Mike Carlton minces no words:
George Bush's second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of triumphalism probably unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French in Notre Dame in 1804.
The little Corsican corporal had a few decent victories to his escutcheon. Lodi, Marengo, that sort of thing. Not so this strutting Texan mountebank, with his chimpanzee smirk and his born-again banalities delivered in that constipated syntax that sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look, and his grinning plastic wife, and his scheming junta of neo-con spivs, shamans, flatterers and armchair warmongers, and his sinuous evasions and his brazen lies, and his sleight of hand theft from the American poor, and his rape of the environment, and his lethal conviction that the world must submit to his Pax Americana or be bombed into charcoal.
I also liked his reference to Condi’s “fiberglass helmet of hair.”
U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote :
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror
by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.
According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.
The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.
From Daily Kos.
Millions of Iraqis Vote; Attacks Kill 35
Sun Jan 30, 2005 07:19 PM ET
By Matt Spetalnick
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Millions of Iraqis flocked to vote in a historic election on Sunday, defying insurgents who killed 35 people in a bloody assault on the poll.
Voters, some ululating with joy, others hiding their faces in fear, cast ballots in higher-than-expected numbers in Iraq's first multi-party election in half a century.
Despite the violence, election officials said turnout was above expectations. They first put it at 72 percent but later backtracked, saying possibly eight million voted, or just over 60 percent of registered voters.
They acknowledged the figures were guesswork.
The government had set a target of at least 50 percent of Iraq's 13 million registered voters as the barometer of success.
The Knoxville (Tennessee) Metro Pulse had this review of a recent concert by Steve Earle:
Steve Earle's long, powerful show Saturday night was something more than the first rock 'n' roll show at the restored Tennessee Theatre. With a hammer-and-sickle overlaid with a skull on the drumsets, and often profane anti-administration exhortations from the self-styled "borderline Marxist" onstage, it had the markings of a Revolution.
Which, of course, is the name of Earle's current album, dominated by scalding attacks on Republican America, most of which the 50-year-old rocker played. Allison Moorer, allegedly his current squeeze, opened the show.
The hard-rocking, tough-talking Texan who's had trouble with the law is just the sort of fellow Tennessee rednecks respect, and his audience always includes a fringe of hardworking folks waiting to hear his classics, "Guitar Town" and "Devil's Right Hand."
For the last several years, though, he's drawn a larger number of lefty intellectuals who appreciate his bold statements against capital punishment, the war, and in particular the Bush administration.
Both demographic groups were present at the Tennessee in force. One cheered; the other booed. A few left early. A wide swath between the two were just a little stunned.
With the giant red-and-black hammer and sickle displayed on the big screen, about a thousand were still there to get out of their seats and call Earle back for two encores.
He and the Dukes played a strong rendition of the Beatles' Revolution" (perhaps ironically, since it could be read as advice to take it easy with the Commie symbology). He closed with the 1968 counterculture anthem, "Time Has Come Today." It did seem like the start of something, as Earle intended.
The Soviet imagery might have seemed corny five years ago, but in the current right-leaning climate, a left-wing backlash is inevitable. Expect to see more of it.
Sounds about right to me. The tour is passing through Tucson on February 8 and we’ve got our tickets. I’m counting the days. Anyone else planning to be there?
(Ironically, I found this via Instapundit. And no, I don’t link to the perfesser.)
Insurgents carried out more than a dozen attacks across the country on Sunday, killing at least 25 people and wounding 71 others.
After the voting, President Bush said the balloting was a "resounding success" and praised Iraqis who "have taken rightful control of their country's destiny."
At least eight suicide bombings took place during the voting. There are reports of a ninth, but CNN has not confirmed those reports.
There were eight other types of attacks as well, including one in which insurgents identified Iraqi civilians as having voted -- based on the ink on their fingers -- and threw grenades at them, killing them.
U.S. commanders expecting a greater level of violence said they were pleasantly surprised that their security operation had paid off, CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour reported from the Iraqi capital.
Only 25 dead. Only 71 wounded. What a pleasant day! Mission accomplished!
Remember, this is a country that has a population about 1/12th that of the United States. What would you think if 300 Americans had been killed on Election Day and another 850 had been wounded? Would you say you were “pleasantly surprised”? And how come on this day we actually start counting the civilian casualties after studiously ignoring them for the past two years?
It’s official! The title of dumbest fucking guy on the planet has been passed to the perfesser!
How many Bush Administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?
None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are a delusional spin from the liberal media. There is no shortage of filament. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?
(Via BOP News)
Pondering her next meal…
Thanks to Fafblog! for this marvelous FAQ that explains everything you need to know about
privatization … private accounts … personal accounts … the privamatupilous splendiferacy of Social Security reform!
