Thursday, February 20, 2003

Letter to the London Observer from Terry Jones of Monty Python
January 26, 2003

I'm really excited by George Bush's latest reason for bombing Iraq:
He's running out of patience.

And so am I! For some time now I've been really pissed off with Mr.
Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street. Well, him and Mr
Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks,
and I'm sure Mr. Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so
far I haven't been able to discover what. I've been round to his place
a few times to see what he's up to, but he's got everything well
hidden. That's how devious he is. As for Mr. Patel, don't ask me how I
know, I just know - from very good sources - that he is, in reality, a
Mass Murderer. I have leafleted the street telling them that if we
don't act first, he'll pick us off one by one.

Some of my neighbors say, if I've got proof, why don't I go to the
police? But that's simply ridiculous. The police will say that they
need evidence of a crime with which to charge my neighbours. They'll
come up with endless red tape and quibbling about the rights and
wrongs of a pre-emptive strike and all the while Mr. Johnson will be
finalising his plans to do terrible things to me, while Mr. Patel will
be secretly murdering people.

Since I'm the only one in the street with a decent range of automatic
firearms, I reckon it's up to me to keep the peace. But until recently
that's been a little difficult. Now, however, George W. Bush has made
it clear that all I need to do is run out of patience, and then I can
wade in and do whatever I want! And let's face it, Mr. Bush's
carefully thought-out policy towards Iraq is the only way to bring
about international peace and security. The one certain way to stop
Muslim fundamentalist suicide bombers targeting the US or the UK is to
bomb a few Muslim countries that have never threatened us. That's why
I want to blow up Mr. Johnson's garage and kill his wife and children.
Strike first! That'll teach him a lesson. Then he'll leave us in peace
and stop peering at me in that totally unacceptable way.

Mr. Bush makes it clear that all he needs to know before bombing Iraq
is that Saddam is a really nasty man and that he has weapons of mass
destruction - even if no one can find them. I'm certain I've just as
much justification for killing Mr. Johnson's wife and children as Mr.
Bush has for bombing Iraq. Mr. Bush's long-term aim is to make the
world a safer place by eliminating 'rogue states' and 'terrorism'.
It's such a clever long-term aim because how can you ever know when
you've achieved it? How will Mr. Bush know when he's wiped out all
terrorists? When every single terrorist is dead? But then a terrorist
is only a terrorist once he's committed an act of terror. What about
would-be terrorists? These are the ones you really want to eliminate,
since most of the known terrorists, being suicide bombers, have
already eliminated themselves.

Perhaps Mr. Bush needs to wipe out everyone who could possibly be a
future terrorist? Maybe he can't be sure he's achieved his objective
until every Muslim fundamentalist dead? But then some moderate Muslims might convert to fundamentalism. Maybe the only really safe thing to do would be for Mr. Bush to eliminate all Muslims? It's the same in my street. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Patel are just the tip of the iceberg.

There are dozens of other people in the street who I don't like and
who - quite frankly - look at me in odd ways. No one will be really
safe until I've wiped them all out. My wife says I might be going too
far but I tell her I'm simply using the same logic as the President of
the United States. That shuts her up.

Like Mr. Bush, I've run out of patience, and if that's a good enough
reason for the President, it's good enough for me. I'm going to give
the whole street two weeks - no, 10 days - to come out in the open and
hand over all aliens and interplanetary hijackers, galactic outlaws
and interstellar terrorist masterminds, and if they don't hand them
over nicely and say 'Thank you', I'm going to bomb the entire street
to kingdom come. It's just as sane as what George W. Bush is proposing - and, in contrast to what he's intending, my policy will destroy only one street.
DEMOCRATS WAKE UP, SMELL COFFEE -- Shaken by its historic defeat at the polls in November 2002, the Democratic party might be waking up to the huge monetary and organizational advantages the Republican party displayed last year. To wit, the Democrats have created something called 5104, which is a master plan for the Democrats to win 51% of the vote in 2004. (Why only 51 percent?)

According to The Washington Post, "the project is a huge, new database containing the names of 158 million voters nationwide, along with demographic, economic and consumer data about them and assorted technological bells and whistles that will allow the party to carve up the electorate in infinite ways and for a variety of purposes.

"Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Terence McAuliffe said the party will use the information to find new contributors, deliver tailored campaign messages as efficiently as Republicans do and provide the party's presidential nominee invaluable assistance in deciding how to wage a campaign to defeat President Bush in 2004."

Hey, that all works for me. The GOP's now famous '72 Hour Project', which brought out the vote for Republican candidates last Autumn. The Dems will never have the money the Republicans have, but that is no reason to be outhustled or outworked. It happened last November and it should never happen again. This development indicates at least that the Democrats know they have a problem and are beginning to fix it. It's a small step, but any step in the right direction must be welcome.
GO TO HELL, ZELL -- Increasingly right-wing 'Democrat' Senator Zell Miller of Georgia is campaigning with Mr Bush on behalf of the administration's half-witted tax cut plan. Senator Miller, who supported Mr Bush's disastrous 2001 $1.6 trillion tax cut in 2001--a piece of legislation largely responsible for our current fiscal crisis--has clearly never met a tax cut for the wealthy he does not like.

While campaigning with Mr Bush in Georgia, Senator Miller said: “Every new day that I watch our President in action, my respect grows and my support gets stronger,” Miller said. “President Bush is not only our Commander-in-Chief, he is our Chief-of-Common Sense who knows that the best and fairest way to grow an economy is to simply not take that hard-earned money from the taxpayer in the first place.”

Thank goodness this Dixiecrat will be gone in 2004.
AMERICAN MORONS ATTACK FRANCE -- It becomes increasingly clear that a number of Americans are bound and determined to take leave of their senses and they don't care who knows about it. Latest evidence is the growing hostility against France from people in those red states and the right-wing media and punditocracy. Full-time idiot and part-time House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) jokes that it is not known how many Frenchmen it takes to defend Paris since it has never been tried--ignoring the millions of Frenchmen who fought, killed, and died to defend their homeland against German invaders in World War 1. (The less said about WW2 the better, of course.)

Apparently, people like Rush Limbaugh don't think much of the French when it comes to war-making. An interesting observation coming from a lardbutt who skipped out of Vietnam due to an operable cyst in his gigantic fat ass. The New York Post has run a headline implying that because American soldiers died at Normandy, the (elected) French president must obey the (unelected) U.S. president now. Others who have targeted France recently include embittered misanthrope columnist Christopher Hitchens and mean ol' misogynist Andy Rooney. Any country that bunch doesn't like is okay by me.

There have been calls for boycotts of or trade sanctions against French goods from hate radio and even Congressional dopes like House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill). Fortunately, cooler heads are prevailing on some of these points. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) has indicated his opposition to boycotts and sanctions against the French, saying: "There are folks who make rash statements. Those won't be translated into policy."

I'm particularly amused by this notion that the French must obey us now because we liberated France in 1944-45. If this is true, does that mean the United States was under an obligation to obey France for the first 60 or 70 years of our existence as a nation? After all, 7000 French troops fought with our Colonials at Yorktown and the French Navy and French supplies played a key role in our victory over the British Empire. Last I checked, though, our new government felt free to do and say exactly as it pleased, whether or not the French government approved. If it was good enough for us then it is good enough for France now.

But as I noted above, some people in this country seem absolutely determined to abandon all reason and common sense. Fortunately, not all of us.
MAKE THIS GENERAL SECRETARY OF STATE! -- Speaking on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, hinted he will seek the Democratic nomination for president and harshly criticized the Bush admin for its failed foreign policy. Clearly, here is a man who understands the proper requirements of U.S. foreign policy and what sort of defense policy we need to support our goals abroad. For example:

"We're at a turning point in American history here. We are about to embark on an operation that's going to put us in a colonial position in the Middle East following Britain, following the Ottomans," Clark said. "It's a huge change for the American people and for what this country stands for." Clark said he's been "traveling all over this country" since he left military service and he is concerned with how the administration has handled longtime allies, like those in Europe.

"This is an administration which really hasn't respected our allies," he said.

