May 30, 2004
The WMD Shoppe Sketch
The WMD Shoppe Sketch, below, was brought to my attention by sonicg, who is clearly a very good person (or possibly hedgehog). It's of course a re-writing of the Monty Python's Flying Circus Cheese Shoppe Sketch. I'd felt this should be done for some time, but didn't really want to do it myself. Fortunately, someone else took care of it.
Note that John Cleese says he's always felt his line at the end of the Cheese Shoppe Sketch -- "What a senseless waste of human life" -- to be one of his funniest from Monty Python, even though it didn't get a big laugh. As Cleese explains: "What would a sensible waste of human life be?"
BUSH/SADDAM WMD SHOPPE SKETCH
BUSH: Good Morning.
SADDAM: Good morning, Sir. Welcome to the Persian Gulf.
BUSH: Ah, thank you, my good man.
SADDAM: What can I do for you, Sir?
BUSH: Well, I was, uh, sitting in old 1600 Pennsylvania just now skimming through the Times and I suddenly came over old fear.
SADDAM: Old fear, sir?
BUSH: Bad economy, bad polls
SADDAM: Ah, trouble at home!
BUSH: In a nutshell. And I thought to myself, "I'd better walk over to the old stomping grounds, make sure the bugger has the goods," so, I curtailed my Presidential activities, got on the horse, and penetrated your place of evil doers to negotiate the war on terror!
SADDAM: (pause) Come again?
BUSH: 'Ee, Ah'd like te' 'ave ay WAHR wit ye!'
SADDAM: (lustily) Certainly, sir. What would you like?
BUSH: Well, eh, how about a low-yield neutron bomb?
SADDAM: I'm a-fraid we're fresh out of low-yield neutron bomb.
BUSH: Oh, never mind, how are you on armor-piercing shells?
SADDAM: I'm afraid we never have that at the end of the week, sir, we get them fresh on Monday.
BUSH: Tish tish. No matter. Well, stout yeoman, four ounces of weapons-grade plutonium, if you please.
SADDAM: Ah! It's beeeen on order, sir, for two weeks. Was expecting it this morning.
BUSH: 'T's Not my lucky day, is it? Aah, armored tanks?
SADDAM: Sorry, sir.
BUSH: Surface to air missiles?
SADDAM: Normally, sir, yes. Today the van broke down.
BUSH: Ah. Cluster bombs?
BUSH: Laser guided missiles?
BUSH: Stinger missiles?
BUSH: Serin gas? Microbes?
BUSH: Any nerve gas, per chance.
BUSH: Mustard gas?
BUSH: Carbon monoxide?
SADDAM: Uh, no
BUSH: Napalm, perhaps?
SADDAM: Ah! We have Napalm, yessir.
BUSH: (suprised) You do! Excellent.
SADDAM: Yessir. It's..ah,.....it's a bit runny...
BUSH: Oh, I like it runny.
SADDAM: Well,.. It's very runny, actually, sir.
BUSH: No matter. Fetch me heah the gelatinized gazzoline de jour! Mmmwah!
SADDAM: I...think it's a bit runnier than you'll like it, sir.
BUSH: I don't care how fucking runny it is. Hand it over with all speed.
SADDAM: Oooooooooohhh........! (pause)
BUSH: What now?
SADDAM: Kuwait's eaten it.
BUSH: (pause) Has he.
SADDAM: She, sir.
BUSH: Flame throwers?
SADDAM: (pause) No.
BUSH: Hand grenades?
BUSH: Civil War-era flintlock rifles?
SADDAM: No, sir.
BUSH: You...do *have* SOME weapons, don't you?
SADDAM: (brightly) Of course, sir. It's an evil, dangerous weapons-of-mass-destruction-bearing nation, sir. We've got--
BUSH: No no... don't tell me. I'm keen to guess.
SADDAM: Fair enough.
BUSH: (muttering) Insane...
SADDAM: Oh! I thought you were talking to me, sir. Saddam Hussein.
BUSH: Swords, sabers, knives, cutlery of any sort, nailguns, ballpeen hammers, ping pong paddles, bataca bats?
SADDAM: (shakes head throughout)
BUSH: Exploding pens,
SADDAM: Uh, not as such.
BUSH: Exploding shoes,
BUSH: steel-toed boot?
BUSH: B-B Guns,
BUSH: Rubber bands,
BUSH: Damp spitballs?
SADDAM: Not *today*, sir, no.
BUSH: Aah, how about nuclear MISSILES?
SADDAM: Well, we don't get much call for them around here, sir.
BUSH: Not much ca--they're the single most popular weaponry in the world!
SADDAM: Not 'round here, sir.
BUSH: (slight pause) and what IS the most popular weaponry 'round hyah?
SADDAM: SCUD missiles, sir.
BUSH: ARE they?
SADDAM: Oh, yes, they're staggeringly popular in this region.
BUSH: ARE they.
SADDAM: They're our number one best weapon, sir!
BUSH: I see. Uuh...Scud missiles, eh?
SADDAM: Right, sir.
BUSH: All right. Okay. (pause) 'Have you...' SHUT THOSE BLOODY KURDS UP!
SADDAM: Sorry sir
Bush: Have you got any?' he asked, expecting the answer 'no'.
SADDAM: I'll have a look, sir... nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnno!
BUSH: It's not much of a evil, dangerous weapons-of-mass-destruction-bearing COUNTRY, is it?
SADDAM: The most dangerous in the region!
BUSH: (annoyed) Explain the logic underlying that conclusion, please.
SADDAM: Well, we're so MEAN, sir!
SADDAM: (brightly) You haven't asked me about suitcase bombs sir.
BUSH: Would it be worth it?
SADDAM: Could be....
BUSH: (slowly) Have you got any suitcase bombs?
BUSH: Figures. Predictable, really I suppose. It was an act of purest optimism to have posed the question in the first place. Tell me:
BUSH: (deliberately) Have you in fact got any weapons here at all.
SADDAM: No, not really, sir. I was deliberately wasting your time.
BUSH: I see. Well. I'm going to have to bomb you.
SADDAM: Right-o sir.
BUSH: What a senseless waste of human life.