Q: I’m scared! How can we avert this terrible future?
A: There’s just one chance! We have to borrow trillions of dollars to finance transforming Social Security into a completely different system based on mandatory investments in preferred stocks.
Q: If we’re borrowing trillions of dollars, and the government already owes trillions of dollars, and the Social Security crisis is a debt problem anyway, how does this help Social Security?
A: Quick we have to act fast! We only have twenty years to go!
Q: I thought we had forty years.
A: Now we have ten! It is a ticking bomb.
Q: Oh no! In these extreme circumstances we have to privatize Social Security!
A: If we don't, the terrorists win.
Q: I’ll hold it down. You get the electrodes!
A: It’s so crazy, it just might work!
The sad thing is, Fafnir makes more sense than Donald Luskin or Steve Forbes.
Roger Ailes (the good one) has the details. Family values? Puh-leeze.
I regularly see New York Times reporter John F. Burns on the evening news with Jim Lehrer. He’s a damn good reporter, which is why this new report is so damning:
Starkly put, Baghdad is not under control, either by the Iraqi interim government or the American military.
On the bright spring day in April 2003 when marines helped topple Mr. Hussein's statue in Firdos Square, Baghdad, more than any other place in Iraq, was the place American commanders hoped to make a showcase for the benefits the invasion would bring.
Instead, daily life here has become a deadly lottery, a place so fraught with danger that one senior American military officer acknowledged at a briefing last month that nowhere in the area assigned to his troops could be considered safe.
"I would definitely say it's enemy territory," said Col. Stephen R. Lanza, the commander of the Fifth Brigade Combat Team, a unit of the First Cavalry Division that is responsible for patrolling a wide area of southern Baghdad with a population of 1.3 million people.
In the week that ended Sunday, according to figures kept by Western security companies with access to data compiled by the American command, Baghdad was hit by 7 suicide car bombings, 37 roadside bombs and 52 insurgent attacks involving automatic rifles or rocket-propelled grenades. The suicide bombs alone killed at least 60 people and injured 150 others.
Although the American military command has cited surveys purportedly showing 80 percent of Baghdad's residents are eager to vote, many people interviewed by reporters are like Dr. Naqib who say they will stay away.
"Every day, when you leave your home, you don't know what will happen - bombs, bullets, kidnapping," Dr. Naqib said as he braced himself against the near-freezing cold in the garden of the private sports club where he had taken his wife and three children for lunch, their first family outing in months. "You ask me about hope - there is no hope. On ordinary days, I cannot even allow my children to play in the garden. To them, a garden is something they only see through windows."
Several times a week I suppress my gag reflex and wander through a collection of right-wing Web sites to see what the other side is saying. In general, they’re sticking to the mantra that things aren’t so bad in Iraq, and that the people are better off without Saddam Hussein in power, and that we’re not writing about the schools that have been painted this week by U.S. soldiers.
Well, to the right side of the blogosphere, I say go fuck yourself. The capital of the country, occupied by more U.S. troops than any other place on the planet, is “enemy territory,” according to a military commander. We don’t even have the common decency to count the number of innocent people we kill each month.
American commanders, acknowledging they have little chance of stopping the suicide bombers once the bomb-laden vehicles set out, have authorized the machine-gunners in the last vehicle of each convoy to open fire on any driver who ignores hand signals and warning shots to back off as he approaches a convoy from the rear.
This tactic has led to a growing number of incidents in which American gunners, in Humvees traveling at 50 miles an hour or less, have fired at suspected car bombers, only to discover afterward that the drivers who died were innocent civilians who had missed the warning signals, or perhaps never knew that overtaking American convoys was likely to be fatal.
These incidents have compounded a widespread impression among the people of Baghdad that the Americans are careless of Iraqi lives. Dr. Naqib, the dentist, fearful as he is of insurgent attacks, said he feared the Americans more. "The Americans, they are part of the terrorism," he said.
"They're so frightened, anything that happens to them, they start shooting right away."
God help us.
Frank Rich makes a trenchant observation:
Jan. 30 is here at last, and the light is at the end of the tunnel, again. By my estimate, Iraq's election day is the fifth time that American troops have been almost on their way home from an about-to-be pacified Iraq. The four other incipient V-I days were the liberation of Baghdad (April 9, 2003), President Bush's declaration that "major combat operations have ended" (May 1, 2003), the arrest of Saddam Hussein (Dec. 14, 2003) and the handover of sovereignty to our puppet of choice, Ayad Allawi (June 28, 2004). And this isn't even counting the two "decisive" battles for our nouveau Tet, Falluja. Iraq is Vietnam on speed - the false endings of that tragic decade re-enacted and compressed in jump cuts, a quagmire retooled for the MTV attention span.
