Thursday, December 22, 2005

Ho, ho, ho!

If you knew this was Pope Benedict without peeking at the caption, you are one strange dude. Well, make that two strange dudes....

Original photo caption: Pope Benedict XVI, sporting a fur-trimmed hat in the rich red colour of a Santa hat, waves to pilgrims upon his arrival in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Wednesday for his weekly general audience. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Monday, December 19, 2005

"Sure, I told a few whoppers about Iraq and al Qaeda -- one of them was this big!"

Original photo caption: President Bush delivers a portion of his speech for a second time for assembled news photographers after delivering his televised address to the nation from the Oval Office about the historic election in Iraq, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2005, in Washington. Bush declared Sunday night that Iraq's elections signal the birth of democracy in the Middle East, arguing against a U.S. troop pullout while acknowledging the doubts of some 'that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day.' (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

For film critics: how to pronounce the names of Chinese actresses portraying Japanese geisha....

Since Shrub hasn't done anything particularly funny today, here is the Mandarin's short Mandarin pronunciation guide for film critics.

Dear film critics, fifty years ago or so, the mainland Chinese government decided to play a joke on you. They mandated a Romanization scheme for Mandarin called Hanyu Pinyin ("Chinese Phonetic Spelling") that uses a few familiar letters in unfamiliar ways, the better to make you mispronounce the names of the three Chinese movie stars pretending to be (or if you prefer, "acting" ) Japanese in "Memoirs of a Geisha."

Zhang Ziyi 章子怡

Zhang is her surname, but for some reason, she is often listed as Ziyi Zhang. "Zh" is the sound of the "j" in "Joe," not the sound of "s" in "pleasure." The "a" is the same vowel as in "father." So the "Zhan" part sounds like the English name "John." Then just change the "-n" to "-ng" and you have it.

Ziyi is two syllables. The first, "zi," is a buzzing "dzz" sound with no real vowel - like the final sound in "heads." The "y" in "yi" is there to confuse you. "Yi" isn't "yee;" the whole syllable is exactly the sound of "ee" in "meet."

Gong Li 鞏俐

Gong is her surname. The "o" in Gong is one of those trick letters. In this word, it represents more or less the same vowel sound as the "u" in "pull."

Li is easy, just like "Lee," as in "Ancient Chinese secret, Mister Li...."

Michelle Yeoh 楊紫瓊

The Mandarin will assume "Michelle" isn't a problem for most English-speaking film critics.

Yeoh isn't so easy. "Yeoh" isn't even Mandarin. It is Hokkien, the dialect of the area around Fujian Province, and also the predominant dialect of overseas Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia. [Michelle Yeoh grew up in the U.K., but was born in Malaysia and lived there until she was four years old.] The character for Yeoh , a very common Chinese surname, is pronounced yang in Mandarin and yeung in Cantonese. In Hokkien, it is pronounced something like the English word "you" with a nasal vowel sound, and perhaps a faint, soft "-ng" sound on the end.

By the way, Michelle's Chinese personal name is Ziqiong in Mandarin and something like Dzee-king in Hokkien. We will leave them for another lesson.

Now, the Mandarin is sure everyone is ready for a return to the usual cheap political sarcasm, aren't you?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Iraqi vote prediction: Shrub will win by a narrow margin in Al Anbar Province

where they will be voting on recycled Diebold voting machines left over from the 2004 Ohio presidential vote.

Original photo caption: President Bush speaks about the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary election during a visit to Philadelphia, December 12, 2005. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Condi's thinking, "Now, what am I going to do with all those whips, chains, and kinky black leather outfits...."

Yes, overseas detainees, you have been very, very naughty, but now it looks like Condi won't be punishing you quite as much as before:

KIEV (Reuters) - The United States, seeking to defuse European criticism over reports of abuse of prisoners, said on Wednesday it had changed its policy on interrogating detainees.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a trip to Ukraine, said U.S. personnel would be banned worldwide from subjecting prisoners to cruelty.

But Amnesty International immediately played down the significance of Rice's remark saying: "It is not a major concession."

It said it still wanted serious action by Washington over what it called cases of torture in U.S. bases.

"As a matter of U.S. policy, the United States' obligations under the CAT (Convention against Torture), which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment -- those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," Rice said.

U.S. officials said her comments marked a policy shift toward the international convention on torture. Previously, the Bush administration had interpreted the convention as only applying to U.S. territory.

So, offshore detainees, this could be your lucky day. But, those of you detainees fortunate enough still to be here on the sacred soil of the land of the free and the home of habeas corpus and due process, well..., you're still shit out of luck.

Original photo caption: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice looks on during a meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (not pictured) in Kiev December 7, 2005. The United States changed its policy on interrogations of detainees on Wednesday, putting a worldwide ban on U.S. personnel subjecting prisoners to cruelty, Rice said. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

And now, for someone completely different....

The Mandarin is wondering if the fun of being President is kind fading for Shrub. Three more years? Sounds like an eternity....

Original photo caption: Low job approval ratings continue to dog US President George W. Bush, pictured 02 December 2005, with three in five Americans saying they will choose someone 'completely different' when they next vote for president in 2008.(AFP/File/Jim Watson)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Do you think maybe they've heard it all before?

Shrub seems to be partial to captive military audiences lately. It looks like these middies are on the edge of their seats as they wait for their Commander-in-Chief to finish practicing his swagger out in the Presidential trailer.

Original photo caption: Midshipmen catch naps as they wait for more than an hour for U.S. President George W. Bush to deliver an address on the war in Iraq at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland November 30, 2005. Trying to counter critics of his war strategy, Bush vowed on Wednesday that U.S. forces will not cut and run from Iraq but said improvements in Iraqi security forces may clear the way for a reduction in U.S. troops. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What would you do?

The Mandarin was honored to serve as a Field Artillery officer in the US Army during the Vietnam war. And, being an Asian language expert, he volunteered for duty in Asia (the Mandarin checked "Yes" in the box marked "Asia - any country"). Expecting orders for Vietnam, he ended up serving his time in Oklahoma. Go figure. Anyway, the Mandarin read this little item in the press today and is wondering whether to help bail Rummy and Shrub out of their little problem in Eye-raq.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army, fresh off missing its latest annual recruiting goal, has launched an unprecedented effort to coax former troops to sign up again for active-duty military service, officials said on Tuesday.

The Army this month began contacting 78,000 people who previously served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to pitch them on the idea of leaving behind their civilian lives and returning for another stint in uniform, said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon.

Unlike in the past, they now can return to the Army without giving up their previous rank or undergo the rigors of basic training, said Hilferty, who described it as the first program of its kind for the Army.


Augustus might have something to say about that insulting comparison....

A distinguished Israeli military historian, whose classic 1991 book Transformation of War is on US military required reading lists, puts it this way:

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.

Unless Shrub pardons them all like Nixon did his stooges in 1968. Read the whole thing and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Who needs the Bill of Rights - Alberto is on the case

With their suspect (a U.S. citizen arrested within our borders) locked up incommunicado for three years on Shrub's personal orders, no habeas corpus, no due process, no access to an attorney and no Constitutional right to a speedy trial or anything else, the Mandarin bets this crew could find enough to indict anyone. Even you.