(Puts on cowboy hat and rides off into sunset)
SUPERIMPOSED TITLES: ROGUE NATION
WE MUST ACT NOW TO DESTROY ROTARIANISM
I've never been too fond of Islamic fundamentalists. I think it's because of their unrelenting attempts to kill Americans, a group to which I belong. However, there is one place where Islamic fundamentalists and I find common ground: THE EXTREME DANGER OF ROTARY CLUBS.
It's only recently that I discovered Islamists and I are brothers in arms in this holy cause. I was reading "Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants" -- a 180-page manual discovered in the home of a British follower of Osama bin Laden -- and came across this encouraging section:
After the fall of our orthodox caliphates on March 3, 1924... Colonialism and its followers, the apostate rulers, then started to openly erect crusader centers, societies, and organizations like Masonic Lodges, Lions and Rotary Clubs...
You might ask: why are Islamists obsessed with Rotary Clubs? Well, that's a stupid question. It's like asking ask why I'M obsessed with them. The important thing is, both Islamists and I recognize the terrible peril posed by Rotarians.
For instance, here are sections from the founding charter of Hamas:
The enemies... take on all sorts of names and shapes such as: the Free Masons, Rotary Clubs, gangs of spies and the like. All of them are nests of saboteurs and sabotage...
They also used the money to establish clandestine organizations which are spreading around the world, in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests. Such organizations are: the Free Masons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B'nai B'rith and the like...
The Zionist invasion... relies to a great extent, for its meddling and spying activities, on the clandestine organizations which it has established, such as the Free Masons, Rotary Clubs, Lions, and other spying associations.
Then there's this:
Throughout 1995 the [Egyptian] pro-government religious weekly, Aqidati, published numerous articles citing the Talmud and other sources to document Israeli "take-over schemes." In June 1995, one writer claimed the Jews established the Rotary clubs "to humiliate Christian and Islamic nations."
Now, I realize that Rotary Clubs were not established by Zionism or "the Jews." As anyone familiar with the subject knows, Rotary Clubs were established by the filthy Zoroastrians. Who are the Zoroastrians? I'm not sure, but I believe they worship Zoro.
Also, I'm a little concerned with the Islamist focus on Freemasons. True, we Freemasons are constantly striving for world domination, but the good kind.
However, these are small details that can be overlooked as Islamists and I struggle together against the mighty foe of ROTARIANISM.
INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT UPDATE: I'm pleased to report a Saudi textbook recognizes the danger of the vicious, swine-eating, socks-wearing Rotarians. This is from "Hadith and Islamic Culture," for use in 10th grade:
The Destructive Movements Used by Zionism for the Realization of Its Goals [include] the Rotary Clubs. They were established in 1905 in Chicago in America and later spread to all parts of the world.
This textbook also describes people taking important ACTIONS to prevent Rotarianism from infecting our precious bodily preciousness. We need more heroes like this willing to fight! fight! fight!
The Islamic Juristic Assembly in Mecca headed by the late Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hamid passed in its session of 10.8.1398 AH, corresponding to 15.7.1978 CE, a legal ruling which determined that Freemasonry and the clubs that belonged to it, such as the Lyons and Rotary, are among the destructive organizations that were most dangerous to Islam...
The Fatwa Committee in the noble al-Azhar [leading Islamic institution, Cairo] issued a proclamation on 15.5.1985 forbidding membership in these clubs (Rotary) or participation therein, because they are among the most dangerous and destructive organizations which work for the benefit of Freemasonry and are controlled by Jews and Zionists.
HOWEVER -- the forces of good (ie, we anti-Rotarians) appear to have suffered a terrible defeat in Iraq. See this mention of Al Hawza, the newspaper of Moqtada al-Sadr, in the New Yorker:
Al Hawza... reprinted photographs of President Bush and President Clinton holding up their index and pinkie fingers; the accompanying article offered the images as evidence of a Zionist-Masonic conspiracy.
Do you see? We had counted on al-Sadr as a valiant ally in the battle against Rotary Clubs. YET HIS NEWSPAPER MAKES NO MENTION OF OUR ENEMY!!! We cannot afford to be distracted by the Zionist-Masonic conspiracy. As I mentioned previously, we Masons are aiming for the good kind of eternal global domination.
Let the word go forth: YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US. And if al-Sadr is not with us in the Fight For A Rotarian-Free Universe, he is therefore an even greater enemy than the Rotarians themselves and must be obliterated AT ALL COSTS.
Leaving the little jokes aside, I am genuinely curious about this bizarre fixation of Islamists on Rotary Clubs. Does anyone know where this comes from? I'm not surprised by the anti-Semitism and anti-Masonry, since these are classic beliefs of the insane. But how did Rotary Clubs and the Lions come into it?
Also, why have the Elks and Shriners been left out? It seems somehow unfair.
May 29, 2004
Judith Miller is Fucking Right
"You know what," she offered angrily. "I was proved fucking right. That's what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, 'There she goes again.' But I was proved fucking right."
Now, at first glance this makes no sense whatsoever, since nothing in her article has been proven right. In fact, very little in any of her reporting on this subject was accurate. But -- what if we are all misunderstanding Miller? What if by "fucking right" she meant "having sex correctly"?
With that in mind, let's look at the quote again, with minor changes:
"You know what," she offered angrily. "I was proved to be having sex correctly. That's what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, 'There she goes again.' But I was proved to be having sex correctly."
You see? Now it makes perfect sense. Remember that Miller has come under intense criticism not just for her atrocious reporting; many people also claimed she was still, as of 2003, having sex incorrectly.
Of course, the whole world knows Miller had sex incorrectly during the eighties. That's never been in dispute. Indeed, thousands of people (mostly Iranian) were killed.
The question was whether she was still having sex incorrectly as of 2003. The US and UK intelligence agencies were certain she was, and claimed Miller was a threat not just to her neighbors but the entire world. However, their certainty now appears to have been based on "evidence" manufactured by Ahmad Chalabi.
Does this mean those of us who attacked Judith Miller were wrong to do so? No. There is still the issue of her horrendous reporting, condemned in numerous UN resolutions. Even those who opposed attacking Miller must admit she's one of worst reporters since World War II, comparable to such monsters as Charles Krauthammer and Bob Woodward. It was critical that the world come together to oppose her evil actions, particularly in such a strategically important area as the New York Times.