The whole column is good, in an achingly sad sort of way. Rich makes the depressing point that two-thirds of Americans have no friend, relative, or co-worker serving in Iraq, and so there’s no urgency in the mission to remove the troops from harm’s way.
Go. Read it.
Somehow I think that thick black line at the bottom is the one our President has in mind.
(Via Rocky Mountain Progressive Network)
The New York Times reports Backers of Gay Marriage Ban Use Social Security as Cudgel:
A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Or, in plainer language: “We won’t support your plan to cheat the poor and the aged unless you support our plan to strip homosexuals of their civil rights, too.”
You’ve seen the heartbreaking images of the little Iraqi girl crying, surrounded by pools of blood after her parents were killed in her car. The full story, as told by photographer Chris Hondros, is now online. Here’s an excerpt:
Dispatch From Iraq: Chris Hondros Witnesses A Shooting After Nightfall
On the evening of Jan. 18, as we made our way up a broad boulevard, I could see car making its way toward us. As a defense against potential car bombs, it is now standard practice for foot patrols to stop oncoming vehicles, particularly after dark. "We have a car coming," someone called out, as we entered an intersection. We could see the car about 100 meters away. The car continued coming; I couldn't see it anymore from my perch but could hear its engine now, a high whine that sounded more like acceleration than slowing down. It was maybe 50 yards away now.
"Stop that car!" someone shouted out, seemingly simultaneously with someone firing what sounded like warning shots -- a staccato, measured burst. The car continued coming. And then perhaps less than a second later a cacophony of fire, shots rattling off in a chaotic overlapping din. The car entered the intersection on its momentum and still shots were penetrating it and slicing it. Finally the shooting stopped, the car drifted listlessly, clearly no longer being steered, and came to a rest on a curb. Soldiers began to approach it warily.
The sound of children crying came from the car. I walked up to the car and a teenage girl with her head covered emerged from the back, wailing and gesturing wildly. After her came a boy, tumbling onto the ground from the seat, already leaving a pool of blood.
"Civilians!" someone shouted, and soldiers ran up. More children -- it ended up being six all told -- started emerging, crying, their faces mottled with blood in long streaks. The troops carried them all off to a nearby sidewalk.
I don’t blame the soldiers who did this. They’ve been put in a horrible, no-win situation, and I am certain they’ll have nightmares about this scene for as long as they live. But I do blame the men and women who sent them there. And I feel ashamed to call them countrymen.
Over at Change for America, Adam Mordecai finds this picture of a “protester” burning an American flag and goes off on a rant:
Now, when you look at this image, and pretend that you are Joe America, what do you see?
A. This guy has a point, and he clearly is making a valid statement about our Government's policies and the direction we are going.
B.Why is that psycho burning my country's flag? And why does he hate my country? And where does one sign-up to go on a trip to kidney punch him?
If you chose option B, you would be correct. I myself, Mr. Progressive, feel a patriotic urge to slap him across the face.
The idea of protesting in this day and age of media incompetence needs a serious retooling. Protesters need to decide if they want to cry about how wrong things are and change nothing, or if they want to effectively get their message out and be more subtle. I took part in the demonstrations in NYC during the RNC convention. It was a powerful feeling seeing that many people, together united in their cause, over a million strong. What did the media show? Some stupid dragon being lit on fire.
If we are going to actually try to convince people to change their minds, to join our cause, then we have to give them the impression that we are just like them. If you saw a million well dressed men and women walking down the street, how much more serious would you take a cause? How fast would you discount it if you saw a bunch of disheveled hipsters with bandanas covering their faces?
I have one question, Adam: How do you know this guy isn’t a plant from some right-wing group? There’s several decades of history that show the right doing exactly this sort of dirty trick to discredit and marginalize protests. There were plenty of squeaky-clean protesters in Washington and probably in Portland, too, but images like this one make the papers and the evening news.
Don’t marginalize your own movement by falling for suspicious images.
Over at MyDD, Ben P notes that at Condi’s confirmation hearings, she couldn’t find a single nice word to say about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Indeed, as Ben correctly notes, most Americans know very little about Chavez. After a little quick research, Ben sums up Chavez’s pluses and minuses:
Well on the plus side
- he is democratically elected, and was willing to participate in a recall election of dubious merit that he resoundingly won through legitimate means despite the presence of an ideologically hostile media
- he takes problems like endemic poverty and racism that have plagued Venezuelan society seriously, and is attempting to fix them
On the minus side:
- he seems too confrontational and not willing to reach out to his opponents
- some of the procedural and constitutional methods he has employed do nothing to allay the fears of his opponents, as he seems to be trying to minimize their ability to work against him through dubious means
Maybe it’s me, but doesn’t that list sound an awful lot like our President? Except for the “ideologically hostile media” and “taking the problems of poverty and racism seriously” parts, of course.
