Tuesday, December 26, 2006

News headline: "Pope makes Christmas appeal for children"

While the rest of us were hoping for an iPod or a plasma TV, the Pope's Christmas wish -- despite all the bad press the Roman Catholic priesthood has been getting in recent years -- appeared in the headlines as:

Pope makes Christmas appeal for children

The Mandarin wonders who was duty editor the night some bored wag came up with that headline....

Original photo caption: Pope Benedict XVI greets a child as he celebrates the midnight mass in St Peter's basilica at the Vatican. The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem has urged Middle East leaders to become "peacemakers" as the pope used his Christmas message to appeal for respect of the "dignity of children."(AFP/Patrick Hertzog)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Get ready, boys and girls

An old professor of the Mandarin's, in the context of analyzing some peculiar laws instituted during the Tang Dynasty in China (618-907), made this pithy observation: "Governments don't pass laws against things that nobody is doing."

In that vein, the Mandarin was intrigued by this little bit of bureaucratic doublespeak:

The Selective Service—the federal agency that would be integral to any draft effort by the Bush administration—will perform tests on its system equipment, The Associated Press is reporting.

Selective Service "is planning a comprehensive test of the military draft machinery, which hasn't been run since 1998," writes Kasie Hunt. "The agency is not gearing up for a draft," an agency official told Hunt, and "the test itself would not likely occur until 2009."

Bush's Secretary for Veterans Affairs, Jim Nicholson, meanwhile remarked that "society would benefit" should the draft return; he later issued a press release stating "he does not support reinstituting a draft."

And the Mandarin means that "boys and girls" in the title literally. Equal rights carry equal responsibilities, don't they? Will we see the Roberts-Alito-Scalia-Thomas "axis of evil" go after Rostker v. Goldberg next?

Anyway, the Mandarin (Selective Service Classification 4-A: "Registrant who has completed military service") wishes today's crop of cannon fodder between the ages of 18 and 26 the best of luck in dealing with their local Draft Boards when the time comes. Or doesn't come, depending on which side of his mouth Jim Nicholson is speaking out of at any given moment....

One of these days, the Mandarin may share a cautionary tale with his loyal reader(s) about his own experience with the Selective Service System, including such highlights as 1) his having received a draft notice while attending graduate school under the G.I. Bill as an ex-Army officer, and 2) a testy meeting with the head of the Tennessee Draft Board, whose name was Col. Sanders. (Would the Mandarin kid you about something like that?)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Upside-down Flag

A fellow blogger posted a comment on one of the Mandarin's recent posts, with a link to his own blog, called the Upside Down Flag. Seeing the title reminded the Mandarin of his early run-in with military justice.

Regular reader(s) may recall that the Mandarin was an Army Officer during what, at the time, we called the Big Practical Exercise ("P.E."), a/k/a the Vietnam "conflict." Just as until recently there was no Civil War in Iraq, in those days there was officially no war of any kind in Vietnam. War not having been declared, it was called a "conflict."

Mandarin footnote: In Analects 13:3, Confucius made an observation that rings as true in Shrub's second term as it did when first written down (in these very words) twenty-five centuries ago. The key term zhèng míng 正名 is usually translated "rectification of names" or "rectification of terms." In practice it means what we call things should accurately describe their reality:


Zilu said: "If the ruler of Wei put the administration of his state in your hands, what would you do first?" Confucius said: "If something had to be first, I would say rectification of terms." Zilu said: "That's it? What a strange approach to things! Why start with rectification of terms?" Confucius said: "Yu, how unsophisticated you are. A gentleman should be careful when talking about things of which he is ignorant. When terms for things are not correct, then what is said will not make sense; when what is said does not make sense, then our undertakings must end in failure."

What is said will not make sense....

among thousands of examples, a few come quickly to mind: "No Child Left Behind," "Clear Skies," "Mission Accomplished," "last throes," "Freedom is untidy," etc.

...then our undertakings must end in failure.

Anyway, returning to the Mandarin's flirtation with the stockade, flash back to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, late 1970 or early 1971.

Way too clever for his own good -- what else is new? -- young Second Lieutenant Mandarin, Field Artillery, US Army Reserve, decides to put a small flag decal on the back panel his unobtrusive, brand new, bright screaming yellow Triumph TR-6 roadster.
Upside down.

The next morning, Big Ugly Sergeant pokes his head into 2LT Mandarin's cubicle in the faculty area of the Field Artillery School Tactics Department, where the Mandarin was an instructor in "Stability Operations," a euphemism (rectification of terms, anyone?) for what our forces are trying to conduct in Iraq these days.

B.U.S.: "Lt. Mandarin, is that your little yellow foreign sports job in the Officer's parking lot?"

2LTM:" Yes, Sergeant."

BUS: "Then kindly report to the Colonel's office toot sweet."

A few minutes later, 2LTM is standing at attention in front of the Colonel commanding the Tactics Department. It should be noted that the Colonel was already not enamored of the Mandarin because of the Mandarin's habit of routinely skipping the Colonel's weekly mandatory officer-only Bible study and prayer breakfasts. (The Mandarin assumed heathen non-coms and enlisted ranks were on their own, prayer breakfast-wise.)

Col: "Lieutenant Mandarin, are you aware there is an upside-down flag decal on the back of your car?"