Feel safer?

Original photo caption: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, second from left, with Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director John Pistole, left, Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Division Alice Fisher, second right, and Alex Acosta U.S. attorney general for Southern District of Florida, right, announces the indictment of Jose Padilla, a U.S. Citizen, during a news conference at the Department of Justice, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005 in Washington. Padilla, a Brooklyn-born Muslim convert, held for three years as an enemy combatant suspected of plotting a 'dirty bomb' attack in the U.S., has been indicted on charges that he conspired to 'murder, kidnap and maim' people overseas. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pssst! Thaksin, can you explain that astrology thing to me one more time....

One of the Mandarin's colleagues, himself a student of the inscrutable East, pointed out this item:

Thai leader grants no interviews, citing bad planetary alignment

Monday, November 21, 2005

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has said he will not answer reporters' questions until next year because the alignment of the planets is not in his favor.
"Right now Mercury ... is in a corner perfectly aligned with my star. Mercury is no good, so if it's not good, I am going to request not to speak. I'll just wait until next year to talk," Thaksin told reporters Sunday after returning to Bangkok from a trip to South Korea and China. He added that Mercury moves slowly and will not steer clear of his star until next year.

The Mandarin can hear Scott McClellan now: "I think I have made it clear over and over that on the advice of his Court Astrologer, the President will not speak in public as long as the unfavorable alignment of Mercury continues, which he expects will be at least until Patrick Fitzgerald winds up his investigation into the Plame leak case."

Oh, Grasshopper, you have so much to learn from the mysterious Orient. Perhaps you can check with Kim Jong-il next to learn from him the ancient secret of attaining 100% approval ratings.

The Mandarin is considering a Freedom of Information Act request to determine what Dick Cheney's personal star is so we can arrange for Mercury to shut him up for a year or two as well.

Original photo caption: U.S. President George W. Bush (R) speaks to Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra before the start of the second session of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Pusan, south Korea November 19, 2005. Pacific Rim leaders end a two-day summit on Saturday and are expected to call for stronger efforts to break an impasse on opening up markets and more measures to beat the threat of bird flu. (Yonhap)

Shrub has a Norman Rockwell moment....

I can almost hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir humming "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in the background.

Original photo caption: President George W. Bush smiles as he receives a salute from military personnel before his "War on Terror" speech during the Veterans Day celebration at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania. Ed Koskey Jr., Allentown Morning Call.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

How stupid do they think we are?

Well, apparently, that's not even the question. Josh Marshall reminds us of what should be obvious about Shrub's and Big Dick's hysterically hypocritical shouts that "Democrat critics are traitors to the troops for rewriting history":

Virtually all of the arguments the White House is now advancing are transparently ridiculous on their face to anyone who has closely followed this evolving debate over the last three years.

But that doesn't matter. The White House doesn't need to win any debates. What they need is for their core supporters to have something to say. Anything. And to be able to say it loudly. The one thing that would be fatal for the White House from its defenders would be silence.

But that would be too much to hope for.

Another thing too much to hope for would be 1LT George "Big Hat, No Cattle" Bush, TxANG (AWOL), not strutting around in a military jacket in front of big flags and pieces of military hardware like carriers or jets at the pop of a flashbulb....

Original photo caption: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks to troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, on a stop enroute to Asia November 14, 2005. Beset with woes at home, Bush looks to boost his image on the world stage this week on a trip expected to focus on festering issues like North Korea, trade and bird flu. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

Strong words from a Marine combat veteran, spoken today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives

Link to speech

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Katherine Harris: Another Intelligent Design?

The Mandarin never gets tired of saying, "You just can't make this stuff up."

Katherine Harris is a Republican from Florida in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her previous job was Florida Secretary of State, where she became (in)famous for her role in the 2000 presidential election.

While in that office, concerned about the potential for citrus canker to harm the state's cash crops, and at State expense, she:

(O)rdered a study in which, according to an article by Jim Stratton in the Orlando Sentinel, "researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test '‘Celestial Drops,' promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its '‘improved fractal design,' 'infinite levels of order,' and '‘high energy and low entropy.'"

The study determined that the product tested was, basically, water that had apparently been blessed according to the principles of Kabbalic mysticism, "chang[ing] its molecular structure and imbu[ing] it with supernatural healing powers."

Read the full article here.

There is buzz that she will run for the Senate next year. Yum.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Mandarin's "Intelligent Design" award - another winner

The recent post on the minister who electrocuted himself in a baptismal pool was the inaugural winner of the Mandarin's "Intelligent Design" award.

Here is today's winner, from the news page of a Salt Lake City, Utah TV station:

Man Jumped From Truck Following Argument

November 12th, 2005 @ 9:21pm

(KSL News) Police now say an argument caused a 21-year-old man to jump from a moving truck in South Jordan (Utah).

Tyler Poulson was riding with his brothers last night when he became offended by one of them using profanity. Poulson, who recently returned from an LDS mission, threatened to get out of the truck if he continued.

One of the men, not thinking he would, told Poulson to.

Earlier police said the car was going about 35 miles an hour when Poulson opened the door and jumped. He was pronounced dead on scene.

Well, at least his brothers survived to stay in the gene pool a little longer.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Pay your respects to the Duke

Forget Brownie, someone should appoint this woman head of FEMA. She's already doing the job anyway, from what the Mandarin reads here.

Original photo caption: Lily Duke, sits atop cases of food at a large food, water and ice distribution center she founded, created and runs on Newton Street in New Orleans Friday afternoon Nov. 11, 2005. Besides distributing supplies to residents of the neighborhood, of which she is a resident, Duke's effort also supplies 19 area schools and several other satellite distribution centers with supplies. (AP Photos/Stephan Savoia)

Friday, November 11, 2005

"The Hammer" hammers his own thumb....

The answer turns out to be simple: Tom DeLay is simply stupid. Kevin Drum tells the tale.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Shrub does something right for a change

Shrub met the Dalai Lama at the White House today to talk about human rights violations in Tibet and explore ways to achieve progress in the Dalai Lama's efforts to advance the cause of Tibetan autonomy.

China invaded and annexed its peaceful neighbor Tibet in 1951, under the pretext of "peaceful liberation" (liberation from whom or what was never made clear). Since then, Tibet has endured human suffering and cultural destruction on a massive scale. The Chinese "big lie" (that Tibet has always been a part of China) has been told so stridently and so often in the half century since then that a whole generation of Americans probably assume it is the simple truth. Which it simply is not.

The Mandarin, who also knows Tibetan, spent some time on the ground in Tibet in the 1980s and could literally go on for hours about the brutality and senselessness of what he saw and heard there, but will save that rant for another day.

Anyway, if Shrub keeps up this kind of good work, the Mandarin may have to promote him to "Sapling."

Original photo caption: In this photograph provided by the White House, President Bush, right, wearing a scarf presented to him by the Dalai Lama, meets with the Buddhist spiritual leader Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2005, in the private residence of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/The White House, Paul Morse)

I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore

Shrub has just announced he will hold his breath until he turns blue unless reporters stop asking him about allegations of torture in US-run detention facilities.