May 27, 2004
No No No No No No No No
I suspect no person on earth cares about this except me. But in this speech Al Gore made a few days ago, he said: "George Orwell once characterized life in Stalin's Russia as 'a boot stamping on a human face forever.'"
This is wrong; George Orwell didn't say that about the Soviet Union. Instead, the character of O'Brien says it to Winston in the book 1984. Winston has been arrested, and O'Brien is in charge of breaking him. O'Brien explains:
"The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy... always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever."
It's not like this distinction matters that much. It's just that, having named this website after something George Orwell said, I feel like I should point it out when he's misquoted.
Also, I do feel bad for George. He's constantly being used by people he would have despised. Al Gore is the least of it.
Finally, it turns out there's actually a song called "Boot Stamping on a Human Face Forever."
Complete list of 237 Iraq lies
(This entry by Bob Harris)
For those playing along at home, the office of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Sanity) has compiled a comprehensive searchable index of 237 misleading statements made by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice -- all exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq.
Collect 'em all!
Yes, Everything Is Horrible
(This entry by Bob Harris)
John Ashcroft here.
Just wanted to reassure you: yes, everything is very, very horrible. Jon is wrong again.
In fact, you're probably going to die by the end of the week. Al-Qaeda is coming. They're going to kill us all. Really. I'm not joking. They've got, like, seven guys we have pictures of and everything this time. So it's your civic duty as an American to be extremely frightened. We're all doomed. Right where we're standing. If you listen closely, you can actually hear your own soul preparing to leave your body. Dead, dead, dead. That's you, next week.
Which is precisely why I also want to remind you: we are winning the war on terrorism. Anyone who concludes otherwise obviously hates freedom.
PS -- Anyone else miss U.S. Army field telephones? I know I do. Ever hook somebody's genitals up to a cell phone? Because I've got a Nokia 6190 right here, and I gotta tell you, it doesn't do shit. You couldn't get actionable intel from a fucking hamster with this thing.
May 26, 2004
Not Everything is Horrible!
I tend to focus on the horrible aspects of being alive. That's not because I'm pessimistic or morbid, but because it's hard to be funny about nice things. As the great Mark O'Donnell says, "You can't make a joke about something that's perfect." But today I'm going to take a brief break from the awful to focus on something genuinely good.
My mother volunteers with one of several "I Have a Dream" programs in Washington, DC. If you're not familiar with it, "I Have a Dream" was started by a businessman named Eugene Lang in 1981. As explained on the IHAD website,
In 1981, businessman Gene Lang returned to the elementary school he had attended 50 years earlier, to give a speech to a class of graduating sixth graders. He intended to tell them, "Work hard and you'll succeed." But on the way to the podium, P.S. 121's principal told Lang that three-quarters of the school's students would probably never finish high school, prompting Lang to make an extraordinary impromptu change to his speech: he promised college tuition to every sixth grader who stayed in high school and graduated.
According to the website, there are now over 180 IHAD programs nationwide. (There was also a recent, somewhat shallow 60 Minutes program about it.) IHAD programs differ substantially -- the central organization doesn't exert much authority -- but they do have one main thing in common: they all commit to paying college tuition (at the level of local state colleges) for every participant who finishes high school.
This requires a gigantic amount of money, and not only for the eventual tuition. A good IHAD program starts with kids as early as possible in elementary school and provides lots of tutoring and general support until they graduate from high school.
So, while my mother's program has gotten some incredibly generous grants, they're always looking to raise cash. Recently they invited local young families to an old fashioned ice cream social, netting themselves $900. My mother sent me the below pictures.
This IHAD program started with three kindergarten classes. They're mostly finishing ninth grade now. Here are some of the kids, plus one or two siblings:
Here's the location, at St. Columba's in Washington, before:
Whenever my mother tells me about this program, I'm reminded that what she does is far more important and useful for the world than what I do. (Whatever that is.) And she doesn't even get paid -- as my father says, you couldn't pay someone to work as hard as she does. I am very proud of and impressed by her.
Of course, you might ask: why should something like this IHAD program be unusual? Shouldn't all American children be able to go to college? Shouldn't all American children have constant support and encouragement?
No, they shouldn't. That kind of thing costs money. And it's much more important that American money be spent blowing up weddings -- ideally weddings in Iraq, but if necessary weddings any place on earth. And perhaps one day in space.
Oh, ha ha ha ha ha. We now return to our regularly scheduled torrent of terrible news.
May 24, 2004
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, That's What I Have For Chalabi
INC denies receiving US funding
(Al-Mutamar) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ The Iraqi National Congress has denied receiving financial assistance from the US administration. INC leader Mudhar Shawket talked about an intensive campaign directed by known bodies in the US administration and the Department of States [sic] to defame INC Head Ahmed al-Chalabi and the rest of the INC leadership. He said some media outlets connected to the CIA said Chalabi or the INC received $300,000 monthly aid from the Pentagon. Shawket denied the allegation saying the INC is funded by the members' donations. He asked all media outlets to be sure of their stories before publishing them.
This is why Chalabi's the kind of power-mad would-be dictator I can get behind: he and his people have no shame of any kind. To claim the INC wasn't getting money from the US is so brazenly false it's beautiful -- it's like claiming Chalabi has five heads. And does it embarrass them? No, it doesn't. You would be embarrassed to get up in public and say Chalabi has five heads, and so would I. But they go right ahead and do it, and then, in a master stroke, chide "media outlets" for reporting he just has one head.
There's this urban legend that Mr. Chalabi just has one head. Well, it's not true. Journalists on Saddam's payroll are responsible for spreading these lies. They are the only ones who claim he has one head, when in truth he has five. At least five, possibly more. Plus he has seventeen legs and ten thousand arms. Please, be sure of your stories before publishing them.
Here's another Chalabi-riffic example, from a Frontline special on Iraq:
NARRATOR: We talked to Chalabi at INC headquarters in Baghdad.
