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September 14, 2007

mr president: you had me at "good evening"

So I couldn't watch the President's weekly primetime address last night because I was otherwise engaged.  I was seriously thinking about it, more for novelty's sake, as the poor fella just keeps giving speeches, like the Little No-Clothed Emperor That Could -- might as well give one of them a shot in case he accidentally says "Poopy!" or something.  But some friends asked us out for Belgian food, and I was feeling like I could eat me a frite or two, so there was no Bush-watching.

In lieu, I looked up the transcript of his speech, and decided to give reading it a try.  Sure, I'd lose that extra sumpin' special from Bush's presidential mouth, as it struggles to form words recognizable by English-speakers, but I figured that if I imagined a "Hic!" or a "Line!" after every couple sentences, then I'd get the gist.  And so I read:

: Good evening.  In the life of all free nations, there come moments that decide the direction of a country and reveal the character of its people.  We are now at such a moment.

Say what?  We're at a whoozawhat moment?  Were we invaded by Martians and someone forgot to notify me?  Al we are is at an arbitrary point of time in span of an intractable invasion/occupation, instigated unilaterally and purely at the whim of a crack-ass Oval Office, and now we're at some character-defining moment?  I don't think there are any Americans too dumb for their intelligence not to be insulted by that pompous bit of sophistry -- and I am of the belief that America is at least three-quarters dumb.

But I persisted.

In Iraq, an ally of the United States is fighting for its survival.  Terrorists and extremists who are at war with us around the world are seeking to topple Iraq's government, dominate the region, and attack us here at home.  If Iraq's young democracy can turn back these enemies, it will mean a more hopeful Middle East and a more secure America.  This ally has placed its trust in the United States.

Hey, now I can feel my blood pressure in my ears!  Let's list the concepts that are nothing more than wishful thinking:  Well, Iraq as a sovereign government, that's a hoot, considering that Iraq's "young democracy" has been installed by Defense Department functionaries and repeatedly replaced once they've proven incompatible with U.S. policy objectives.  Also, to describe the tragic mix of sectarian violence and insurgency as "terrorists and extremists who are at war with us" is a convenient lie that doesn't pass the belly-laugh test.  And the idea that Iraq is an "ally" that "placed its trust" in the U.S. is just stark hooey.  Iraq is no more of an ally than 80s-era Afghanistan was an ally of the USSR, and Iraq has no more placed its trust in the U.S. as it has resigned itself to a continuing occupation.

So I stopped reading right there, because the president is the lyingest liar to ever sit behind that presidential desk, and I'd like to continue my day with the naive belief that even petty street criminals have more of a moral code than George W. Bush, who is willing to continue to force a hundred and seventy thousand of our troops to remain in harm's way, for no discernible reason whatsoever.

Computer is not really too big to throw out the window, but I'm fond of it, and the window.  But where are the headlines this morning that read, "BUSH: UNTETHERED, UTTER HORSESHIT"?

Posted by mrbrent at 11:09 AM

September 13, 2007

look, a terrorist! shiny....

I'm having a hard time discerning the strategy behind this -- the Defense Department has released a recording of a military hearing involving captured Al Qaida muckety-muck Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as detailed by this A.P. story.  If you're not familiar, Mohammed is alleged to be the operational planner for most of Al Qaida's operations of the past decade, until he was captured in 2003 in Pakistan.  I'm just unsure what public interest is served by splashing this all over the headlines.

Obviously, the administration sees some political value in releasing this tape, as "public interest" is for those weak Commie hippies all worried about the whales, but, even then, I don't see the upside.  Yes, it may provide some fuel for the enthusiasm of those that still believe that the occupation of Iraq is in some way related to the containment of radical Islamic terrorism, but for me it serves as a rather florid reminder that not only has one of the bad guys who planned the 9-11 attacks, and even admits to killing Daniel Pearl, not faced criminal prosecution, but perhaps he never will, as this bad guy was exposed to so much inappropriate interrogation (i.e., torture) that no court of competent jurisdiction would ever admit a shred of evidence against him.  (Unless, of course, you consider a "military tribunal" some kind of prosecution.  I don't.  I consider it a fig leaf to cover the government's droopy genitalia, as exposed by the administration's complete and utter abrogation of the Geneva Conventions.)

So amid the rah-rahs, remember: this administration is not interested in actually prosecuting and convicting 9-11 bad guys, as they've had one in custody for years and haven't done it yet.  They are only interested in carting the perps out into town square, like trained seals, as the latest in the awkward, endless ploys to manipulate public opinion.  That's rankly offensive, yes?

(I'm also confused at why the A.P., in the story linked above, goes with the lede that the government censored the tape.  When has this government not censored material it releases?  And isn't the actual news that the tape was released at all?)

Posted by mrbrent at 1:08 PM

September 12, 2007

another post on deflation

Just when I was comfortable with the number of objects of my paranoia (more than I'd less, but less than it could be -- I'm no longer scared of fireworks!!), another arises.  Here it is, a big blue beautiful Wednesday, and suddenly the kilogram is shrinking.  It took me a couple reads to decipher that the headline was not a typo, but actually a kinda nutso news story -- basically, the lump of platinum/iridium alloy that is used to define the precise mass of a kilogram is now a measurable amount less heavy than the average mass of its duplicates.