Original photo caption: US President George W. Bush responds to a question during a joint press conference with Panamanian President Martin Torrijos 07 November 2005 at the Casa Amarilla in Panama City. Bush declined to comment on reports of secret US prisons for terrorism suspects but defended US interrogation tactics, declaring: 'We do not torture.'(AFP/Paul J. Richards)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Would you buy a used car from this man?

Senator McCain is thinking to himself: "You want to talk about torture? Sitting next to this nitwit is cruel and unusual punishment all by itself."

Original photo caption: US President George W. Bush (L) and Senator John McCain, R-AZ, pictured March 2005. McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said he would keep up his campaign for legislation banning the torture of prisoners, despite a veto threat from Bush.(AFP/File/Tim Sloan)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Testing, one... two... three....

Speaking into a tiny microphone hidden in the palm of her hand, her lips hardly moving after so many years of practice, Condi begins to put Shrub through his paces.

Original photo caption: U.S. President George W. Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (R) listen to a speech at the second plenary session of Fourth Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, November 5, 2005. (Pilar Olivares/Reuters)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Connect the dots

Shrub's popularity versus Reagan, Clinton and Nixon, month-by-month.

For a larger version and the accompanying article, go here.

And head-to-head against Tricky, Shrub looks like he is right on schedule for.... what?

Graph source and explanation here.

Three more years?

This poor guy looks terrible. Even though the Mandarin believes Shrub ("El Arbusto" for all those demonstators in Mar del Plata) suffers mainly from self-inflicted wounds, ya gotta wonder how much fun he's having these days.

Original picture caption: U.S. President Bush pauses as he speaks to White House reporters on the sidelines of the fourth Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 4, 2005. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Does Shrub just not get it, or what?

Newsweek reports:

"President Bush last week appointed nine campaign contributors, including three longtime fund-raisers, to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a 16-member panel of individuals from the private sector who advise the president on the quality and effectiveness of U.S. intelligence efforts. After watching the fate of Michael Brown as head of FEMA and Harriet Miers as Supreme Court nominee, you might think the president would be wary about the appearance of cronyism—especially with a critical national-security issue such as intelligence. Instead, Bush reappointed William DeWitt, an Ohio businessman who has raised more than $300,000 for the president’s campaigns, for a third two-year term on the panel. Originally appointed in 2001, just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, DeWitt, who was also a top fund-raiser for Bush’s 2004 Inaugural committee, was a partner with Bush in the Texas Rangers baseball team."

What is this Board, anyway? From the White House web site:

"The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) provides advice to the President concerning the quality and adequacy of intelligence collection, of analysis and estimates, of counterintelligence, and of other intelligence activities. The PFIAB, through its Intelligence Oversight Board, also advises the President on the legality of foreign intelligence activities. The PFIAB currently has 16 members selected from among distinguished citizens outside the government who are qualified on the basis of achievement, experience, independence, and integrity."

Do you understand it now? Well, the Mandarin is still missing something.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Déjà vu all over again as another of the "finest civil servants" bites the dust

Vice President Cheney's Statement on Libby Resignation - October 28, 2005

Mr. Libby has informed me that he is resigning to fight the charges brought against him. I have accepted his decision with deep regret.

Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known. He has given many years of his life to public service and has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction.

In our system of government an accused person is presumed innocent until a contrary finding is made by a jury after an opportunity to answer the charges and a full airing of the facts. Mr. Libby is entitled to that opportunity.

President Bush's Statement on Libby Resignation - October 28, 2005

Today I accepted the resignation of Scooter Libby. Scooter has worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country. He served the Vice President and me through extraordinary times in our nation's history.

Special Counsel Fitzgerald's investigation and ongoing legal proceedings are serious, and now the proceedings -- the process moves into a new phase. In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.

President Nixon's Statement on Haldeman and Erlichman Resignation - June 20, 1973

Today, in one of the most difficult decisions of my presidency, I accepted the resignations of two of my closest associates in the White House -- Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman -- two of the finest public servants it has been my privilege to know.

I want to stress that in accepting these resignations, I mean to leave no implication whatever of personal wrongdoing on their part, and I leave no implication tonight of implication on the part of others who have been charged in this matter. But in matters as sensitive as guarding the integrity of our democratic process, it is essential not only that rigorous legal and ethical standards be observed but also that the public, you, have total confidence that they are both being observed and enforced by those in authority and particularly by the president of the United States. They agreed with me that this move was necessary in order to restore that confidence

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Intelligent" design?

Texas Pastor Electrocuted During Baptism

WACO, Texas (AP)- A pastor performing a baptism was electrocuted inside his church Sunday morning after grabbing a microphone while partially submerged, a church employee said.

The Rev. Kyle Lake, 33, was standing in water up to his shoulder in a baptismal at University Baptist Church when he was electrocuted, said Jamie Dudley, a church business administrator and wife of another pastor there.

Doctors in the congregation performed chest compressions, she said. Lake was taken by ambulance to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, where nursing supervisor Pat Mahl said he was pronounced dead.

The woman Lake was baptizing was not injured, Dudley said.

Pastors at University Baptist Church routinely use a microphone during baptisms, Dudley said.

"He was grabbing the microphone so everyone could hear," Dudley said. "It's the only way you can be loud enough."

About 800 people attended the morning service, which was larger than normal because it was homecoming weekend at nearby Baylor University, Dudley said.

Lake, who had a wife and three children, had been at the church for nine years, the last seven as pastor, Dudley said.

[The Mandarin points out that no Republicans were knowingly made fun of in this post.]

Original photo caption: University Baptist Church pastors lead worship, (left to right), Kyle Lake, senior pastor; Ben Dudley, community pastor, and David Crowder, music and arts pastor. (Photo by Duane A. Laverty/Waco Tribune-Herald)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Still photo from Rocky VII?

Nothing the Mandarin could write would do this photo justice, as Patrick Fitzgerald shuffles his Iraqi Freedom-style 52-card deck of high-value targets and prepares the body blow to the Shrub inner circle. One can almost see the glove in the air, the spiral spray of sweat from the face, a millisecond after the punch lands.

Original photo caption: US President George W. Bush gestures as he addresses the Economic Club of Washingon, DC.(AFP/Jim Watson)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I think we could see a bit less of one of those letters ourselves

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - A Turkish court fined 20 people for using the letters Q and W on placards at a Kurdish new year celebration, under a law banning characters not used in the Turkish alphabet, rights campaigners said Tuesday.

The Mandarin has never had anything against the letter Q. In fact, when the Mandarin's sons were young and we watched Sesame Street, the shows brought to us by the letter Q were among our very favorites.

Friday, October 21, 2005

How do you say “Geisha” in Chinese?

The Mandarin was at the movies recently and saw a short trailer for the upcoming film, “Memoirs of a Geisha.” In one scene, three geisha are talking in a luxurious teahouse, and the Mandarin turned to Ms. Mandarin and whispered, “What geisha? That’s Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li!?” After living most of the 1980s and 90s in China, more or less, the Mandarin family recognizes three A-list Chinese actresses dressed up in Japanese drag when we see them.

