORDS: The Taliban has not been defeated. In other words, they keep coming back”.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


It’s not just Hillary who’s a monster: according to Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party Secretary in Tibet (i.e., the head of the occupation government), “The Dalai Lama is a wolf wrapped in a habit, a monster with human face and animal’s heart.” Scary.

Speaking of a monster with human face and animal’s heart, Dick Cheney was interviewed in Oman by Martha Raddatz of ABC.

He not only denied that the economy is entering a recession (he did admit to it being in a “rough patch”), but also said that it was entirely natural: “Well, I think it’s a normal part of the cycle.” So that’s okay then. Oh sure, when a cycle hits a rough patch, the cyclist may go flying over the handlebars and hit his head on the concrete, and he doesn’t have any insurance because he was laid off, so... what were we talking about again?

He added, “A lot of it, though, goes back to the basic way the economy functions, and to say that there’s a lot of blame to be assessed here, I don’t think that’s the case.”

Raddatz asked repeatedly about the NIE about Iran. He evaded gracelessly, but with high confidence:
Q: But do you have high confidence they halted their nuclear weapons program in 2003?

CHENEY: I have high confidence they have an ongoing enrichment program.

Q: But not high confidence they halted it?

CHENEY: The enrichment program? They’ve never halted enrichment --

Q: The nuclear weapons program.

CHENEY: Well, just go back and look at the National Intelligence Estimate.

Q: It says high confidence they halted their nuclear weapons program in 2003.

CHENEY: And high confidence that they had a nuclear weapons program.
It’s actually astonishing how inept he is at this, but then it’s not enough that anyone asks him follow-up questions, so he doesn’t get much practice. He added that even if they did shut down the program in 2003, “The NIE does not address the issue, can’t, in terms of whether or not that’s ever been restarted.” Once again, he turns a complete absence of evidence into innuendo gold. And he went on to make his own unsupported intelligence claim: “They are today running centrifuges to enrich uranium to produce a weapon.”

Raddatz kept bringing up polls that say that two-thirds of Americans don’t think Iraq was worth it. Cheney: “They ought to go spend time, like you and I have, Martha.” So he wants two-thirds of Americans to go to Iraq. When she brought it up those poll numbers again, he simply said, “So?”
Q: So -- you don’t care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
Fluctuations? To fluctuate, don’t they have to go up as well as down?

But you’ll notice he doesn’t even dispute the unpopularity of his policies, he just doesn’t care. I know this is an obvious point but, can you call a country a democracy if the opposition of the vast majority of its citizens to the waging of war counts for nothing in the eyes of its rulers?

He talked about all the achievements in Iraq, adding “And all of that goes up in a puff of smoke when the United States quits”. Some people might not define something so fragile as a success, but not Cheney.

He admitted that the “insurgency lasted longer than I would have anticipated,” but when asked if his prognostications could not have been a tad less, well, crappy, he responded, “I’m not sure how.” Well, if you hadn’t pressured, intimidated, ignored or fired everyone who didn’t say we’d be greeted as liberators...

Asked “What sacrifice have most Americans made?” he said, “Well, I think they’ve been asked to support the effort and the enterprise.” So they have been asked to sacrifice their intelligence and their humanity.

We will show the world that al Qaeda is the weak horse

I worry that McCain’s “gaffe” yesterday will be pass in the media for a simple verbal slip rather than profound ignorance.

If you turn up the sound when Lieberman’s whispering, you can hear that McCain just repeated Holy Joe’s words verbatim, like when Nancy Reagan told Ronnie to say “We’re doing everything we can.”

Bush gave a speech this morning to mark the beginning of the 6th year of war in Iraq. “[W]e’e helping the people of Iraq establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East,” he said, speaking in the heart of the Pentagon, because in this democracy, he did not dare face the reaction he might receive if he gave such a speech in front of a crowd of ordinary American citizens.

Not that he knew what you call some of the people in uniforms he was addressing: “Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coastmen -- Coast Guardmen [sic], thanks for coming.”

He said Saddam Hussein’s regime had to be removed because it “threatened free nations.” Which free nations? With what weapons?

He mentioned the rape rooms. Gotta mention the rape rooms.

“The terrorists who murder the innocent in the streets of Baghdad want to murder the innocent in the streets of America.” Who doesn’t appreciate a change of scenery?

“The surge,” he claimed, “is working.” “And as a return on our success in Iraq, we’ve begun bringing some of our troops home.” Note that he fumbled his own catch-phrase, “return on success,” using “return” as in “return on an investment.”

How is the “surge” working? By winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis (the mechanism by which this feat was accomplished is left unclear) against Al Qaida. That is, with the governance of Iraq still a sectarian shambles (he barely mentions the government, fails to bring up the “benchmarks,” and only mentions “reconciliation” once), he is declaring mission accomplished against the non-existent threat of Iraq being taken over by Al Qaida:
The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around -- it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror. For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al Qaeda rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaeda out. In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his murderous network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated.

THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? Osama evidently once said “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” Bush says, “By defeating al Qaeda in Iraq, we will show the world that al Qaeda is the weak horse.”

He mentioned one member of the military by name, Marine Gunnery Sgt William “Spanky” Gibson, whose lower leg was amputated after a sniper attack but managed to return to Iraq for another tour. “When Americans like Spanky Gibson serve on our side,” Bush proclaimed, “the enemy in Iraq doesn’t got a chance.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wherein is revealed how thousands of lives might have been saved

Lynndie England names the real Abu Ghraib villains: “I guess after the picture came out the insurgency picked up and Iraqis attacked the Americans and the British and they attacked in return and they were just killing each other. I felt bad about it ... no, I felt pissed off. If the media hadn’t exposed the pictures to that extent, then thousands of lives would have been saved.” She added that what she and her pals did to the prisoners is just the sort stuff that “happens in war.” I mean, do you know how many naked human pyramids there were in the Crimean War?

That’s Washington-speak for you’re fixing to receive some money

Quote of the day, from Ghana’s Interior Minister Kwamena Bartels: “When women strip themselves naked and stand by a major highway, that is not a peaceful demonstration.”

Today, Bush went to Jacksonville or, as he called it, J-ville.

HELLO SAILOR: “I’ve been in your stadium, I’ve been in your church -- I’ve never been on the docks. But if you’re interested in trying to figure out one of the reasons why this is one of America’s most vibrant cities, you got to come to the docks.” Or to put it another way, your stadium and your church really suck.

HE HAS AN MBA, YOU KNOW: “See, everybody here is working as a result of trade -- trade that happens and occurs right here on these docks.”

He talked about the mortgage crisis: “And it makes sense to help some person who is creditworthy find the capacity and understand where to refinance.” And he explained, “The more people live in their homes, the better off America is.” If they live under their homes, not so much. However, he also claimed “But no question there’s been a over-supply of housing, and it’s going to take time to work through this over-supply.” I’m not sure how that squares with the “the more people live in their homes, the better off America is” thing, but then I’m not an MBA.

DUMBING IT DOWN FOR US: “We also worked with Congress -- and I want to thank the members of Congress -- to pass a bipartisan economic growth package. That’s Washington-speak for you’re fixing to receive some money.”

FORGET ABOUT WHAT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING NOW: “But I want people to understand that in the long term we’re going to be just fine. People will still be able to work.”

WHAT HE’S NOT SAYING: “You know, one of the interesting signs of strength is that we’re the world’s leading exporter of goods and services. I’m not saying we’re second place or third place; we’re the world’s leading exporter.”

HOW DRUNK DO YOU HAVE TO BE NOT TO KNOW IF YOU’RE SITTING OR STANDING? “I’m sitting in -- standing in front of people that are all part of the process”.

Most of the speech was yet another push for passage of the free-trade agreement with Colombia.

IF THAT DOESN’T INTEREST YOU, THINK ABOUT TERMS: “You can think in terms of national security interests, but if that doesn’t interest you, think about terms of helping folks just like this make a living.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “Our fellow citizens have got to know that across the hemisphere and across the globe, people are waiting to see what the members of Congress will do. In other words, this isn’t just one of these isolated votes that gets no attention outside of Washington. This is a vote that is being observed very carefully by people across the world.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “Business leaders from many backgrounds, along with current and former senators, congressmans [sic], mayors, diplomats, national security council people, Cabinet members from both parties -- I emphasize, from both parties -- support this agreement. In other words, it’s just not me talking. There’s a lot of people who understand the importance of this agreement.” Congressmans?

IN OTHER WORDS: “So, in other words, if you’re somebody wondering whether you’re going to have a job, and a fellow comes along and says, ‘Would you like to be able to sell more goods to Colombia? After all, a quarter of your revenues go to Colombia,’ I think the answer ought to be, yes, we want to be able to access more of Colombia.” I’m confused: just who is this fellow who’s going to come along and say, “Would you like to be able to sell more goods to Colombia?” Does he just come up to people in supermarket parking lots and say, “Would you like to be able to sell more goods to Colombia?” If we see him, should we call the police?

WHAT EXPORT IS DOING: “Export is continuing.”

Monday, March 17, 2008

A successful endeavor

As always on St Patrick’s Day, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern celebrated in the White House. He gave Bush a bunch of weeds shamrocks, which Bush enjoyed receiving just a little too much.

Other Bushies were scattered across the globe. Condi was in Moscow.

“Hey shorty, my eyes are up here.”

Dick Cheney was in Iraq today for “the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the campaign that liberated the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.” Sometimes you forget that these people are actually proud of this war, and that pride is not at all diminished by the fact that it’s still going on after five bloody years. In fact, the longer it goes on, the prouder they are, because it just shows their unwavering determination. He called the war “a difficult, challenging, but nonetheless successful endeavor; that we’ve come a long way in five years, and that it’s been well worth the effort.” He doesn’t use the word “war,” not in any of the three sets of public remarks he made in Iraq. It’s a campaign, an endeavor, an effort, not a war. It’s even “a real success story”.

