Blue sky, warm sun, cool breeze. We were up in the treehouse level of Gnat’s swingset / slide, just me, the kid, the dog. We used Jasper as a pillow and watched the clouds. Then I got her Thinking Lessons book and a crayon, and we practiced lower case letters. Later she made bug soup in the birdbath. “Look. Daddy! Ants can swim!”

If we define “frantic thrashing” as “swimming,” well, yes, they do. Eventually we went on errands: first the video store, where I got “Bubba Ho-Tep” (it is almost impossible that I will not love this movie; Bruce Campbell as an old Elvis fighting ancient evil? I’m there) and a CG kiddie movie starring Barbie as Rapunzel. Gnat related the entire plot. I was surprised; we hadn’t rented it before. She was certain that it had an Evil Queen, though. “Her name is August and she is bad, and she cuts off Rapunzel’s hair, and she is evil. She wants to ruin the world.”

Stand in line, August. Then the grocery store. A little of this, some of that. They were out of Frosty Paws. Good thing I have a four-pack in the basement fridge for emergencies. I bought some festive patriotic dishtowels for the Fourth, and I’m standing there talking with the clerk about the pattern of the towels, the money-back guarantee, the various virtues of a waffle weave, when I see –

I see Gnat grabbing the card, trying to climb up. I see Gnat tipping the cart over –

I see the cart falling over on her.

Holy CHRIST, and I’m right there in a trice. She’s wailing. The clerk blunted the fall, and the cart was empty so she didn’t get a watermelon in the nose, but her head clipped a shelf near the floor. No blood, nothing busted, no abrasions, just fear and tears. Another clerk got her a balloon. She cried, but not as much as before. We left the store.

“I want to sit on the bench.” She always likes to sit on the bench. “I always like to sit on the bench, don’t I,” she said between sobs. Yes you do. And so do I. We watch the people come and go.

“Say something to the cart," Gnat says. "Tell it not to bonk me and then say ‘Sawright.’”

I did. It helped. A little.

Home to watch “Rapunzel” while I made supper. I went downstairs to see how she was doing. She was doing fine. “You just missed the good part,” she said. And then she explained the family dynamics of some dragons.

Terror aside, a good day.

Except for the computer problems, all work related. Next week will see some light Bleatage; I never get Mondays off, because I always have Tuesday deadlines. This means much weekend work, and I have to use the office computers. Bear with me; things should be up to speed by Wednesday.

Now, the inevitable bilious end-of-the-week-and-I’ve-had-it remarks. I don’t know where this is going, only that I’m tired of where we’ve been headed.

Deep breath.

I wonder if I’m alone. I love current events and politics,, I’m fascinated to see history roll along before my eyes, and I’m sick to death of it. All of it. I turn on the radio in the morning, and it takes about three minutes before the waddling parade of canards begins.

Here’s a good question to gauge whether you’re sane or not. Which would you prefer: four more years of Bush, or a military coup that put Kerry in power? If it takes you more than 2 seconds to reply, and you follow your answer with any sort of amplification that contains the word “but,” seek help. The other day, for example, I was listening to Medved. He played a clip of Bush stumbling over “abu Ghraib.” Fun with talk radio: find the exact moment in this call to Medved’s show where the people who liked the caller’s point suddenly said “aw, crap.”

“Yeah, why don’t you play Bush trying to pronounced Abu Ghraib over and over again like you played that sound from Howard Dean? You’re such a Zionist hypocrite.”

You can’t tune out completely, of course, and while I would love to have addressed Gore’s curious peroration, life is too short, particularly when the speech practically autofisked itself. I looked for any note of it in the paper; sure enough, last item, eleven lines, in the “Iraq Briefs” section. And what was the first item? A reminder how helpful the UN really wants to be:

Four key nations proposed major changes Wednesday to the US-British draft resolution on Iraq, moes that would give the new Iraqi government thhe right to decide whether the multinational force remains in the country while limiting the force’s mandate in January.

Multinational? I thought we were alone over there. We continue:

The UN Security Council amendment by China – which diplomats said was supported by Russia, France and Germany – focuses on how much power the new interim government will have to control the foreign military focres on the ground in Iraq once it takes over June 30. (snip) The amendment would determine “that the interim government of Iraq shall exercise full sovereignty, in political, economic, security, judicial and diplomatic areas.”