MARTIN SMITH: You had argued for a long time that [Iraq was] tightly connected with al Qaeda. As far back as '98, I remember meeting with you [...] and you told me there were lots of connections.
AHMAD CHALABI: Yes, there were.
MARTIN SMITH: Well, those have not quite been demonstrated... Do you have any documentary evidence of any kind?
AHMAD CHALABI: Yes. There is such a document.
MARTIN SMITH: That is a document that you could show us?
AHMAD CHALABI: Well I-- I-- I've seen it, but I don't have it in my possession. But they could show it to you, I think.
MARTIN SMITH: Who can show it to me?
AHMAD CHALABI: Well, our intelligence people.
MARTIN SMITH: Your intelligence people? So after this interview, we can--
AHMAD CHALABI: I-- I don't know if you can do it right now.
MARTIN SMITH: Well, I think its very important to make this-- this is something you've talked about since '98, and I think its a very important point. Its one of the points that drew America to this war.
AHMAD CHALABI: Yes!...
MARTIN SMITH: So I mean, if there is such a document, it makes sense for you to share it, no?
AHMAD CHALABI: I'm not saying no. No. I'm saying that I can't-- I--
MARTIN SMITH: I'm somehow not getting the feeling that I'm going to see the document.
AHMAD CHALABI: Well, you are erroneous.
MARTIN SMITH: OK. Great. I hope to see it.
AHMAD CHALABI: Well, we expect to show it to you.
NARRATOR: The document was supposed to demonstrate money changing hands between Saddam Hussein's government and al Qaeda. After repeated requests, FRONTLINE has still not seen the document.
Now, contrast Chalabi's bravado with the mealymouthed way the Bush administration deceives us. For instance, in the run-up to the war, they rarely lied straight out about WMD in Iraq. (They did sometimes, but not much.) Instead, they would lie by omission or misdirection. A good example is this sentence from the 2003 State of the Union address: "The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb."
Now, that's completely true. The IAEA did confirm this "in the 1990s." The EARLY 1990s. In the early 1990s, they confirmed this had happened before the Gulf War in 1991. Then, by 1998, the IAEA confirmed they'd completely dismantled Iraq's nuclear program. Then in 2003, before Bush's speech, they again confirmed Iraq had nothing.
Do you see what I mean? Obviously the Bush administration wanted to mislead us. So why bother with something that's technically true? Why not just lie? Let me tell you, if my friend Ahmad Chalabi had been president, he would have told us, "Saddam is ten miles tall and can shoot nuclear photon torpedos out of his nose. The only hope we have is for me to lead us into war, with my five heads."
And that's why the Bush administration is not fit to carry Chalabi's jock. His capacious, capacious jock.
May 20, 2004
People I Know Roundup
A story about Paul Alan Smith, one of the world's funniest & most generous people, is here. He's so funny it makes me bitter and angry. If you (a) live in Los Angeles, (b) have any interest in progressive politics, and (c) are a good person, you should attend the events he organizes. Ask if you need details.
Also, here's the latest column by Matt Taibbi from the New York Press. This week he writes about Justin Ringling, some guy who sent a plaintive letter to USA Today asking why the media is only reporting the bad news from Iraq:
I looked up Justin after reading this. He is indeed listed in Westerly, RI, so he appears to be a real person...
I called up Justin and left several messages, explaining that I thought I could help with his problem. No answer.
So I'm left to make this public appeal to Justin to come forward. The reason is that I have a proposal for him. I would like to offer to send him to Iraq at my own expense. I would also like to offer him (assuming my editors cooperate) all the column inches in New York Press that he desires to send the missing good news back to the deprived readership of the United States. [Editors' note: Consider it done.]
I have two conditions. The first is that he goes unarmed and unescorted. The second is that he wear, every day, a t-shirt emblazoned with the American flag on the front, and also bearing an Arabic inscription on the back that reads, "God Bless the U.S."
If you're not familiar with Matt Taibbi's writing, your life is not worth living. He co-founded the Exile in Moscow, then returned to the US to co-found the Buffalo Beast. But most importantly, while in Moscow he hit Michael Wines of the New York Times in the face with a combination cream and horse sperm pie. Then Wines, unknowing, licked the combination cream and horse sperm off his own face.
This was perhaps the greatest blow struck for justice in past 100 years. It even outdoes the pie-ing of then-IMF head Michel Camdessus by economist Bob Naiman, and that's saying something. We all stand in the shadow of these giants.
Now, that should be enough achievement for any man, but not Taibbi. He also writes for Rolling Stone, and was able to get himself called "a nut and a hack" with "no place in legitimate journalism" by Matt Bennett, Wesley Clark's press spokesman. Then Bennett said Taibbi "was virulently opposed to the Kosovo War" and "Rolling Stone should be ashamed of themselves for hiring or using him."
No word yet on whether Bennett has called in a NATO airstrike on the Rolling Stone offices.
O My Beloved People, How I Hate You
Ahmed Chalabi's headquarters -- the ones just raided by the US -- were in what was formerly the private Baghdad "hunting club" of Saddam's son Udai. Glen Rangwala visited the headquarters last September on a visit to Iraq, and reports it was "bizarre": "waiters bringing you free cocktails under (Udai's) elaborate chandeliers, whilst an INC goon tells you about how stupid Arabs are."
Of course. If there's one thing you can count on in this world, it's that anyone who constantly declares they love their country actually despises their countrymen. So of course Chalabi hires people who have contempt for Arabs.
Likewise, Ann Coulter just loves America, yet sees American airline security guards as "hostile, lumpen mesomorphs". Now, a good portion of the people she hates so much are probably in the National Guard, and have been called up to serve in Iraq. Maybe her fellow citizens have to leave the US before Ann starts liking them.
Likewise, Bibi Netanyahu's wife Sara loves Israel, yet hates Israelis. As she explained when the Likud chose Sharon over Bibi, "Bibi is a leader who is greater than this entire country, he really is a leader on a national scale. We'll move abroad. This country can burn." Hopefully Netanyahu will use "Israel: This Country Can Burn" as the slogan for his next campaign.
Likewise, Yasser Arafat loves Palestine, yet feels Palestinians are "an ungrateful people." That must be why his henchmen have to steal so much money from them.