An oldie but goodie:
By the way, did you notice that Dear Leader didn’t use the word “Iraq” even once in his big speech yesterday? Funny, that.
That wasn’t so bad, was it? I needed much less tequila than I thought to get through the day, and thanks to TiVo I was able to record and then delete all the major “news” broadcasts without actually having to watch them.
(Image “borrowed” from Boing Boing.)
Fanatical Apathy deconstructs the
bullshit pseudo-science theory of Intelligent Design:
Is God a lobster? No, probably not. Hard to say, really. But in the new Darwin debate, He's got pincers. One arm is the old standby you've heard of, The Bible. You know, the big book He wrote that tells about Charlton Heston growling at people and other stories. That book. But the other arm of the pincers is the new Science of "Intelligent Design." The discipline lives up to its name - it's intelligently designed. But because the scientific community tends to unfairly dismiss it as "pseudo-science" and "fraudulent" and "bullshit," I thought I'd provide you all with a Q&A entitled The Complete Idiot's Guide to Intelligent Design."
Q: What's Intelligent Design?
A: "The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion."
Q:I'm sorry, I was distracted by a sparkly object. What was that?
A: It's the science that concludes that life is so very, very complicated that by necessity it must have been created by an intelligence.
Q: I hear that! Why just the other day I tried to get on the bus but my pass was clipped to my pants so I had to jump up and down to try to reach the little machine -
A: No, no, I mean "complicated" as in "complex." DNA, cellular biology, etc. It's all so complex that there HAD to be a designer.
It just gets better and better, and is well worth reading. In fact, it makes almost as much sense as Bill O’Reilly did the other night when he tried to wrap his mind around ID with the help of a visiting scientist:
O’REILLY: Joining us today is Michael Grant, a Professor of Biology at the University of Colorado.
See, I can’t understand, as a former high school teacher myself, why you can’t just say “Well, some people believe there’s a deity and the deity formed the universe and things progressed from there?” What would be wrong with that, Professor?
GRANT: Well, my view of what would be wrong with that is it’s not science. And that’s not the place to talk about those kinds of things. The proper place to talk about those kinds of issues is in comparative religion. It’s in the philosophy classes. Biology classes should be science.
O’REILLY: OK. But science is incomplete in this area of creationism, is it not?
GRANT: Science is always incomplete in all areas.
O’REILLY: Well, I don’t agree with that. Science is not always incomplete and I’ll give you an example. There are twenty-four hours in a day. Alright. That’s science. And there are four seasons. That’s science. So you can state things with certainty in biology or any other science you want. However, if I’m a student in your class and you’re telling me, well, there might have been a meteor or big bang or there might have been this or there might have been that, I’m gonna raise my hand like the wise guy I am and say “Professor, might there be a higher power that contributed to the fact that we’re all here?” and you say - what?
GRANT: I say that’s something you need to question, you need to think about, you need to discuss with other people. You need to do that in the proper class. In the biology class we deal with science, with the natural world and what fits our conventional concepts of science.
O’REILLY: But, what if it turns out there is a God and He did create the universe and you die and then you figure that out? Aren’t you gonna feel bad that you didn’t address that in your biology class?
GRANT: Well, to quote a famous quote ...
O’REILLY (overtalks all words): ‘Cause then it would be science, wouldn’t it? You know, if tomorrow the deity came down and proved himself, then it would be science, wouldn’t it, sir?
GRANT: If it meets the convention standards - whatever it is you’re referring to - meets science, then I certainly would be convinced. And, until and unless that happens, I’m going to go on teaching what I see is current science.
O’REILLY: Alright. See. I think this is a narrow-minded view, with all due respect, that you are holding. But I must point out to our viewers that most academics agree with the professor. Alright. It’s pinheads like me that cause trouble. Now. Cloning of human beings. It’s never been done that we know of. Would you agree with that?
GRANT: To the best of my knowledge, it has not yet been done. That’s correct.
O’REILLY (overtalks the last 8 words): OK. Now. Do you not talk about cloning of human beings in biology class? Do you not talk about the possibility that may come about in the future?
GRANT: In certain special classes and the bioethics classes, we definitely do talk about that....
O’REILLY (overtalks last 3 words): Yeah. It’s not science, sir!!
GRANT: ...whether it could or should be done. It’s very much science.
O’REILLY: Yeah. It’s not science, is it?
GRANT: There’s an enormous amount of science in it.
O’REILLY: It’s not!
O’REILLY: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! It’s not science. It hasn’t been done.
GRANT: Yes, it is.
O’REILLY: So, by your theory in the creationism deal, you shouldn’t talk about that at all, because it hasn’t been done, it hasn’t been proven, nothing’s happened there!