The US-British draft endorses the formation of a sovereign interim Iraqi government that will “assume the responsibility and authority” for governing the country by June 30 but doesn’t spell out its powers.

The US-British authorizes the multinational force currently in Iraq to continue to maintain security under a unified command. It would review the force’s mandate in 12 months or at the request of the transitional government, to be elected by early next year.

China wants the UN to give the new Iraqi government authority over the American troops.

Well, that didn’t take long, did it? You can argue about the idea itself, whether it has merits, gives the new government more legitimacy, et cetera – moot points all, to me. China. Do you think they’re doing this out of concern for the Iraqis? I tell you what, lads: we’re going to set a nice example by beginning our exit June 30. How about you follow our lead and take your thumb off Tibet's carotid artery, eh? How about free elections over there? How about we send in the Blue Helmets to supervise that transition?

China. France. Germany. Russia. But I can understand, really. Given the horrible abuses at the prison, there’s no reason to trust America. Have you read the latest? Steel yourselves:

Detainees were met by two lines of baton-wielding guards forming a human gauntlet, and received a punishing beating before entering the facility. At least one detaineedied at the facility on January 11, 2000, when an earlier head wound was aggravated during the intake beating.

Detainees were beaten both during interrogation and during nighttime sessions when guards utterly ran amok. During interrogation, detainees were forced to crawl on the ground and were beaten so severely that some sustained broken ribs and injuries to their kidneys, liver, testicles, and feet. Some were also tortured with electric shocks.

At night, guards were given free rein for wanton abuse and humiliation. Often drunk and playing loud music, guards would subject detainees to beatings and humiliating games. Some of the most severe beatings took place at night: detainees report being beaten unconscious, only to be revived and beaten again. Detainees were forced to crawl across rooms with guards on their backs, and were beaten if they performed too slowly. In their cells, detainees were ordered to stand with their hands raised for entire days, and guards used teargas if their orders were disobeyed. Convincing evidence exists that men and women were raped and sexually assaulted with police batons.

Detainees were also met with a gauntlet of soldiers who beat them with batons, and suffered continuing severe beatings while at the detention facilities. Dwere sodomized with batons, forced to walk between ranks of guards while being beaten and kicked, and beaten in their testicles. A doctor in reported receiving a patient who had severely swollen genitals and appeared to have been raped, as he suffered from internal injuries to the colon.

Detainees were often kept in overcrowded prisoner transport vehicles, even during the bitter cold of winter. A nineteen-year-old woman who was believed to be mentally retarded was raped for three days by numerous soldiers at. Men were severely beaten there, including during interrogations, and at least one was tortured with a soldering iron. In April, two badly disfigured corpses were recovered, and it is likely that the two men were tortured and executed at the facility.

Did I say “latest stories”? My bad. That’s the Human Rights Watch report on Russian prisons in Chechnya. Does that excuse what we did? Not at all. Just balance the world's reaction. We all remember how they dealt with the problem, how Putin called up foreign leaders and apologized, how there were trials, a never-ending global firestorm of publicity and public Russian self-recrimination:

The Ministry of Justice issued a press release stating that "cases of violence, harassment, torture, and even shootings of persons kept in the investigation ward located in the residential area of Chernokozovo…do not correspond to the [sic] reality and grossly distort the real state of affairs." On March 1, after Andrei Babitsky had been released and made public the treatment to which he was subjected, Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Rushailo responded with snide skepticism. "All of [Babitsky's] stories about 250 blows with a baton--I seriously doubt them, as I think we all do."

China, France, Germany, Russia. France: say, how’s that Ivory Coast occupation going? The Australian government warns travelers to exercise extreme caution:

Australians are advised to defer non-essential travel to the Ivory Coast. Although a comprehensive ceasefire was concluded following the attempted overthrow of the government by force in September 2002, the peace process remains fragile. Several thousand French and west African peacekeeping troops remain in the country and small-scale armed skirmishes between Ivorians and peacekeepers, particularly French troops, continue to erupt periodically. While rebel forces control most of the north, government forces control the capital, Yamoussoukro, and the commercial capital, Abidjan.