Likewise... well, I'm too tired to go on.
But certainly here in the US, only those of us who hate America seem to like other Americans. Whenever someone cuts me off in traffic, they always have a "United We Stand" bumper sticker.
May 19, 2004
All a matter of emphasis
(This entry by Bob Harris)
So five minutes ago I glance at the muted Headline News screen here and see the following bold phrase:
Death By Sharon
Oh, crap, I thought. Now it's a whole category.
Turns out it's just an ice cream flavor named for Mrs. Osbourne.
This week, anyway.
May 18, 2004
How and Why I am an Idiot
It's my belief that the verb "to fritter," as in "to fritter away one's life," did not truly come into its own until the invention of the internet. True, people frittered away their lives in the past, just as people flew across the Atlantic before the invention of the jet engine. But the internet has made it possible to fritter away your life with an ease and comfort never before known.
If you want to see an example of my own attempts in this area, go here. Search for "Jon."
The only thing I can offer in my defense is that I'm so familiar with these subjects that this took me less time than it may appear. But still.
A Title Without Jokes
Then you should visit the personal website of Bob Harris. Bob is another contributor to this site, and put up the post below about the Kerry party. In particular, you should read this about his recent around the world trip.
Then you should read this piece by Dennis Perrin, another valued friend, about "My So-Called Life."
You are then released on your own recognizance until midnight EST, upon which time you must report back to this website.
May 17, 2004
Kerry event in Hollywood: pure showbiz
(This entry by Bob Harris)
My first post here, either an honored guest or an unwanted interloper...
Was invited tonight to a small $40-per-head Kerry fundraiser by a friend here in Hollywood (who, if you're a pop-culture geek, played one of the murderous nerds on Buffy The Vampire Slayer; I mention this only to tweak freepers convinced that all of Hollywood is a massive anti-Bush conspiracy... yes, I say to you -- it is! Even bit players on a cancelled show are in on it! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha...).
So I showed up, since I'm planning to vote for Kerry, given that I prefer my war criminals to have retail experience. Truth be told, I was even considering working for Kerry, since he's not a babbling alcoholic con artist who thinks he talks to God.
So out come the catered chicken bits on skewers, served by young actress wannabes quietly scanning for producers they can feed on. And out come the glad-handing best friends, of whom I suddenly have several dozen. And finally, out comes a 30ish Kerry campaign worker to thank us all and drone for thirty minutes about what a scintillating speaker John Kerry really is.
Compared to her, yes, definitely.
And then she started taking questions. So I asked one -- do forgive my impudence -- essentially: "given that the nation is finally realizing that the war in Iraq is a spectacular failure based on a pack of lies, wouldn't it behoove the candidate to begin proposing more specific, positive alternatives to the Bush policies? Wouldn't it help the Kerry campaign immensely to give voters coming to their senses about Iraq a clearer choice of someone to vote for, as opposed to simply someone to vote against?"
Oops. No answer. Not only was the Kerry worker unable to generate a single specific way (and there are several, if nothing on the order of withdrawal) in which Kerry's policy would be different from Bush's -- she wouldn't even acknowledge that it might be helpful. She simply expected that we'd all be thrilled to know that electing Kerry would give U.S. policy more credibility that this White House can muster.
True enough. As would a toaster on fire, a wheel of gouda, or a rabid hamster. All of these have more credibility than Bush.
Meanwhile, things are getting worse in Iraq. American doesn't need another politician. We need a goddam leader. In subtext, I was asking, straight out: is Kerry an actual leader? And she was answering, straight out: no. Not right now. Maybe later.
A few questions later, I raised my hand again. No other hands were raised, so the campaiger looked right at me, announced that the question time was just about over, and that she'd really like questions from someone who hadn't asked any yet. Pure Scott McClellan.
After which, I was ostracized by some whose us-against-them political thinking is no more sophisticated than the people we're trying to defeat. Sigh.
Thank goodness for the main event: another Buffy nerd played songs with his band in the living room, while the first nerd hit on chicks and the third nerd wondered allowed about Kerry's position on gay marriages. (Yes, the actors who played the three nerds from Buffy still socialize in real life. They're actually really wonderful guys. Honest.) This was all quite spendid, almost enough to make me forget that I'm honestly planning to vote for an admitted killer of innocents with no clear agenda for stopping the continued killing of innocents.
I am forty bucks lighter. I have had an absurd and delightful evening filled with singing fictional nerds. But while Kerry will get my vote, and I couldn't be more distressed about Bush on almost every issue imaginable (what's the White House position on drilling the skulls of baby seals for oil? If the issue existed, we already know what the GOP would say), I find myself just not that damned interested in volunteering for the Kerry campaign -- at least until the candidate articulates the very positions that are energizing many of those in his own campaign, and the people who work for him decide to give straightforward answers to the simplest and most urgent of questions.
Asking a lot, I know...
The United States of Colin Powell
One of my favorite subjects -- the human tendency to believe that because you and your friends believe something, everyone does -- was previously examined here. But that doesn't mean it can't be obsessively examined again! This New York Times article, from March 10, 2003, illustrates an interesting example of this:
Appearing on Fox television today, Mr. Powell was asked whether it was true, as former President Jimmy Carter had asserted, that the United States' world stature had plunged and that most countries in the world no longer trusted Washington.
Denying the charge, Mr. Powell listed Spain, Britain, Bulgaria, Portugal, Australia and several nations once in the orbit of the Soviet Union as supportive.
"We need to knock down this idea that nobody is on our side," he said. "So many nations recognize this danger. And they do it in the face of public opposition."
You see? This is why Colin Powell is Secretary of State and you're not. You're not smart like he is. You probably thought "nations" were made up of the "public"; ie, the citizens of that country. But Powell understands that "the nation of Spain" is not made up of the citizens of Spain. And thank goodness, because the citizens of Spain -- sometimes referred to as "Spaniards" -- were overwhelmingly against the war. No, Powell knew that "Spain" is the government of Spain. "Spain" is the seven Spanish officials who agree with Colin Powell. The same holds true for Britain, Bulgaria, Poland, etc. By the same logic, we can see George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell are the United States of America, while the other 290 million of us hanging around here are merely a distracting irrelevance.