Courtesy of the IMBD, the Mandarin tallied the presumed cultural groupings (based on their names) among the cast members playing Japanese parts, and came up with this breakdown:

39% Chinese
32% Japanese
17% Non-Asian
4% Korean
8% Other Asian

It turned out that many of the Asian faces in the preview were unambiguously Chinese, with a few Koreans thrown in for variety. Kind of a jarring note. Japanese actors are a minority in their own movie! I know this isn’t news. After all, Chuck Norris has always been partial to having Filipinos play the Viet Cong. But, in this big budget tent-pole picture, seeing more than half the incomparable geisha of Kyoto’s Gion district and their patrons played by Chinese, gaijin 外人 (non-Asians), and a few other miscellaneous Asians, is really going to take some of the magic out of it for the Mandarin and anyone else who likes Japanese characters to look and sound Japanese. Good thing they didn’t film any of it at the Yasukuni shrine!

Whose brilliant casting idea was this? Soon Teck Oh (Korean), where are you? At least the Japanese-American actor Mako, who sometimes plays Chinese characters (like Po-han in "The Sand Pebbles") is playing a Japanese, although his Mandarin is pretty good....

Oh, by the way, the Mandarin has to admit that the question in the title was a trick: geisha 芸者 (literally “artist”) actually is Chinese (the original characters are 藝者). The Japanese borrowed thousands of Chinese words a more than a millennium ago, and their present-day Japanese pronunciation is actually a relic of the Chinese pronunciation of that era, ngiai-chya, which became gei-sha in Japanese, ngai-jeh in Cantonese and now yi-zhe in, what else…Mandarin.

Photo from

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

First the 1928 Prayer Book, now this!?

The Mandarin was raised Episcopalian, but lapsed back in the 1970s, around the time they replaced the 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer with the "new liturgy," kind of a nice gender-free Methodist-style service to replace the majestic language of Thomas Cranmer's 1548 original. So the Mandarin hasn't been too close to the Church since then.

Imagine the Mandarin's surprise then, amid all the Religious Right hoo-hah about Harriet "You're doin' a great job" Miers being an acceptable pig-in-a-poke nominee because she's a dyed-in-the-wool Evangelical Christian, to read the caption from the photo to the left.

An Evangelical Episcopalian? The Mandarin's head is throbbing now. And Thomas Cranmer is spinning in his grave.

Original photo caption: Supreme Court Justice nominee Harriet Miers arrives for church services at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers looked close to home, or the office, in choosing the free legal cases to take on as a private lawyer. No sweeping constitutional matters for her, or even terribly contentious ones. 'She handled small matters,' said lawyer Jerry Clements, who has worked with Miers. 'Somebody needed a divorce, somebody needed an adoption.' (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Good old-fashioned scholarship

Juan Cole demonstrates here that some simple scholarship can expose a fake:

The Arabic text of the recently released letter alleged to be by Zawahiri (al-Qaeda's number two man) to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq raises questions for me as to its authenticity.

And the Mandarin means simple:

Adding to the salutation "the peace and blessings of God be upon him [Muhammad]" the phrase "and his family" would be an insult to Zarqawi and to the hardline Sunnis in Iraq.

If "our guys" faked it, are we really that ignorant of the differences between Sunnis and Shiites? Given what passes for knowledge of China and Tibet in our government circles these days, the Mandarin is not optimistic.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Shrub wants us to save gas by doing what?

Cutting down on unnecessary trips?

Is this trip really necessary? A press report yesterday said, "[Shrub]... on his eighth trip to the Gulf Coast since it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, was to meet the mayor for dinner in New Orleans on Monday."


The Mandarin drives a middle-aged Saab that gets about 30mpg on the highway. That means the Mandarin could do eight round trips to NOLA and back for about $3,000. Shrub's personal 747, "Shrub Force One," will fly about thirty minutes on $3,000 - just for jet fuel, forget overhead for pilots, flight attendants, Secret Service pensions, souvenir logo playing cards and cufflinks for privileged fly-along guests, etc.

Even assuming that Shrub Force One gets a straight-in approach and doesn't have to circle waiting for a gate, what are we talking about, thirty grand a trip? Times eight: say $250,000 just for jet fuel?

Imagine each time Shrub pops down to NOLA and back, instead of flying Shrub Force One, he drove it in a convoy of 70 or 80 Hummer H2s? Same fuel cost.

What is the Mandarin missing?

Friday, October 07, 2005

One, two, three, many Brownies....

The Mandarin was tempted to say that in this picture, Shrub is pointing at the masthead of this blog and saying to Harriet, "This guy is so dumb, he named his blog after an orange!" But that would have been untrue.

He's really saying, "Way to go! You're number one! And, by the way, Hattie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Yes, Harriet Miers holds place of honor, the number one spot in a list of the top fifteen hacks appointed by Shrub to positions of responsibility in his administration, according to an excellent article in the New Republic entitled "Welcome to the Hackocracy."

An excerpt:

In Federalist No. 76, Alexander Hamilton warned that, in presenting nominations to the Senate, a president "would be both ashamed and afraid" to nominate cronies--or, as Hamilton called them, "obsequious instruments of his pleasure." Maybe politics was different back in the 1780s, but we have watched Bush appoint many obsequious instruments of his pleasure. It may be his legacy: George W. Bush--he took the shame and fear out of cronyism.

It reminds the Mandarin of a legendary comment by crooked Chicago alderman Fred Roti. Supposedly, someone asked him if it was true that he had put dozens of political hacks, personal cronies, and even many of his relatives on the city payroll. He answered, "Yes, I did. And every one of them is doing a terrific job." A heck of a job, in fact.

Original photo caption from White House web site: President George W. Bush tours a canyon with White House Staff Secretary Harriet Miers at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Friday, Aug. 9, 2002.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

God? I can't quite hear ya. Are ya there? I did what you told me to do, but I things are gettin' bad, so need to know what to do now....

Original Photo Caption: U.S. President George W. Bush cups his ear as reporters in the distance shout to him as he leaves St. John's Episcopal Church in Washintgon, DC, in 2003. Bush allegedly said God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, a new BBC documentary will reveal, according to details.(AFP/File/Paul J. Richards)

Cheney Channels Ralph Kramden

"One of these days, one of these days. Bang! Zoom! To the moon, Alice, to the moon! Do you want to go to the moon!? A trip to the moon, Alice! Would you like to go to the moon!?"

Original picture caption: US Vice President Dick Cheney. The White House said it was cooperating with a spy probe into a former US Marine who allegedly provided the Philippines with classified documents stolen from Vice President Dick Cheney's office(AFP/Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Shrub Channels Travis Bickle

"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who do the f**k do you think you're talking to? Oh, yeah? OK. [pulls gun out of sleeve]

Original photo caption: President Bush fields a question during a news conference in the Rose Garden Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005. White House photo by Paul Morse.