From Strategy Page, May 20 of this year, news that the government is in trouble, and rebels are regrouping, the country is the equivalent of Lazurus and Anti-Lazurus fighting for all eternity in a transdimentional space conduit, despite – sooth! – the presence of UN peacekeepers:

May 20, 2004: The government has fired three rebel leaders who had jobs as government ministers. The rebels in the Moslem north claim that the government is hiring foreign mercenaries fro Liberia and Chad for a planned reconquest of the north. This is unlikely, as there are 4,000 French troops and several thousand (of an eventual 6,000) UN peacekeepers in the country. But the government only controls the southern part of the country and reunification is not likely to come without compromise. Neither the government nor the rebels have very effective military forces. Each side has thousands of men with guns and some heavy weapons. But there is no competent military leadership or logistical support system. The national economy has collapsed because the war has halted the lucrative cocoa trade.

Well, no doubt the French will build a big cocoa pipeline once this is all over, since they’re only in it for the resources. Things in Iraq seem to be going better, but I'm sure that's just propaganda.

China, France, Germany. Russia. Germany: I don’t have any example of Germany ruining another country. Well, no recent examples. But thanks to a commenter in Blair’s blog, I found this interview with Roland Emmerich interesting. He’s the director of “Independence Day,” which I liked, and the upcoming eco-shriek “The Day After Tomorrow.” This is a German interview. I don’t think he’ll be saying this for American interviewers. I wish he would. After noting that everyone he knows in Hollywood drives electric cars, he weighs in on American politics.

Emmerich: The intelligent Americans are so appalled by what their president does, you cannot imagine it.

Q: Are these things really communicated in the open?

A: Yes, for the first time there are now open discussions.

Q: Whereas the infamous Patriot Act has even succeeded in muzzling media.

A: That is a giant problem.

Priceless. Just priceless. Two clueless twits who actually believe that the Patriot Act – the Infamous Patriot Act – empowered government to “muzzle media.” No specifics given; no specifics are necessary. But things are looking up; for “the first time there are now open discussions.” Because we're Americans with short attention spans, and we've forgotten all about the mass graves filled with local TV anchormen, NPR hosts, and newspaper editorial cartoonists.

I looked for “newspaper” in the Patriot Act, and got one hit in Title X:

The Inspector General of the Department of Justice shall designate one official who shall--
(1) review information and receive complaints alleging abuses of civil rights and civil liberties by employees and officials of the Department of Justice;
2) make public through the Internet, radio, television, and newspaper advertisements information on the responsibilities and functions
of, and how to contact, the official; and
(3) submit to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on
the Judiciary of the Senate on a semi-annual basis a report on the implementation of this subsection and detailing any abuses described in paragraph (1), including a description of the use of funds appropriations used to carry out this subsection.

The media is mentioned, all right – in a section requiring the government to publicize the means by which abuse of the Patriot Act can be reported.

The director of the only Godzilla movie that was both laughable AND boring continues:

As soon as you criticize something, you are no longer a patriot. What about that? America is the oldest democracy in the world. Since then they have totally developed backwards.

Emancipation of slaves, votes for non-whites, female suffrage, lowered voting age, alien amnesties – all backward steps, says Mr. German! Noted. At least he's hopeful:

Europe was most of the time under monarchic influence, but is today three or four times as democratic as America. I hope this will soon change. I think that will work out.

As Briton Graham Danton put it on an English libertarian website:

A while ago I was asked to visit North Devon to speak about ‘DEMOCRACY AND THE EU’ for 10 minutes. Had I been free to attend I told them one minute would have been ample time. EU Commission: unelected. EU Court of Justice: unelected. EU Court of Auditors: unelected. EU Investment Bank: unelected. EU Economic Committee: unelected. EU Committee of the Regions: unelected. European Bank: unelected. EU Council of Ministers: we have 10 votes out of 87. EU Parliament: we have just 13.9% of the votes. Democracy? My mistake - it took only 26 seconds. Out of those 1189 people we can DE-ELECT just 88 Britons - one Minister and 87 MEPs. Just how many of the other 1101 does the Leader of the Conservative Party think have the “interests and values of the British people” on their agenda?

You can make similar claims about Supreme Court justices and the like, I suppose, but we have nothing like the supranational EU structure. If anyone thinks Europe is “three or four more times as democratic as America” he is living in a dream world. A world where Russia lectures us about treatment of Muslim detainees, France is a model of nation-building, the Patriot act muzzles the press, and China is deeply concerned about the sovereignty of conquered nations.

August is evil. She wants to ruin the world.

Hell, my four-year-old has a better grasp on reality than this man.

Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More
c. 1995-2004 j. lileks