It’s easy to mock Intelligent Design, and I highly recommend that we all continue to do exactly that. However, assuming that we can safely dismiss this crackpottery with only ridicule is a dangerous game. That’s how the Swift Boat liars got traction, remember? There’s no shortage of money and a powerful, cranked-up message machine behind the movement to get ID into the classroom. The reason, of course, is that from the public schools it’s just a short hop, skip, and jump to the courtroom, from which it’s a leisurely stroll to the legislature. Pretty soon you’ve got your own Theocracy, with a capital T that also stands for Trouble.
We may already be three-fifths of the way there. One poll I saw this week revealed that 61% of Americans believe the Biblical story of creation is literally true. Plants appeared on Wednesday, dinosaurs were created on Friday afternoon, humans arrived on Saturday night. They believe this because someone told them to believe it and it makes perfect sense to them. Some seriously smart people like Professor Theodore Schick Jr. have already explained (much better than I can) why scientific experimentation is the superior way to produce justified beliefs:
We are justified in believing something to be true when it provides the best explanation of the evidence. Science is superior to other methods of inquiry because it usually provides better explanations than they do. The goodness of an explanation is determined by the amount of understanding it produces, and the amount of understanding an explanation produces is determined by how much it systematizes and unifies our knowledge. The extent to which an explanation does this can be determined by appealing to various criteria of adequacy such as simplicity, scope, conservatism, and fruitfulness. No one wants to hold unjustified beliefs. The problem is that most people never learn the difference between a good explanation and a bad one. Consequently they come to believe all sorts of weird things for no good reason.
Exactly. So in addition to the mockery I want to see some serious scientists taking these ID fanatics seriously and asking a simple, serious question: Where are the experiments? If you want to tech this stuff in science class, if you want the scientific community to accept the theory that some sort of being with powers and abilities far beyond our own is responsible for key aspects of creation, fine. Design some experiments. Wouldn’t it be nice to prove the existence of God with some actual data? Wouldn’t it be nice to raise a generation of kids who know how to distinguish truth from falsehood rather than simply accept that most things are mysteries we puny humans can never understand?
Of course, if the counter-argument is that no scientific experimentation is necessary because evolution and ID are equally plausible explanations for ineffable mysteries, then I’m going with the lobster thing. Because it makes just as much sense.
Billmon is back. Order is being restored to the universe.
Seen on The Daily Show:
9/11 + x = STFU
where x = whatever we say
and STFU = shut the fuck up!
First in a continuing series:
Defense attorney Leslie Ballin called it the "jury pool from hell." The group of prospective jurors was summoned to listen to a case of Tennessee trailer park violence. Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, "I'm on morphine and I'm higher than a kite."
When the prosecutor asked if anyone had been convicted of a crime, a prospective juror said that he had been arrested and taken to a mental hospital after he almost shot his nephew. He said he was provoked because his nephew just would not come out from under the bed.
Another would-be juror said he had had alcohol problems and was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover officer. "I should have known something was up," he said. "She had all her teeth."
Another prospect volunteered he probably should not be on the jury: "In my neighborhood, everyone knows that if you get Mr. Ballin (as your lawyer), you're probably guilty." He was not chosen.
The case involved a woman accused of hitting her brother's girlfriend in the face with a brick. Ballin's client was found not guilty.
(From AP, via TalkLeft)
Josh Marshall, in his best deadpan voice, notes that editors of the Onion appear to have infiltrated CNN’s polling unit. That’s the only conclusion to be drawn after seeing this headline:
Poll: Nation split on Bush as uniter or divider
Josh Marshall reports that John Kerry has gone on record saying he won’t vote to confirm Condi Rice:
"Dr. Rice is a principal architect, implementer, and defender of a series of Administration policies that have not made our country as secure as we should be and have alienated much-needed allies in our common cause of winning the war against terrorism. Regrettably, I did not see in Dr. Rice's testimony any acknowledgment of the need to change course or of a new vision for America's role in the world."
Good. I’ve read a bit too much anti-Kerry commentary lately from people who want grand symbolic gestures rather than genuine opposition. I will be the first to admit that Kerry made several strategic blunders in his campaign for the Presidency, but when I look at the field of alternatives I don’t think any other candidate would have done as well. The American people were ready to vote for a lying, torturing, looting and pillaging C-minus student, period, and that’s what they did.
Since the election, I have no criticisms of Kerry. He was right to stay out of the Ohio vote-fraud controversy and allow surrogates to challenge the legitimacy of the vote. It was a brilliant move to go to Iraq. He acquitted himself admirably in the confirmation hearings yesterday.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, we’ve got four more years of Bush madness ahead of us. If Howard Dean can give the party a spine and Kerry, Boxer, and a few others can set a moral tone and provide genuine opposition, we might be able to position ourselves for a recovery in 2006 and 2008.