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Brownie Moment"

A right-wing, right-thinking blogger has coined a marvelous term: Brownie Moment. His definition:

A Brownie moment can be defined simply as the moment when a supporter of President Bush is smacked in the head by reality and loses any and all faith in the president from that moment forward. As you may have surmised the term comes from Bush’s recent comment regarding former FEMA head Michael Brown’s leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

This was my Brownie moment. I understand that in the world of politics leaders often have to say things they don’t mean, or shake hands with dictators and scumbags, and do a lot of morally repugnant stuff. But when Bush said that I realized that after surveying the impotent, incompetent response of the federal government he truly, honestly believed that Brownie was doing a heck of a job. That sealed it for me. I’d been turning sour on Bush for a while, but I was still generally supportive of him. When I heard him make that remark, however, that was it. That was my Brownie moment.

I bring this up in light of the Miers nomination. There are a whole lot of head-scratching Republicans gazing at each other wondering what the hell just happened. Could Bush really have nominated this woman to the Supreme Court? Yes, my friends, he just did. I imagine there are a whole lot of conservatives out there today who have just had their very own Brownie moment.

This is not to say that having had a Brownie moment the lack of faith in Bush is irreversible. Far from it. If Bush were to straighten up, get his act together, and really make an effort at becoming the president he was in the first three years of his first term then I would in all likelihood get firmly behind him again. But in the wake of the deteriorating situation in Iraq, his political impotence at implementing his agenda, the profligate expansion of government under his watch, and his failure to veto a single bill during five years in office, the Brownie comment was just too much.

That was my Brownie moment. And there’s a whole country full of gobsmacked Republicans who just had theirs this morning.

The Mandarin says, "Join the club, boys and girls, join the club."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

This one is worth a thousand words

Shrub isn't just being overtaken by events, he is being left behind. Katrina, Browniegate, DeLaygate, Fristgate (here the Mandarin believes it is all smoke, no fire), the hits keep coming. And especially Plamegate - key advisors of both Shrub and Big Dick are implicated, and this morning, on ABC's "This Week," George Stephanopoulos lobbed this little shell over the White House fence:

Definitely a political problem but I wonder, George Will, do you think it’s a manageable one for the White House, especially if we don’t know whether Fitzgerald is going to write a report or have indictments. But if he is able to show -- as a source close to this told me this week -- that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of these discussions....

As the Mandarin's mother likes to say, the thot plickens.

Original photo caption: US President George W. Bush delivers remarks on the anniversary of the 'No Child Left Behind Act' to teachers, parents, and students 05 January 2004. Bush's administration broke the law as it resorted to illegal 'covert propaganda' in trying to sell its key education initiative to the public, US congressional investigators have found. (AFP/File/Paul Richards)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Dear Captain Fishback

Capt. Ian Fishback, a young Army officer and West Point graduate who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, is risking (and probably sacrificing) his career in an attempt to clarify from the military chain of command (which stops, like "the buck," on Shrub's desk) whether the US military in Iraq is required to treat prisoners and detainees in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. His whistle-blowing recently became public, and the Army is now interrogating him! Andrew Sullivan has established a direct line of communication to Capt. Fishback for people who wish to offer their support to him in this time of great stress for both him and for our country. Here is the link to Andrew's site and the special e-mail address.

This is a lightly edited version of what one supporter wrote to him yesterday:

Dear Captain Fishback:

I was an ROTC officer, commissioned 2LT Field Artillery in 1970. I volunteered, but had been politicized against the war by the time I entered active duty. I was scared, but I decided it was a point of honor to do what I had sworn an oath to do and go where I was sent. I ended up as an instructor at a service school instead of being sent to Vietnam. The irony was that I became a Stability Operations instructor teaching lessons the Army ignores daily in Iraq 35 years later. My commanding officer told me that if I didn't stop talking against the war, and if I didn't take the anti-war decals off my car, I would be reduced to private and sent to prison at Leavenworth. I caved and kept my mouth shut. I eventually got out early and never looked back.

I can't tell you how much I admire your fidelity to the ideals of the officer corps and the Constitution. Remember 2 Tim 4:7-8.

Bonum certamen certavi, cursum consummavi, fidem servavi. Quod superest, reposita est mihi justitiæ corona, quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die justus judex....

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day...."

I hope you do not have to wait that long for the honor you have earned.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

At least Mrs. Shrub stayed long enough to get sweaty

The Mandarin made a little fun of Laura yesterday, but I have to give her a lot more credit than her husband. Photo op though it was, she stayed long enough to get sweaty and see people face to face in their distress. And the Mandarin suspects it was much less scripted and stage-managed than her husband's recent attempts to recapture the 9/11 "megaphone moment."

Laura vs. Hillary in 2008? Hmmm....

Original photo caption: First Lady Laura Bush hands out lunches at a Salvation Army hurricane relief distribution site Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2005, in Biloxi, Miss. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Murdley Gurdson to head FEMA?

Mike Brown is now blaming everyone but himself for FEMA's problems during Hurricane Katrina. While there is plenty of blame to go around, Brownie's protestations of innocence remind the Mandarin of the lovely children's book It Wasn't My Fault by Helen Lester.

When the Mandarin's two sons were little, this was one of their favorite bedtime books. It should be required reading for every senior political appointee in the Shrub Administration.

Lester's main character, Murdley Gurdson, is a kind of Brownie-esque hard luck kid. The book begins: "Things did not always go well for Murdley Gurdson. He couldn't control the toothpaste. He fell into wastebaskets. And he dropped only valuable vases. Whatever happened, it was usually his fault." Whenever something bad happens to Murdley, like a bird laying an egg on his head, Murdley always manages to trace a wildly improbable sequence of events that leads right back to something, however innocent it seemed at the time, that Murdley himself had done.

Murdley, you're doin' a heck of a job.

I was thinking of something a little more extreme...

Mrs. Shrub has arranged a photo op on a reality TV show to be taped in the Katrina-ravaged coastal area of Mississippi: Laura Bush will travel to storm-damaged Biloxi, Miss., to film a spot on the feel-good, wish-granting hit "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Mrs. Bush sought to be on the program because she shares the "same principles" that the producers hold, her press secretary said.

In its standard format, the popular ABC series finds hard-pressed but deserving families, sends them away for short vacations and then, in a whirlwind of carpentry and appliance-shopping, gives them new homes. This time, though, the show will broadcast from an underserved shelter near Biloxi, where a convoy of trucks stocked with everything from mattresses to pants will arrive, courtesy of Sears, one of the show's sponsors.

It's not clear exactly what Mrs. Bush will do, but Tom Forman, executive producer and creator, said he is hoping that she'll just pitch in and help unload.

What principles does she share with the producers, the Mandarin wonders? The Mandarin also wonders if the usual format of building them new houses would somehow be more appropriate. But when they are eventually moved instead into a FEMA trailer ghetto somewhere, at least they'll have new jeans and mattresses.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Storms Prove It: The Bush Dynasty has Lost the Mandate of Heaven

Trust the Mandarin on this one - he is on the firm ground of his scholarly specialty: Heaven has withdrawn its mandate from the Bush Dynasty and another dynasty must rise to take its place.