And this has always been true. For instance, just after the collapse of the South Vietnamese government on April 29, 1975, Cambodia seized a US cargo ship called the Mayaguez. The crewmen were released, and the Chinese government talked to the Cambodian government and told the Nixon administration the ship itself would be released soon. But Colin Powell's predecessor Henry Kissinger saw this was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that, despite Vietnam, we were still feelin' feisty. So the Marines and Air Force launched an assault on Cambodia that resulted in the deaths of forty-one Americans and an unknown number of Cambodians. In A People's History of the United States, Kissinger is quoted explaining this "ought to make clear there are limits beyond which the United States cannot be pushed, that the United States is prepared to defend those interests, and that it can get public support and Congressional support for these actions."
Once again, we see there are smart people and dumb people. Dumb people think "the public" and "Congress" are the United States. It takes a really smart person like Henry Kissinger to understand that the United States is Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately, the United States (ie, Henry Kissinger) sometimes had to try to get support from people who aren't part of the United States, like American citizens and the US Congress.
Fortunately, with every day that goes by, these outsiders have less and less influence over our beloved country.
May 13, 2004
Battle Hymn of the Imperium
The New York Daily News reports on Donald Rumsfeld's Senate Appropriations Committee testimony yesterday:
Rumsfeld glumly listened as senators read despairing E-mails from U.S. troops in Iraq and he requested extra time at the end of the hearing to deliver a rambling statement ripping media coverage of the prison abuse scandal.
"I've kind of stopped reading the press, frankly," Rumsfeld said, his voice quavering at times. Instead, Rumsfeld said he was reading a book on Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's bloody drive on Richmond in the last year of the Civil War.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right: when the going gets tough, the tough avoid it. "IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve kind of stopped reading the pressÃ¢â‚¬â€now I just sit in the bunker and listen to Wagner." Next up: Rumsfeld proposes to his longtime girlfriend Eva.
Furthermore, Rumsfeld's choice of escapist reading material says a lot about the fantasy world he inhabits. I'm sure he and Cheney, Wolfowitz, etc. genuinely did imagine Iraqis were going to treat US soldiers like freed slaves treated Union soldiers. They did not anticipate the freed slaves would start decapitating Northern civilians.
I find this the creepiest thing about the Bush administration -- the ostentatious idealism with which they execute their carnage. Supposedly Rumsfeld has a plaque on his desk with a quotation from Teddy Roosevelt: "Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords."
Roosevelt, that great sportsman, proclaimed we were going to liberate the long-suffering Filipino people from despotic Spanish rule. We only had to kill 200,000 of them before they understood we were there to help them. Hopefully the Iraqis will be quicker learners.
However, America today is not the America of 1898. For one thing, there are now two Filipino American generals. And of course, in an interesting twist of history, the damning report about Abu Ghraib was written by one of them.
So... Hard... To... Be... Fair
One reason this website exists is to allow me to practice being honest and fair. You don't wake up one morning suddenly honest and fair, just as you don't wake up one morning suddenly a concert violinist. (This is why "The Metamorphosis" is COMPLETELY UNREALISTIC.) You might have honest-and-fair tendencies, just as you might have natural musical talent. But to achieve anything meaningful in any area requires practice. As Stephen King says, "talent is a dreadfully cheap commodity, cheaper than table salt." And that's pretty cheap, because you can get salt for two cents an ounce.
So I read this new Washington Post column by Jim Hoagland (via Atrios), in which Hoagland writes, "Those who were silent about torture in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's time should be modest about cloaking established political agendas in the name of that cause now." Because Hoagland is so monotonously right-wing on foreign policy, I assumed he himself was silent about torture in Iraq until it became politically convenient -- ie, upon the invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. I cranked up my little snideness-generating machine and looked through old writings of his.
I assumed wrong. Hoagland's criticism of Iraq and Saddam Hussein, while not completely consistent, definitely predates the Kuwaiti invasion. For instance:
April 10, 1990 [Saddam Hussein is] a man who has ordered the shooting, poisoning and dismembering of political opponents and the gassing of his own citizens, and reveled in these acts... The [George H.W.] Bush administration came to office convinced that Saddam was among nature's engineerables. Despite all the evidence to the contrary (most recently laid out in chilling and persuasive detail by Middle East Watch in its report, "Human Rights in Iraq"), the State Department offered the view that Bush could persuade Saddam to become a useful citizen of the world... The administration provided Baghdad with $1 billion in guaranteed credits in 1989 to enable Iraq to buy U.S. food supplies while pouring money into missiles, chemical weapons production and the search for an atomic bomb. After Congress voted at the end of 1989 to bar U.S. Export-Import Bank credits to Iraq, President Bush signed a waiver on Jan. 17. He said it was in America's national interest to continue providing Baghdad with $200 million a year in subsidized financing.
July 5, 1990 [T]he [George H.W.] Bush administration has turned a blind eye to Iraq's continuing crimes and misdemeanors in the Middle East, just as Washington long turned a blind eye to the financial manipulation and corruption created in the United States by Iraqi misuse of $1 billion in U.S. agricultural commodity credits... the whole relationship the Bush administration has developed with Iraq is based on fraud. A policy that requires conscientious officials like [Assistant Secretary of State John] Kelly to shade and avoid the truth, to speak no evil of a completely evil regime, cannot be the basis for effective diplomacy or for the self-respect a nation owes itself.
Oh, it is so hard to be honest and fair about Hoagland. So very hard. But while there are many, many things to criticize about him, complete hypocrisy on human rights in Iraq is not one of them.
UPDATE: Atrios had the same idea I did. I believe he didn't read enough of what Hoagland wrote, however.
May 10, 2004
Apparently I'm Swedish
Colin Powell recently explained that the Abu Ghrahib pictures "stunned every American."
I guess that means I'm not an American, since I wasn't stunned at all. It's funny, because I always thought I was American. For instance, there's my birth certificate, showing I was born in the United States. Then there's the US passport I have. But apparently the requirements for being an American are stricter than I knew.