Bush is lying: There is no crisis.
James Wolcott has jury duty this week:
I just hope I won't be stuck in the jury box and miss the president's stirring inaugural address, in which he will ask Americans to pay any price and bear any burden to make this a better world for his campaign donors and their demon spawn. Afterwards, Chris Matthews will call the speech Kennedyesque in its cadences, Michael Bechloss will remind us that Andrew Jackson carried a wooden comb in his vest pocket during his inaugural address in 18 oh who the hell cares. and David Frum will be carried out on a stretcher, overcome with Vicks VapoRub. I just hope too many car bombs don't go off in Iraq to mar the festive mood.
I believe it is my patriotic duty to drink as heavily as possible this Thursday.
So far as she knows, Pufferbelly Toys owner Stephanie Cox hasn't been passing any state secrets to sinister foreign governments, or violating obscure clauses in the Patriot Act.
So she was taken aback by a mysterious phone call from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to her small store in this quiet Columbia River town just north of Portland.
"I was shaking in my shoes," Cox said of the September phone call. "My first thought was the government can shut your business down on a whim, in my opinion. If I'm closed even for a day that would cause undue stress."
When the two agents arrived at the store, the lead agent asked Cox whether she carried a toy called the Magic Cube, which he said was an illegal copy of the Rubik's Cube, one of the most popular toys of all time.
He told her to remove the Magic Cube from her shelves, and he watched to make sure she complied.
After the agents left, Cox called the manufacturer of the Magic Cube, the Toysmith Group, which is based in Auburn, Wash. A representative told her that Rubik's Cube patent had expired, and the Magic Cube did not infringe on the rival toy's trademark.
Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said agents went to Pufferbelly based on a trademark infringement complaint filed in the agency's intellectual property rights center in Washington, D.C.
"One of the things that our agency's responsible for doing is protecting the integrity of the economy and our nation's financial systems and obviously trademark infringement does have significant economic implications," she said.
Six weeks after her brush with Homeland Security, Cox told The Oregonian she is still bewildered by the experience.
"Aren't there any terrorists out there?" she said.
I swear to God, The Onion is going to go out of business any day, because when shit like this is happening, parody is pointless.
BillMon speaks. You listen.
The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday.
The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.
Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying, “The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible.”
One former high-level intelligence official told The New Yorker, “This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign.”
And now for the non-denial denial:
“We obviously have a concern about Iran. The whole world has a concern about Iran,” Dan Bartlett, a top aide to President Bush, told CNN’s “Late Edition.”
Of The New Yorker report, he said: “I think it’s riddled with inaccuracies, and I don’t believe that some of the conclusions he’s drawing are based on fact.”
Think we’ll be putting together a Coalition for this one? Anyone check the Rapture Index lately?
Franklin D. Roosevelt Inauguration, 1945:
The fourth inauguration was conducted without fanfare. Because of the expense and impropriety of festivity during the height of war, the oath of office was taken on the South Portico of the White House. It was administered by Chief Justice Harlan Stone. No formal celebrations followed the address.
Not to mention Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Harry S. Truman. Thanks to Amygdala for the history lesson.
Matthew Yglesias observes, correctly, the striking similarities between the governance styles of George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin:
I've written before about Bush's Putinization of American society. The breakdown of the divisions between president and party, between his administration and the state it administers, between the state and the businesses it regulates, and between party propaganda and media. The recent Armstrong Williams fracas can be viewed in that light. Fundamentally, it's less an issue of journalistic ethics than of governing ethics. No free society will ever be free of some degree of malfeasance among its commentariat. The deplorable practice of op-eds for hire and the related plague of astroturf organizing should be resisted by good-hearted people, but some slippage on the part of unconsciencious people is inevitable. A desire by the administration to corrupt the purposes of the state and misuse its citizens tax dollars in this manner, however, is not. Today's report in The New York Times that the Social Security Administration will be transformed from its legitimate purpose of administering Social Security to serving as a propaganda organ for the privatization drive should be seen in this light.
The government of the United States is not the personal property of the President of the United States. But to a president who's already used the Treasury Department on several occassions as propaganda outlet, who has maintained that wartime removes all limits on executive power, who feel frees to violate the rules of congress and illegally hide pertinent information from its Members, who uses the United States Navy as a campaign prop, and who views loyalty rather than accuracy as the primary value of an intelligence report, it apparently is.
The existence of a state-sponsored Gulag and the rise of a secret police could also be on that list.
Rules for the Coronation:
Thousands of performers - marching bands, color guards, pompon dancers, hand bell-ringers, drill teams on horseback and Civil War re-enactors - will be bused early in the morning to the Pentagon parking lot across the Potomac in Virginia. While performers disembark and go through metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs will search the buses.