In the classic Chinese worldview, well established for three thousand years, the legitimacy of rulers derives from the Mandate of Heaven, or 天命 (tian ming - literally "Heaven’s Decree"). Within limits, ruling families were free to govern as they chose. If they governed benevolently and wisely, their dynasties could last for centuries. If they governed badly and offended Heaven by their mistreatment of the people under their care, eventually Heaven would withdraw its Mandate, the dynasty would fall, and another family would found a new dynasty.

How did the average Chinese peasant in the street know that Heaven’s mandate had been withdrawn? Heaven would send natural disasters such as rainstorms, floods, typhoons, fires, or earthquakes.

In this way, the Chinese people knew in 1976 that the 27-year revolutionary Mao Zedong Dynasty was ending when a massive earthquake leveled the city of Tangshan and killed or injured literally millions of people. Mao soon died, and after a brief interregnum under Hua Guofeng, the pragmatic Deng Xiaoping Dynasty received the Mandate of Heaven in 1978. The first Emperor Deng's successors are still ruling China today.

Now, Hurricane Rita is intensifying and heading for the Bush heartland - Texas. The current Emperor Bush's detached palace at Crawford is the red dot on the map shown above. The memorial temple and library of the first Emperor Bush at College Station is also in the storm’s direct path. Hurricanes are fickle, so Rita may weaken or change her course before landfall and in the end may not uproot the Bush trees or flood the Bush bike paths or ruin the Emperor's regalia: the pickup truck and the chainsaw. But, by aiming this storm, for now a potentially catastrophic Category Five hurricane, directly at the current Emperor Bush's home, Heaven is sending the Bush clan a clear sign of its displeasure -- in case the Emperor's Grand Councilors Rove and Cheney missed the message of Katrina.

The Bush Dynasty is finished. They have governed badly, brought misery to their subjects, and lost the Mandate of Heaven. On whom will Heaven next bestow its mandate? Heaven only knows.

[Source of map: as of 5:00am 9/21/2005 - red dot added]

Happy belated birthday, Katrina, wherever you are....

The Mandarin's birthday is September 11, and he occasionally regrets that date has become so infamous, a verbal icon of so many bad memories for our nation. Yesterday, the Mandarin read Senator Kerry's indictment of the Shrub regime in his speech at Brown University, labeling it the "Katrina Administration." There is overwhelming merit to his argument that the shamefully bungled Federal response to Katrina by Georgie, Brownie, FEMA, et. al., is an emblem of a much more pervasive incompetence in the Executive Branch. Anyway, reading that, and pondering the name Katrina becoming another verbal icon like "9/11," it occurred to the Mandarin that women and girls named Katrina might be feeling the way the Mandarin does about his infamous birthday. They aren't just Katrina any more, they share the name of a national tragedy and a national disgrace at the same time. And, among those women and girls, somewhere, is a Katrina born on September 11th. So, to that Katrina, the Mandarin says: "Happy belated birthday, Katrina, wherever you are...."

Monday, September 19, 2005

I think a "Clintonian response" to Hurricane Katrina would have been very different

But we are all entitled to our own opinions. Here is an ingenious use of "Clintonian" from the distinguished conservative rag American Spectator:

Publicly, the White House will tell you that it intends to push ahead with two of its big legislative issues throughout the fall: making permanent the first term tax cuts and Social Security reform.

Even privately, with the political and policy debacle that the White House created with its Clintonian response to Hurricane Katrina, policy and political types at 1600 Pennsylvania insist what's left of an agenda is still viable.

But at this stage of the game, barring some imaginative political moves that bear some resemblance to the Bush Administration circa 2002, Republicans on Capitol Hill and even some longtime Bush team members in various Cabinet level departments say this Administration is done for.

"You run down the list of things we thought we could accomplish and you have to wonder what we thought we were thinking," says a Bush Administration member who joined on in 2001. "You get the impression that we're more than listless. We're sunk."

There's more, worth a read for a taste of creeping Republican despair.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"Let your light so shine before men....

that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in Heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

Well, for an hour or so anyway. NBC's Brian Williams reports the following about Shrub's stand-up in Jackson Square last night:

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.

Like, maybe the conclusion that someone could just switch the power back on if they really wanted to?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Maybe Bush should just raise his hand and ask Kofi Annan for a hall pass....

Original photo caption form Reuters: U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's vision of freedom from want, persecution and war. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Bette Davis Eyes?

Speaking of eyes....

Multiple choice test.

1. You are getting sleepy - very, very sleepy....

2. OK, I see the deer, now where are the headlights?

3. Using the same under-the-jacket voice prompter that Shrub wore in the presidential debates, Karl Rove has just given John Roberts an unexpected electric shock after Roberts told the Senate Judiciary Committee that stare decisis applied to Roe v. Wade.

4. All of the above.

Where is Ben Stein when we need him?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ben Stein on Bush - not a "dry eye" in the place

Though Ben is most visible recently in his "dry eyes" commercials, he is also a well-regarded political pundit and former Nixon speech-writer. The Mandarin has a lot of respect for Ben. The Mandarin was a contestant on Ben's quiz show, and actualy won some of Ben Stein's money. In his chats with the Mandarin during taping breaks, Ben was charming and witty. But in this piece, I think he doth protest too much.

Bennie, you're doin' a heck of a job.

Remind me what Clinton did to get impeached? Fibbing about what?

Reuters today: Asked if Americans should be concerned their government remains unprepared to respond to another major disaster or a terrorist attack, Bush said: "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

Georgie, to the extent you're doing a job, its a heck of a job.

Thinking about the meaning of the words "I take responsibility," the Mandarin wonders how such a taking of responsibility actually works in the real world of Bushland. Where does that pesky buck stop now?

Now, the Mandarin's head is starting to hurt.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I noticed a pattern right away

Kevin Drum summarizes the qualifications of the last four heads of FEMA. He quotes one line of a Sesame Street song as a hint to the pattern you're supposed to pick up. Here's the whole verse:

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

The headlines from Kevin's rundown. The full post is a must-read. The job is to coordinate the nation's emergency services, so some experience in that would be cool.

1990-1992: Wallace Stickney, a close friend and former next door neighbor of White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.

1993-2000: James Lee Witt, Director of the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services.

2001-2002: Joe Allbaugh, National Campaign Manager for Bush-Cheney 2000, and the guy who helped Karen Hughes sanitize Shrub's Texas Air National Guard files.

2003-Present: Michael Brown, Commissioner of Judges and Stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, and Allbaugh's college roommate.

Connect the dots.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Toasting marshmallows in the Astrodome

From Domeblog - a blogger at the Astrodome: Earlier today, Tom DeLay, Texas Congressman and House Majority Leader (for now anyway), visited a few thousand of his newest constituents.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots. The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.

Kum-ba-ya, dude!

No argument from me

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The West Bank was not going to become New Orleans

Thanks to NS for pointing me to this heart-breaking and infuriating personal account of Katrina's aftermath.

Money quote -- A large group of people who had been locked out of their hotels were told by a senior police official that evacuation busses were waiting across the greater New Orleans Bridge on the Pontchartrain Expressway:

"As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move. We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans."