That leaves the question of what nationality I am. Am I Mexican? Nigerian? Luxembourgian? Man, I hope I'm not Iraqi.
Leaving the little jokey jokes aside, many Americans weren't stunned by the pictures. You couldn't be if you knew anything at all about US history, or really any history. Of course, President Bush has never claimed to know anything, so I think he was telling the truth when he said Iraqis must "understand that what took place in that prison does not represent America that I know."
This was exactly the right way for him to put it. In the America he knows, the police don't pile you naked on other prisoners and take pictures. In the America Bush knows, when you get arrested the police call your rich and influential family and they come and pick you up.
Finally, here are some more words of wisdom about Iraq from Colin Powell:
Obviously, because a large foreign military presence will still be required, under U.S. command, some would say, well, then you are not giving full sovereignty. But we are giving sovereignty, so that sovereignty can be used to say: "We invite you to remain. It is a sovereign decision."
This is so true! It's exactly like the 19 Malaysian women I imprison in the sweatshop in my basement, whom I'm going to set free on June 30th. Obviously I'll continue to keep the door locked and never allow them to come upstairs. And some would say, well, you're not giving them full freedom. But I am giving them freedom, so they can freely say, "We invite you to keep us imprisoned in the basement. It is a free decision."
May 09, 2004
I am Surrounded by Cowards!
This story in the Washington Post is about deep disagreements at the Defense Department about Iraq. Various high-ranking officers, retired and not, harshly criticize Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. But all the ones who aren't retired do so anonymously.
At the end of the story, Wolfowitz is asked about the officers' antagonism towards him and Rumsfeld. He says "I wish they'd have the -- whatever it takes -- to come tell me to my face."
I believe the "whatever it takes" referenced by Wolfowitz is "the willingness to have their careers ruined by me, Paul Wolfowitz."
"I wish they'd have the willingness to have their careers ruined by me, Paul Wolfowitz. That way I'd get honest, frank criticism of my decisions. And I'd also be able to ruin their careers. Really, it's a win-win. Why am I surrounded by these COWARDS?"
We Think Most Americans Are Named Jonathan Schwarz
The New York Times has a story today about George Bush's continuing unpopularity in Europe. But maybe things are different in Poland:
"Given that the Polish fate in Iraq is linked with President Bush and his policies, there are more sympathies on the Bush side," said Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a former European affairs minister who is running for the European Parliament. "We think he's been a decisive and courageous president."
One of the best things about the New York Times is that it's very polite. It's so polite it didn't ask if Saryusz-Wolski's statement is what, back in olden times, used to be called "true."
Are there "more sympathies on the Bush side" in Poland? I don't feel like investigating this in depth, since, unlike the person who wrote this article, I'm not being paid. But:
4/28/04 Poles overwhelmingly and increasingly oppose the involvement of their country's armed forces in the coalition stabilisation force in Iraq, according to a survey by the CBOS institute published Wednesday.
It found that 66 percent of the 993 people questioned were against any involvement, up from 60 percent in March, while 29 backed the presence of Polish units with the coalition forces, down from 36 percent last month.
Half of those interviewed wanted Polish forces pulled out of Iraq as soon as possible, while 43 percent were against.
Some polls suggest public support for Poland's role in Iraq has declined to 35%.
The NY Times was also polite enough not to ask who the "we" was in Saryusz-Wolski's statement, "We think he's been a decisive and courageous president." Maybe it was Saryusz-Wolski and his wife. I assume there's at least one other person in Poland who thinks George Bush has been a decisive and courageous president.
This is an example of one of my favorite forms of human behavior, and I would like to make it one of your favorite forms, too. It's this: believing that because you and people like you feel a certain way, everyone does.
Here's another (especially beautiful) example from the website "Instapundit": "The American South knows what it's like to lose a war, and to be occupied... the American South certainly didn't like being occupied. Reconstruction was very unpopular."
Yes, how true -- as all historians will tell you, freed slaves wouldn't stop complaining about how terrible it was to be occupied. The worst part about Reconstruction, former slaves felt, was that federal troops prevented them from being massacred on a large scale, and sometimes made it possible for them to vote. Oh, how they hated it. Many African Americans whine about it to this day.
In the same vein, this appeared in a Washington Post review of a Thomas Jefferson biography (not online). It was written by Joyce Appleby, a professor at UCLA:
Jefferson's authorship of the Declaration of Independence has long made his name a stand-in for democracy itself. But these days we are also aware that this champion of free speech, religious tolerance and the political participation of ordinary white men owned upward of 200 enslaved men, women and children.
Again, who exactly is this "we"? Perhaps white UCLA professors writing for the Washington Post just became aware Jefferson owned slaves. But I suspect many others, such as the slaves Jefferson owned, were aware that Jefferson owned slaves.
This is the amazing thing about human beings. On the one hand, Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) and Joyce Appleby are probably nice, smart people. On the other hand, they can make sweeping statements about "everyone" that casually eliminate much of humanity, leaving only people like themselves. Likewise, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski happily negates the existence of the Poles who don't agree with him. That they all did this unconsciously makes it all the more appalling, particularly in Reynolds' case.
Of course, I do the same kind of thing constantly. But I am neither nice nor smart.
May 05, 2004
"We Never Forget For Whom We Are Working"
I'm planning to write something about the Lockheed Martin slogan -- either for this website or a real publication.
First of all, it's grammatically incorrect. It should be "We never forget WHOM we're working for." Or, if you're really a grammar nazi, "We never forget for whom we're working." Which I realize would suck as a slogan. I'm just saying.
Secondly... well, I'll have to write the piece to explain why this is such a unpleasant example of corporate agitprop.
Anyway, I was poking around on the Lockheed website, and I wanted to find examples of pages where they used this slogan. So I entered "forget" into their website search engine.
Among the many results it returned was a microsoft word document called "Protecting Classified Information Corporate Compliance Training Module." It's basically the answer key to a quiz for Lockheed Martin employees on, of course, protecting classified information.
However, it appears there is no normal way to access this document via the normal, public site. Its existence only becomes apparent to outsiders when a search stumbles upon it. In other words, Lockheed almost certainly didn't mean for an outsider (eg, me) to see it.