Then everybody will get back on the buses for a trip to the National Mall, where they will spend most of the day in heavily guarded warming tents. Participants have been warned that they will not be allowed to leave the tents except to go to portable toilets accompanied by a security escort.
Other instructions given performers include a warning not to look directly at Bush while passing the presidential reviewing stand, not to look to either side and not to make any sudden movements.
"They want you to just look straight ahead," said Danielle Adam, co-director of the Mid American Pompon All Star Team from Michigan, which also performed in the 2001 inaugural parade.
Alice In Wonderland:
'Don't be impertinent,' said the King, 'and don't look at me like that!' He got behind Alice as he spoke.
'A cat may look at a king,' said Alice. 'I've read that in some book, but I don't remember where.'
'Well, it must be removed,' said the King very decidedly, and he called the Queen, who was passing at the moment, 'My dear! I wish you would have this cat removed!'
The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round.
'I'll fetch the executioner myself,' said the King eagerly, and he hurried off.
We may need a memo from the Justice Department on this.
Wiseass.org has an example of what Karl Rove would do to Jesus if he ran against George W. Bush:
This is a look at what a GOP/Bush campaign ad would be like, if the Prince of Peace were alive and here on earth. After-all, we know how liberal, non-violent hippies who want to help the down-trodden, advocate for peace, tolerance, and base their ethics on helping those around them and acting towards others like you would want others to act towards you...are treated by the GOP.
It’s funny because it’s true…
Of course you’ve heard of Armstrong Williams, the black conservative commentator who fell in love with the No Child Left Behind Act after he took $240,000 in payments from the Bush Administration to, well, fall in love with the No Child Left Behind Act. Do you think he was the only pundit in Washington receiving suitcases full of cash? Puh-leeze.
The FOIA requests are flying and it’s just a matter of time before the definitive Payolagate list appears. So why not cash in yourself? Place your wagers in The Poor Man’s Punditry Bought Pool:
Rules: Bets placed that a given media figure will have been found to have been the illegal recipient of taxpayer-funded bribes, including but not limited to: direct cash payments, direct payments to relatives or business associates, payments to business interests, tax breaks, "no-show" jobs, surplus military hardware, White House silverware, "fact-finding" cruises to Polynesian islands, coupon booklets for the Mustang Ranch, rides on Air Force One, rides on Air Force Two, rides on the Presidential Pony, rides on Dick Cheney, rides on Saddam Hussein's mustache, rides on UFOs from Area 51, secret CIA super-weed that makes you "trip balls", Executive Orders authorizing you to terminate Paul Reiser with extreme prejudice, Executive Orders authorizing you rebroadcast baseball games without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball, or lollipops. The bribe must be for the expressed purpose of pimping an Administration policy, cheering Administration officials, or attacking Administration critics. Bets pay at the odds given.
My money is on William Safire (3–1) and Donald Luskin (12–1).
At a black-tie dinner for Radio and Television Correspondents' Association on Wednesday, Bush poked fun at himself and his administration for among other things not finding weapons in Iraq.
At one point Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office. He said: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere."
After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. Bush said "Nope. No weapons over there." Then another picture of Bush searching in his office. He said "Maybe under here."
The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.
In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.
Tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, plagues of locusts. You’ve had a busy year.
So I know this might be presumptuous.But still… January 20. Washington. Freezing rain would be nice. An asteroid would be perfect, but that’s probably a little much to ask.
That ABC show? Please, that’s so last year. The war in Iraq is the new Lost. Even Andrew Sullivan thinks so:
Like many other smart analysts, the pro-war Stratfor military experts have concluded that the war to control the Iraq insurgency or to erect democratic institutions in Iraq has been lost (subscription required). I think it's time to start truly absorbing this possibility. Why lost? Because we blew the opportunity to control the terrain with insufficient troops and terrible intelligence; because all the institutions required to build democracy in Iraq have already been infiltrated by insurgents; because at key moments - they mention the fall of 2003 or spring of 2004 - we simply failed to crush the insurgency when we might have had a chance of success. Short version: we had a brief window of opportunity to turn our armed intervention into democratic liberation and we blew it. Money quote:
The issue facing the Bush administration is simple. It can continue to fight the war as it has, hoping that a miracle will bring successes in 2005 that didn't happen in 2004. Alternatively, it can accept the reality that the guerrilla force is now self-sustaining and sufficiently large not to flicker out and face the fact that a U.S. conventional force of less than 150,000 is not likely to suppress the guerrillas. More to the point, it can recognize these facts: 1. The United States cannot re-engineer Iraq because the guerrillas will infiltrate every institution it creates. 2. That the United States by itself lacks the intelligence capabilities to fight an effective counterinsurgency. 3. That exposing U.S. forces to security responsibilities in this environment generates casualties without bringing the United States closer to the goal. 4. That the strain on the U.S. force is undermining its ability to react to opportunities and threats in the rest of the region. And that, therefore, this phase of the Iraq campaign must be halted as soon as possible.They recommend withdrawing U.S. forces to the periphery of Iraq and letting the inevitable civil war take place in the center.