Bush Told Hurricane Katrina Determined to Attack United States

"Junior" has a senior moment? Bush claimed nobody anticipated the hurricane could cause the levees to fail and flood New Orleans. Except, according to the guy giving the briefing in this photo (Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center), he warned the President of exactly that possibility in this video conference on Sunday August 28th, before Katrina even made landfall.. Picture source: White House web site.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Fire Michael Brown

Aren't there some Republican Arabian horses somewhere yearning for someone to give them legal advice? Its a start. Click me.

Dr. Frist sets an example his boss should follow

Senator Frist grabbed his doctor's bag and headed for New Orleans yesterday. Not for an hour of photo ops, but to stay and treat the sick. I don't like his politics, but that can wait. People need help down there.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Faith-based disaster relief - Bush-style

Shrub is telling his destitute taxpaying citizens to seek disaster releif from a religious charity.

During his whirlwind (pun intended) visit to the gulf coast yesterday: "In Biloxi, Miss., Bush encountered two weeping women on a street where a house had collapsed and towering trees were stripped of their branches. 'My son needs clothes,' said Bronwynne Bassier, 23, clutching several trash bags. 'I don't have anything.' 'I understand that,' Bush said. He kissed both women on their heads and walked with his arms around them, telling them they could get help from the Salvation Army. 'Hang in there,' he said." [Associated Press]

Maybe he should have given her a set of Air Force One cufflinks, too? If I wanted a clueless President, I would have voted for Cher Horowitz.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Plenty of room at the ranch in Crawford these days

Maybe now that Shrub has decamped early to avoid Cindy Sheehan and (until this morning) the Katrina disaster, he might open up his ranch to the refugees? There is room for thousands of cots, plus the lovely bike trails will provide hours of exercise for people who have been stuck in those cramped seats at the Superdome.

I hope to God Bush (or Rove on his behalf) has the brains gets his picture taken today, during his visit to the area, spending a few hours (not a few minutes) on the relief line handing out food and water to his fellow Americans. Otherwise the $6,000 an hour in jet fuel that Air Force One burns to get him down there (again, after his flyover the other day) will have been a disgusting waste.

I have to imagine that in their day Bush Senior or Reagan or B. Clinton or Carter or someday McCain or Giuliani or Gore or H. Clinton or Ahnuld or Jeb Bush would be there sweating, in muddy boots, passing out bottled water and food while the Marine One presidential helicopter rescued desperately sick people from hospital rooftops even if the nice clean Presidential seats were going to get all damp and stinky from the mud and blood....

The Mandarin is planning to make a donation to the Red Cross, but a friend of his, something of a Mandarin himself, just pointed out something the Mandarin had been mulling over in the shower this morning. The Mandarin and his family, more fortunate than many of those we see in the horrific TV images, paid enough in various federal taxes last year to buy everyone at the Superdome a square meal and a big bottle of water (or enough for the gas Air Force One is burning to fly Shrub from Washington to the gulf coast and back today)... Those dollars ought to be available for assisting our fellow Americans in distress, but the Mandarin is afraid that President Bush has blown them on some neocon nation-building stunt in Iraq. So, another dip into the wallet seems the thing to do.

And where are the Bush twins? Not burdened by onerous 9-to-5 jobs, they could certainly spend a few days showing the family flag down in the disaster zone. Just tell them its an all-expense paid week in the French Quarter. Chips off the old Shrub, they probably don't read newspapers or watch TV news anyway, so think what a nice surprise would await them when they stepped off the plane.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A President from the Flyover States, well, flies over them....

This picture is worth a thousand words, and Arianna Huffington said them best. Her opening salvo:

"The president's 35-minute Air Force One flyover of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama was the perfect metaphor for his entire presidency: detached, disconnected, and disengaged. Preferring to take in America's suffering -- whether caused by the war in Iraq or Hurricane Katrina -- from a distance. In this case, 2,500 feet. Apparently, the president 'sat somberly on a couch on the left hand side of the presidential jumbo jet peering out the window' at the catastrophe below, joined at different times by White House staffers including Karl Rove and Scott McClellan. McClellan later quoted the president as saying, 'It's devastating. It's got to be doubly devastating on the ground.' Ya think?? Hey, here's an idea, Mr. President: maybe you should, y'know, get off the plane and see for yourself?"

Why is that man still grinning?

Gosh, I expect him to break out any minute with, "The sun will come out, tomorrow..."

The New York Times: "George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end. Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis."

Josh Marshall: "We're hearing again and again now that there just wasn't enough money for a lot of this stuff. Terrorism was our big focus. Some kinds of preparedness aren't simply a question of funds. They turn on less elastic resources. But most of what we're hearing about is dollars and planning. So when we hear, 'well, there just wasn't enough for this and terrorism', or 'we needed the money for Iraq', the real answer is 'nice try'. The president cut taxes every year of his first term in office. He's trying to push through a major tax cut right now. So it's not terrorism that took away the money. It was tax cuts. And to a degree, same thing for Iraq. Choices have consequences. And bad consequences require accountability."

Manchester Union Leader: "As the extent of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation became clearer on Tuesday — millions without power, tens of thousands homeless, a death toll unknowable because rescue crews can’t reach some regions — President Bush carried on with his plans to speak in San Diego, as if nothing important had happened the day before. Katrina already is measured as one of the worst storms in American history. And yet, President Bush decided that his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of VJ Day with a speech were more pressing than responding to the carnage. A better leader would have flown straight to the disaster zone and announced the immediate mobilization of every available resource to rescue the stranded, find and bury the dead, and keep the survivors fed, clothed, sheltered and free of disease. The cool, confident, intuitive leadership Bush exhibited in his first term, particularly in the months immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, has vanished. In its place is a diffident detachment unsuitable for the leader of a nation facing war, natural disaster and economic uncertainty. Wherever the old George W. Bush went, we sure wish we had him back."

Rudy G, where are ye?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Why is this man smiling?

"That Sheehan woman has gone back to California for a while. Now if the rest of her friends would go home, I could have some peace and quiet, and just get on with my life."

Original photo caption: "President Bush smiles as he arrives at Caterpiller's Aurora facility in Montgomery, Ill., Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005. With anti-war protesters continuing their vigil outside U.S. President Bush's ranch, the president began a five-day push Saturday, Aug. 20, 2005, to tell the U.S. why he thinks U.S. troops must continue the fight in Iraq." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

To bring out the worst in someone, the worst already has to be in there somewhere

Who in the hell are these people? Where do they come from? How can they be wearing the same uniform I wore, the same uniform my father and grandfather wore? It is beyond belief. Or should have been....

Reading this article literally brought tears of fury to my eyes.

I don't see this as doing much for Shrub's "Democracy on the march" ad campaign. It is just thuggery and murder, pure and simple, encouraged from the middle and condoned from the top. If we are supposed to have the moral high ground, to be better than the "terrorists," these criminals are doing us more damage than roadside bombs ever will.

And, if Shrub's crony Alberto G ("torture is OK if you call it something else" memo author) is ever nominated to the SCOTUS, all hell better break loose.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Day by day, the truth seems more and more obvious.