Clark said one thing he learned in the Kosovo campaign is "if you really want allies, you've got to listen to their opinions, you've got to take them seriously, you've got to work with their issues."

I, for one, would like to see General Clark in the race and even if he doens't win, I'd like to see him play some role in a future Democratic administration. Perhaps Secretary of State or National Security Advisor to President John Kerry?

A TURKISH BAZAAR -- Turkey is demanding $32 billion in aid and loan guarantees before they will let the U.S. attack Iraq from Turkish territory. The Bush admin thinks it is being held up and regards the Turkish position as 'extortion.' Hey, no kidding! Of course the Turks are going to try to get as much out of this as possible. After all, the government is run by an Islamist party and recent opinion polls put Turkish public opposition to the Iraq war at roughly 90 percent. So naturally the government cannot be regarded as an American puppet, bearing this burden and getting little or nothing in return--except for the dubious benefits of an independent Kurdish state in what is now northern Iraq. The Turks want to get paid and the Bush admin is willing to oblige them, but only so far. We've gone from a 'coalition of the willing' to a coaltion of the purchased.

Meanwhile, both Turkish and American officials are 'pessimistic' that a deal can be struck. The Turks are also after control of an oil pipeline in northern Iraq--near Kirkuk. In addition, the Turks want to establish a more-or-less permanent military presence in northern Iraq to further their war against Kurdish rebels in both countries. The Bush admin, naturally, is resisting these demands because it would appear as if the Iraq war was about things like oil and territorial aggrandizement rather than ridding the planet of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction.

It won't be easy for the Bush admin to play hardball with the Turks as they are with the Germans and French. We need the Turks badly for a whole host of things and the Turks know it. If Bush is not able to use Turkey to invade Iraq, the war plans will have to be reconsidered. Currently, the admin is playing it cool, with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld claiming the war can be won other ways. Probably so, but it'll take longer, cost more, and be more difficult.

Contrast the foreign policy bungling of this administration with the sure-handed manner in which the elder Bush cobbled together a multinational alliance to make war on Saddam Hussein with the blessings of the United Nations. We've come a long way, baby--in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

THE PHONY DIVIDE IN EUROPE -- Congrats to Slate for this article showing that the alleged divide in Europe over Iraq doesn't exist. People in both East and West Europe are opposed to American military unilateralism and war against Iraq by large majorities. The difference is that the political elites in most East European countries are eager to court favor with Washington and demonstrate some measure of independence from their future and larger partners in the European Union.

That's fine. It is perfectly normal--and sometimes healthy--for elected political elites to disagree with the population and to make decisions contrary to the wishes of the people, but the American public should not be fooled by the phony argument propagated in our right-wing media that the people of East Europe (who know totalitarianism far better than Americans or West Europeans) are with the Bush administration on Iraq. The truth is, they are not. And the truth still matters--whatever the Bush admin thinks.
SNOWED UNDER -- Whew, I'm back and happy to be so. As some of you might have heard, we had a bit of snow recently in the Washington, D.C. area. Now, those of you in Buffalo and Minneapolis are probably thinking this is making a mountain out of a molehill. Perhaps. But this is D.C., not Buffalo. We're supposed to have a subtropical climate in this area. Our summers are routinely, ferociously hot and humid. It wouldn't shock anyone to have a week or two in September with temperatures in the 90s. Temps over 100 in July and August are never out of the question. Judging my locale by the standards of more winter-hardy folks isn't quite fair, now is it? We're not accustomed to having two feet of snow dumped on our heads and we don't react very well to it. Some of us, however, do react honorably. Others do not.

Case in point. Yesterday, five or six of us on the block spent about an hour digging a Papa Johns Pizza delivery man out of the snow on our as-yet unplowed road. The moron who ordered the pizza to be delivered to an unplowed road was not among us. He grabbed his pie, forked over some cash, and disappeared into the warmth of his hearth and home. That left the rest of us to help this poor kid out, who had no idea what he was driving himself into. Eventually, we succeeded with much shovelling, much pushing, and much chin-scratching. In the end, it all came out well and we retreated to our respective homes bathed in the glow of a good job well done.

I hope that lazy bastard who ordered the pizza got indigestion.