So here's a quiz of my own: when you're trying to train people to protect sensitive information, would it be ironic if you made the answers to your training quiz publicly available to every single person on earth?
And it's not the only inadvertently-public Lockheed document on the site. Among the others:
An explanation of their anti-sexual harassment policies, in French. ("Des avances sexuelles inopportunes, la demande de faveurs sexuelles et autres conduites physiques ou verbales de nature sexuelle sont considÃƒÂ©rÃƒÂ©es relever du harcÃƒÂ¨lement sexuel lorsque..."
Another training document, on "Security." Weirdly, much of it has nothing to do with security at work. ("Your house number should be on a contrasting background and either reflective or illuminated by a porch light... You probably donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think of your mailbox as a security threat... you shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t list your full name in the telephone directory or use it on your answering machine...")
Also, just to be safe, you shouldn't tell your full name to your children, spouse, or parents.
May 04, 2004
This Entry Also Written on My Left Buttock
Yes, the world is outraged by the torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Stripping prisoners naked, making them perform sex acts upon each other, writing slurs on their bodies with magic marker. All very bad.
But worst of all, when US soldiers wrote slurs on them, they didn't even spell the slurs correctly.
You see? The prisoner had been branded a "rapeist." Either that or a "rap-fist," which as far as I know also isn't a word.
This to me is the icing on the cake, or perhaps the extra shrapnel in the cluster bomb. I can't think of a better way to demonstrate to all the world that we're more than cruel and barbaric -- we're also idiots. We will strip you naked and write things on your body, and then spell it wrong.
Maybe you don't think this is that funny. And honesty, it's not. But see the end of the entry below.
What the World Needs Now
You know what the world needs more of? The world needs more people who:
1) are Russian
2) are Jewish
3) celebrate the military accomplishments of the Cossacks
Why oh why aren't there more folks like this? It's a puzzlement. But maybe there's hope:
If you wonder what kind of people voted against Sharon's disengagement plan yesterday, you should meet Yacov, a 57-year-old Russian who came to Israel in 1990, and is today a successful engineer. He is a delightful, burly, impressive man who has created a good life in his new country. One afternoon last month, in his apartment near Jerusalem, we were discussing means of fighting terrorism. He was reared on tales of the legendary Bolshevik cavalry leader Budenny.
"Budenny and his Cossacks restored order in our area very quickly," said Yacov approvingly. "They simply killed all the terrorists. If terrorists killed a few soldiers, next day the nearest village was levelled to the ground. Afterwards, there was peace. Now here, today, our army only needs to do that once... "
This reminds me of a funny story. No, wait, not "funny" -- what's the word that means "so horrible you want to pull your own head off so you no longer have to think about it"?
Anyway, a friend of mine told me this story some time ago, right after his grandfather died. His grandfather had come to the US from Russia after the 1905 wave of pogroms, when he was four years old.
Since then, my friend's family had spoken of his grandfather and the mystery of the night he and his parents and siblings fled their village. They'd been running through the woods, and in the darkness his grandfather had gotten separated from everyone else. However, the next morning at sunrise he reappeared. He had been missing for about eight hours.
Of course, his parents wanted to know where he'd been and what had happened to him during those eight hours. But he wouldn't tell them. In fact, he refused to speak about it for eighty-five years.
Just before he died, he told his children and grandchildren about that night. What he said to them was this:
He had wandered through the woods in the darkness. Eventually he came to a small cottage. Inside were dozens of people also fleeing from the Cossacks. There were so many of them that the only place there was room for him to lie down was in the closet.
Later that night the Cossacks found the cottage. My friend's four year-old grandfather lay in the closet and listened as they murdered every single person there. After they left, my friend's grandfather opened the closet door, walked over the dozens of bodies on the floor, and wandered back into the woods. A few hours later he found his family.
And you know what? This guy Yacov is right, because after that my friend's grandfather finally stopped being a terrorist.
Maybe you don't think that's too amusing. But remember it's May 4th, the International Day for Making Grim, Unfunny Jokes.
May 03, 2004
This morning at 8:30 am west coast time I'll be on KRBS in Oroville, CA, mostly talking about this article from TomPaine.com. If you live in Oroville, you should listen. If you don't live in Oroville, you should move there by 8:30 am west coast time.
Anyway, there were several things I couldn't squeeze into the TomPaine.com piece. So I'm including them here, in the article commentary track.
1. The title was originally "The More Things Don't Change at All, the More They Stay the Same."
2. Truly, god only knows what was going through George Bush's head when he made the false claim about Iraqi missiles. But I speculate that somewhere, in the hall of mirrors that is his mind, he was thinking about Iraqi research into long range missiles. According to the CIA's Iraq Survey Group, Iraq was engaged in such undeclared research, which would have been a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. (1441 was the resolution passed in November, 2002.)
The credibility of the U.S. government in these matters is, uh, not so great. Still, let's assume what the Iraq Survey Group says is accurate. The Washington Post's Barton Gellman wrote a long article claiming it would have taken Iraq six years to build these missiles. That's six years without UN inspections -- with them it would have taken much longer. And there's no guarantee the missiles would have worked in any case.
Now, some people think there's a difference between (a) weapons that exist now and (b) rudimentary research into weapons that might hypothetically exist in six years. And frankly, these people make me mad. They are the same people who think there's a difference between (a) me being married to Madonna now and (b) my rudimentary research into how I could hypothetically be married to Madonna in six years.
Face it, people: THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. Hence, just as the US was justified in invading Iraq, I'm justified in invading Madonna's mansion and waiting for my bride to come home. Why can't the so-called "police" understand this?
DIANE SAWYER:Ã‚Â But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still Ã¢â‚¬â€
PRESIDENT BUSH:Ã‚Â So what's the difference?
3. Bush made another incorrect claim at the press conference: that 50 tons of mustard gas had been found in Libya. However, the press actually mentioned this. (In fact, it was only 25 tons.)
What was the difference between this and the missile statement? Presumably, the fact that "The White House moved quickly Wednesday to correct the record, with press secretary Scott McClellan seeking out reporters to point out the mistake." In other words, the media will point out Bush's mistakes when they have permission to do so. But not otherwise.