We’ve liberated you. Now try not to blow yourselves to hell.
Do you feel proud, Andy?
I’ve been meaning to link to this post from William Gibson for some time. It’s a keeper.
How seldom, in our study of literature, do we come across evidence of a genuine prescience.
"...the larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, the first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide...the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre... The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people... On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a moron."
--H.L. Mencken, writing in The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920
A better description of devolution hath ne'er been writ.
According to Reuters
, Richard Gere has made a public service announcement for broadcast in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. It's part of a GOTV effort for Sunday's Palestinian elections:
"Hi, I'm Richard Gere and I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important. Get out and vote," Gere said in the advertisement.
But many voters, already struggling with the labyrinthine politics of the West Bank and Gaza, say they have never heard of the actor who swept Debra Winger off her feet as a dashing Navy officer in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman and were even less interested when they were told he's an American.
"I don't even know who the candidates are other than Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), let alone this Gere," Gaza soap factory worker Manar an-Najar told Reuters on Wednesday.
"We don't need the Americans' intervention. We know who to elect. Not like them -- they elected a moron."
Holden at First Draft is keeping a shitlist of artists who will perform at the upcoming Chimpy Coronation
. I was especially disappointed to see Lyle Lovett and Robert Randolph on the list. Although maybe Lyle's just showing solidarity for Texas.
I'll be listening to the Dixie Chicks and Bruce Springsteen on January 20.
Rep. John Conyers holds hearings into voting irregularities in Ohio. Tomorrow, the Senate will certify the vote of the Electoral College. The media might be tempted to mention Conyers' hearings as part of their coveage. How to fight back? Slime!
Where did turkeys go?:
"The director of a Detroit food bank wants to know what happened to 60 turkeys -- 720 pounds of frozen birds -- that his charity gave to members of U.S. Rep. John Conyers' local staff two days before Thanksgiving to give to needy people.
Conyers' Detroit office promised an accounting of any turkey distribution by Dec. 27, but the Gleaners Community Food Bank had received no paperwork as of Tuesday, said the charity's director, Agostinho Fernandes.
Fernandes said he became suspicious that the turkeys didn't get to poor people after hearing from a friend that a federal court worker had said he was offered free turkeys from a member of Conyers' staff.
A Conyers staff member who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal ... raised concerns in a memo sent to both the FBI and House ethics committee. Conyers was the target of an informal ethics committee inquiry last year following a Free Press investigation about use of staff members during work hours for political campaigns.
And, of course, the usual gang of idiots
were spreading the story within minutes.
Nice work by the right-wing sleaze machine. Everyone singing in perfect harmony.
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, is reviewing a proposal to add hundreds of American military advisers to work directly with Iraqi units, whose disappointing performance could jeopardize the long-term American exit strategy from Iraq, senior military officials said Monday.
Americans are training Iraqi police officers and national guard troops to replace them in securing the country, but the results over all have been troubling, with growing desertion rates, gaps in leadership, and poor battlefield performance, American military officers and troops say. ...
General Casey, at a Pentagon news conference on Dec. 16, said an exhaustive internal review of the military's campaign plan for Iraq concluded that training the local police and building a better border patrol were two of three essential areas that were well behind schedule. The other area was establishing effective Iraqi intelligence services.
Young men who were drafted into the ARVN often also worked secretly for the NLF. The Kennedy administration concluded that Diem’s policies were alienating the peasantry and contributing significantly to NLF recruitment.
The number of U.S. advisers assigned to the ARVN rose steadily. In January 1961, when Kennedy took office, there were 800 U.S. advisers in Vietnam; by November 1963 there were 16,700. American airpower was assigned to support ARVN operations; this included the aerial spraying of herbicides such as Agent Orange, which was intended to deprive the NLF of food and jungle cover. Despite these measures, the ARVN continued to lose ground.
Too bad George W. Bush wasn't paying attention to what was going on in Vietnam during the Sixties. To those of us who were acutely aware of it, this is all too familiar.
George W. Bush and his gang think the Constitution is just a rotting old piece of paper. How else can you explain this
The Bush administration is preparing plans for possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists, including hundreds whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
Citing intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials, the newspaper said the Pentagon and the CIA had asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for those it would not set free or turn over to courts at home or abroad.
As part of a solution, the Defense Department, which holds 500 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, plans to ask the U.S. Congress for $25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely to ever go through a military tribunal for lack of evidence, defense officials told the newspaper.
Life sentences. No trials. God help us.