Okay, that gets dry pretty fast, but, dude, the kilogram is shrinking!  Nobody knows who's responsible, but whatever evil genius what perpetrated this act is attacking our (well, Europe's and Canada's) way of life, as well as our weights and measures!  That's hitting us where it counts (literally!).

Posted by mrbrent at 2:18 PM

September 11, 2007

all your surge will be deflated

One of the topics that I generally avoid writing about is the ongoing argument of the actual management of the Iraqi Invasion/Occupation.  Basically, the issue is too big, and there are too many ancillary topics (military history and strategy, the geography/ethnography/sociology of Iraq, etc.) that I am an absolute amateur in for me to give anything like an informed opinion.  Oh, sure, I make fun now and then, but the truth is that you don't gotta be that smart to make fun.  (Shh.)

But today, which is I believe the second day of the testimony of General David Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, it is being reporting that the president will announce a plan to tinker with troop levels in Iraq in a few days:

President Bush will tell the nation this week he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by about 30,000 by next summer, but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.

Like I said earlier, the actual prosecution of this military endeavor is way outside my ken, plus also I think that the conversation of whose fault this whole burning bag of dogshit is perhaps the more relevant discussion, but the story contains a little too much propagandized mistruth for me to let pass.

First of all, the following passage is of interest:

In a primetime television address, probably Thursday, Bush will endorse the recommendations of his top general and top diplomat in Iraq, following their appearance at two days of hearings in Congress, administration officials said.

It's pretty much common knowledge that the "recommendations" referenced are not in fact the opinion of Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker but rather the synthesized and deliberate opinion of the White House itself, on which the General/Ambassador would slap some lipstick on and then deliver it to Congress.  So then, it would follow, the report has already been endorsed by the White House, since they made it in the first place, and to make a show of "endorsing" it is to mislead the man in the street into believing that the report has some vestige of independence when in fact it has none.  That would be what we call a "lie"

And second of all, the numbers are squishy.  The president is allegedly going to offer a "reduction" of 30,000 troops in nine months time.  But if you remember the size of the so-called "Surge" -- 20,000 troops proposed during this year's SOTU, later increased by 10,000 -- what you have is not so much a reduction as it is a deflation of the Surge.  Or, more simply, the completion of the Surge.  This is akin to having your salary cut, and then magnanimously restored to its original level and then labeled a "raise".  It's mendacious.

And both of these are glaring enough lies/distortions that it's a bit galling that a news outlet would report them without qualification.  If I can catch them on my coffee break, I'd hope that people who get paid to report these events would have the presence of mind to share them with the rest of the world.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:23 PM

take comfort in your global economy

Super good news from our friendly billion-strong trade partner to the West (or East, depending on which way you get there):
• China bans lead paint on toy exports

In other news, China is considering banning broken glass from breakfast cereals.  After that, all that's left is to stop making footie pajamas out of kerosene-soaked rags.

At least it's heartwarming to see that capitalism's willingness to kill consumers dead as long as they buy something is not purely a Western phenomenon.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:09 PM

the once-a-year 9-11 post

This is the day of the year where we all turn our attention to some thing that happened [x] years ago, because we have not yet adopted a system of keeping time that is base-10, instead of the very sloppy diurnal system.  But yeah, six years ago, not many people were having a very good day, especially around these parts.  Whee.

I was thinking this morning about the cheeky post I was going to write, concerning the misappropriation of tragedies, how having the Dumbest War Ever started in the name of the suffering of one's city is worse in many ways than watching the buildings fall, the revulsion felt at the uniquely American trait of the ganking of the grief of others by wide-eyed illiterates whose only connection to the event is that they "felt like Saddam was attackin' us too!" etc.

But then I took the one step back, and now I figured that if you had some degree of involvement in some Terrible Thing that had even mild political overtone and you weren't exploited or used or namedropped in some way, then you'd occupy a pretty exceptional (and singular) place in history.  So, yeah, some assholes knocked over some buildings and killed a bunch of innocents, and then these other assholes decided to use the attacks as an excuse to achieve some muddle-headed policy goals concerning energy supplies, and also make an obscene amount of money.  While killing more innocents, of course.  Instinct tells me that this level of fucked-up-ness is pretty much par for the course, so not much I can do is feel sorry for myself.  Which is the kind of thing you do even though you realize how stupid you are for doing it, like burglary or smoking crack.

But I got no problem if the people want to engage in a more formal, reverent remembrance-type thing, as long as it doesn't block traffic for the morning commute.  And I hope that as candles are lit and names are read, a thought will be given to the dominoes that have fallen since six years ago, because it's an unwanted, undeserved and unfair legacy for those that died.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:26 AM

September 10, 2007

that's not the way i meant "low-hanging fruit"

It seems that there is more haterizing on Britney Spears' performance on MTV's Video Music Awards (Dad, what's a 'music video'?) than was forecast.  This may be due to an overwhelming lack of things to haterize on out there, but for the fact that we know this not to be the case -- the sock-puppet Iraq report of Gen. Petraeus, the continuing success of "The Hills" and the Borganism that is the New England Patriots all come to mind.  I would propose that the rush to judgment over the poor little pop star is more of a case of the thinkerati believing that they might run out of low-hanging fruit before lunchtime.

I didn't see the performance, but, given the persistent negative (and snarky!) reaction, I am officially a Britney Spears fan.  Now someone please explain to me which songs I am supposed to like.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:08 AM