By the way, remember that Defense Dept report last week that said that Saddam Hussein didn’t have links to Al Qaida? Cheney said that that report really said that “there was a relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that went back a decade.”

Interestingly, Cheney and McCain never appeared together, although they were close enough that Maliki had back-to-back meetings with them. Here’s McCain with the governor of Ramadi.

Must-read (and I mean it: it will be on the final): David Bromwich, “Euphemism and American Violence,” New York Review of Books.


This morning Bush, wearing his lucky St Patrick’s Day tie, met with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and then made a statement about the economy. “One thing is for certain -- we’re in challenging times.” Or, as economists would phrase that, “Oh God, my portfolio, my portfolio!”

He thanked Paulson: “And I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for working over the weekend.” On his resume.

He cheerily reassured us that, just like Iraq, “In the long run, our economy is going to be fine.” However, everything you need to know about the economy in the short run you can tell, as always, by the expression on Paulson’s face.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Potato fraud

Headline of the Day, Story Which Inevitably Doesn’t Live Up to the Headline Division: “Two Men Arrested on Charges of Potato Fraud.”

Speaking of potato fraud, John McCain was in Iraq today (what, does every segue have to make sense?). He didn’t venture into a public market as he did last year, although he does seem to be wearing the same blue checked shirt under the same Velveeta-filled body armor.

I seem to be at a low creative ebb today, and planning to reserve all my remaining creativity for deciding which character in the HBO John Adams miniseries matches which character in The Wire (John Adams as McNulty? Abigail Adams as Kima? Samuel Adams as Omar? Alexander Hamilton as Clay Davis? Ben Franklin as Bunk? Jefferson as Bunny Colvin? Washington as Stringer Bell?), so all I seem to be able to come up with for this picture is an unworthy reference to a “surge” of urine when a car backfires. My friends, as McCain would say, that means it’s time for another Caption Contest!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Five down, 100 to go

Patrick Cockburn has an overview of the Iraq War, five years young this week! Sample: “The war was too easy. Consciously or subconsciously Americans came to believe it did not matter what Iraqis said or did. They were expected to behave like Germans or Japanese in 1945, though most of Iraqis did not think of themselves as having been defeated.”

McCain says the American military will not only be occupying Iraq for 100 years, but Afghanistan as well. So pack a couple of changes of underwear.

Caption contest, Hillary at a St Patrick’s Day parade in Pittsburgh:

Friday, March 14, 2008

And so what are the folks, the experts, guys like Hubbard, anticipate to happen?

The Netherlands legalizes gay sex in public parks. Plan your vacations accordingly.

This morning Bush spoke at the Economic Club of New York.

He admitted that “our economy obviously is going through a tough time.” And why might that be, o mighty Master of Business Administration? “First of all, in a free market, there’s going to be good times and bad times. That’s how markets work.”

WHAT WE ARE: “I believe that we’re a resilient economy.”

MAKING THEIR BILLS DO WHAT? “Hardworking Americans are concerned -- they’re concerned about their families, and they’re concerned about making their bills.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “The rebates haven’t been put in the mail yet. In other words, this aspect of the plan hasn’t taken to effect.”

ANTICIPATION: “And so what are the folks, the experts, guys like Hubbard, anticipate to happen?”

THOSE WHO LIKE SPECULATED IN HOMES: “The purpose of government ought to be to help the individuals, not those who, like -- who speculated in homes.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “It’s a program that’s given FHA greater flexibility to offer refinancing for struggling homeowners with otherwise good credit. In other words, we’re saying to people, we want to help you refinance your notes.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, we’ve got an active plan to help us get through this rough period.”

PRINCIPLES: “We’re always open for new ideas, but there are certain principles that we won’t violate. And one of the principles is overreacting by federal law and federal regulation that will have long-term negative effects on our economy.”

ONE THING THAT’S CERTAIN: “One thing that’s certain that Congress will do is waste some of your money.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, Congress has got this habit of just sticking these deals into bills without a vote”.

GIVING CONGRESS ITS MARCHING ORDERS: “And then once they pass the Colombia, they can pass Panama and South Korea, as well.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “a lot of folks are worried about their neighbors losing work. In other words, they fear jobs moving overseas.”

IN OTHER WORDS: “In other words, a community college system -- the interesting thing about it, it’s probably the most market-driven education system in the United States.”

WHAT KIND OF A PERSON GEORGE IS: “I’m the kind of person who doesn’t give a darn about polls and focus groups, and I do what I think is right.”

ER, SOMETHING ABOUT GETTING TIRED: “And the danger of getting tired during this world [sic] is any retreat by the America -- by America was going to be to the benefit of those who want to do us harm.”

WHAT WE BETTER WORRY ABOUT: “And I’m saying, we better worry about the conditions that caused 19 kids to kill us in the first place.”

HE’S AN MBA, YOU KNOW: “You talk about the price of oil -- yeah, it’s high. It’s high because demand is greater than supply, is why it’s high.”

When war criminals meet (Caption Contest):