Not the new Vietnam, but even worse.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Why they kill us

I have been meditating recently on a post to explain why I think our government leaders, especially President Bush and his inner circle, fundamentally misunderstand the enemy we face in Bin Laden-style Islamic fundamentalism. Despite what Mr. Bush says, they do not kill us because they "hate our way of life," or because they "hate freedom." I believe they kill us because of our financial and military support of Israel, who in turn they hate because of Israel's occupation of Jerusalem and their treatment of the Palestinian Arabs.

Well, Juan Cole, an expert on Middle East politics and culture, has written it much more thoroughly and persuasively than I could have done. What I have been thinking, he explains convincingly. I was going to say I wish Mr. Bush would read it, but in reality, I doubt he would understand it or recognize its truth. I hope our next group of political leaders, of whatever party, have more open minds. I just wish we didn't have to wait another three and a half years to find out.

Read it yourself: Jerusalem and Terrorism.

Up Close and Personal

A prominent pro-war academic, military historian and pundit writes about his feelings as his son, an infantry officer, prepares to deploy to Iraq.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Cheney has a dictionary. Does he have a clue?

You can't make this stuff up, folks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Let me get this straight: Newsweek should apologize for offending Muslims!?

Reports already published describe things like: female US interrogators wearing revealing outfits intended to offend Muslim men, a female US interrogator pretending to rub menstrual blood on a Muslim man's face, Army guards at Abu Ghraib forcing a group of naked men to stand in a line and masturbate in front of each other and in front of female guards, in fact the entire sorry scandal of our gulag in Iraq, and the Muslim world was fine with it until last week. Then Newsweek's source corrects himself and says the description of a US interrogator flushing a Quran down a toilet wasn't in the confidential Army report due out in a few days, it was in some other confidential report he saw recently. So, what is Newsweek to retract? How have they inflamed the Muslim world? By saying, 1) a government report confirms that at least one Quran was flushed down a toilet by a US interrogator, but 2) we attributed it to the wrong confidential US government report. In other words, it did happen.

So, tell the Mandarin again why Shrub and his puppeteers are in high dudgeon about it? Because it is Rathergate all over again. Just as with reports of Bush's dereliction of duty in the Texas Air National Guard, the story itself is unequivocally true and already proven. But by calling out the mob to scream about bad reporting, the truth of the story is forgotten and the mainstream press is cowed into talking about something else. You gotta love that Karl Rove. Pure genius.

Update: As usual, Andrew Sullivan made the same point, but said it better: here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

That Goldwater was my kind of guy....

Andrew Sullivan's Quote of the Day:

"[O]n religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.'"- Barry Goldwater, September 16, 1981.

We can be Republicans and Democrats and disagree about things. Sometimes, it gets a little too heated. But, now with all this Dobson-Frist religious radical fundamentalism stuff forcing itself into the political realm, calling liberals "enemies of people of faith," etc., will we move toward a mini-theocracy, a place where "every sin becomes a civil crime?"

The Mandarin is beginning to worry.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Well, its all over but the finger-pointing

Shrub didn't cover himself in glory after all. His handlers had him rush back to D.C., pen in hand, to promote a culture of life, for a poor woman whose EKG has been flat-lined for fifteen years. His major slip in the polls is part of his just deserts. His handlers now are trying to put some air between him and the Republican bunglers in Congress and their wacky, f*ck the Constitution "do-over" Bill. ["He didn't really want to come back to D.C. early, they made him do it."] Dumb and dumber, for sure. But who is the dumber one?

As for the fundamental issues in the last-minute legal circus, Andrew Cohen says it far better than the Mandarin can.

Mrs. Schiavo has been dead for fifteen years. May the rest of her family, Schiavo and Schindler, now rest in peace, too.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Three-ring Media Circus

This week, the Mandarin has been meditating on the Bush Republican team’s astonishing turnabout on “states rights” in the case of Terri Schiavo (Italian pronunciation: skya-vo).

The same Bush camp who had the federal Supreme Court overturn the Florida Supreme court’s ruling (about its own state’s voting rules) in the landmark 2000 election case, has once again asserted the big government prerogative (or click is it “arrogative?”) of meddling in affairs reserved by the Constitution to the individual states.

Marshall Wittman – a political centrist in the Teddy Roosevelt tradition – has written it far better than I could in his Bull Moose Blog [here] on “Conservatism, R.I.P.” An excerpt:

“At its heart, conservatism had reverence for process and order. But what we are witnessing now is the triumph of ends over means. That is exactly what the right loathed about the left. In the eye of conservatives, the left would stretch the Constitution and the law to serve its so-called noble ends. Liberals would turn to the federal courts to nullify the judgments of localities. In the end, according to the right, the law of unintended consequences would prevail and the rule of law would be obliterated.”

Now, the Bush camp has hijacked the word “conservative” and turned it on its head.

The stakes in this media circus are high: Tom DeLay wants to appear moral to counteract continuing allegations of his dishonesty. Senator/Doctor Bill Frist, juggling Hippocrates and hypocrisy, is preparing to run for President in 2008. Current President Bush, as always wearing his religion on his sleeve, claims that in any case of doubt, “life” must get the nod no matter what the courts have ruled. Even though Mrs. Schiavo stated several times, to different people, her wish to be able die with dignity when the time came, “life” must get the nod, so Congress and the Federal courts must strike down her right to choose as granted by Florida law and upheld by Florida courts.

But, this is not really about Terri Schiavo at all. It as about Roe versus Wade. Pure and simple. If you doubt it, look who is advising Mrs. Schiavo’s parents and making statements to the media on their behalf: high-profile anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue. Go look: the “pro-life” movement has adopted Mrs. Schiavo as their new mascot [here].

And what of Mrs. Schiavo herself? Is she really “alive” in there? Senator Frist (2008 Presidential candidate and a cardiologist who no longer practices medicine), saw a home video of Mrs. Schiavo rolling her eyes and blinking when someone touched her hair. Diagnosis: not a vegetable.

But, at the Obsidian Wings blog [here], imbedded in a long and thoughtful essay on the ethical and political issues at stake, there is a comparative CAT scan [click] of Mrs. Schiavo’s brain and a normal one (actually the brain of one of her doctors). All neurologists consulted agree – there is little of her brain actually left in there, most of the area formerly occupied by her brain is now just a pool of spinal fluid. Eye and head movements interpreted by her parents as signs of consciousness are, in medical terms, reflexes originating in the surviving brain stem and spinal cord. The cerebrum, the large white organ we usually refer to as “the brain,” is essentially gone.

It is a shame Terri Schiavo didn’t execute a living will, or even better, a durable power of attorney as the Mandarin and many others have done. It is an even bigger shame that the so-called Religious Right and their political servants pandering to the anti-abortion movement have made this poor woman’s death a national circus attraction.

Here’s a final irony. Now, near death, she has become a slave to special interests. Mrs. Schiavo’s name means, in Italian, “slave.”

And, speaking of not being one’s own master, as Ed Kilgore said [here]:

“One thing is for sure: this case will boost the execution of Living Wills into the stratosphere. After this weekend, each of us must decide if we want to control what happens to us if we wind up like Terri Schiavo. Otherwise, Tom DeLay will decide it for us.”

P.S. For a time line with linked documents and far more than you ever wanted to know about this case, go here.