2LTM: "Yes, a picture of an upside-down flag, sir."

Col: "Why is it upside-down?"

2LTM: "As a distress signal, sir."

Col: "Are you in distress, Lieutenant Mandarin?"

2LTM: "No, sir."

Col: "Is this some kind of political protest, Lieutenant Mandarin?"

2LTM: "No, sir. It is an exercise of free speech, sir."

Col: (sneering) "Well, you young smart-ass, whatever you think it is, I think it is violation of the regulation governing display of the flag, and you will remove it or I will bring you up on charges."

2LTM: "Excuse me, sir, but the regulation on 'Flags and Pennants' does not apply here, sir. It states that flags must be made 'of silk or an acceptable substitute cloth material.' Therefore, my decal isn't a flag, sir, it is only a picture of a flag."

The conversation continued with bursts of surprisingly un-Christian expletives (the Colonel) punctuated by increasingly uncomfortable silences (2LTM), culminating in the Mandarin being offered two choices: 1) remove the decal in the next fifteen minutes, or 2) be demoted to private and shipped off to Vietnam as an infantry rifleman on the next plane out.

A few minutes later, as the Mandarin sat on the asphalt peeling the flag decal off the back of his car, while the Big Ugly Sergeant supervised, he planned phase two of his Waldenesque (Quixotic?) campaign of civil disobedience.

Later that afternoon, the Mandarin changed his glasses frames from G.I. plastic to a pair of thin wire-rims that resembled as closely as possible those in the standard news photos of Trotsky.

The odds of the Mandarin being shipped off to the land of the Big P.E. for striking this new, much subtler blow for freedom, were minimized by the likelihood that neither the Big Ugly Sergeant nor the Bible-thumping Colonel were likely to know Leon Trotsky's wire-rimmed glasses from Nikolai Lenin's.

Or John Lennon's for that matter.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Oh, come on, nobody said anything about acutal "studying!"

Shrub thought a "study group" was a bunch of guys from the same class getting together to watch football and drink beer, like when he was in the Harvard MBA program.

Original photo caption: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks to the press after receiving the official report of the Iraq Study Group from Co-Chairman and former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton, and Co-Chairman and former Secretary of State James Baker in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington December 6, 2006. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The not-so-forbidden city

Back in the 1980s, when the Mandarin was traveling regularly to China on business, one of his favorite pastimes when stuck in Beijing for days on end waiting for some meeting or another, was to wander the run-down glory of the Forbidden City. In those days, most of the compound, except the central tourist route through the main palaces, was off limits to tourists because many of the shabby, dilapidated Ming-era buildings (dating from between 1406 and 1420) were being used for warehouses, workshops and tenement dormitories, as they had been since Mao seized power in 1949.

Sometimes, using a hundred-year-old plan of the palaces, the Mandarin would wander blithely through unmarked side passages into the unrestored areas of the 180-acre Forbidden City, past signs in Chinese reading, "Stop! No entry to unauthorized personnel!" to see what he could find. What little he was able to see behind those walls was dishearteningly squalid, and sooner or later an angry policeman or guard or plainclothes thug of some kind would block the way, yelling at the Mandarin, in proper Beijing dialect, not the bland official putonghua (a/k/a Mandarin) that even though he was just an ignorant foreign devil, there was no excuse for snooping around in unauthorized areas where he didn't belong and causing trouble for everybody by straying from the approved tourist route. On these delightful occasions, by pretending he spoke no Chinese, the Mandarin was able to add a few new swear words to his vocabulary....

Anyway, all this nostalgia came flooding back when the Mandarin recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Starbucks having actually opened a store inside the Forbidden City itself. The faint humming the Mandarin heard in his ears at that moment was the waxed corpse of Chairman Mao, spinning in his glass display case a mile or so south of the new coffee shop, in his mausoleum in the middle of Tiananmen Square.

Yes, boys and girls, Starbucks Coffee is selling lattes in a side wing of one of the 600-year-old palaces of the Forbidden City. In Chinese, the sign says 星巴克咖啡 xing ba-ke ka-fei. Xing means "star," ba-ke (ke rhymes with "duh!") is a phonetic attempt at "buck," and by now everyone on the planet knows what ka fei is...

Of course, the article points out that most Chinese customers order tea and think coffee tastes nasty. But it is only a matter of time. Just look at McDonald's rapid success in China.

In fact, if old Charmian Mao, under a thirty-year coat of Pledge,
ever gets tired of spinning in his crystal coffin, he can bop over to the Micky D's that opened several years ago on the edge of Tiananmen square and recharge his batteries with a Quarter Pounder. Unless, as Vincent Vega would say, they use the metric system over there....

Back in 1927, Mao wrote in one of the most pithy passages in his little red book:


A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.

Well, maybe not a dinner party, but these days who can resist a Big Mac
® and a Green Tea Frappuccino®?

Sorry, Chairman Mao, the revolution is over.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Shrub sounding manly

No, faithful reader(s), this time Shrub is not holding his breath (as here and here) to make his critics stop demanding an Iraq pull-out. He is kvelling at the thought of his future legacy as the man who let loose the dogs or war,... oops, the Mandarin meant to say, the man who put freedom on the march in the Middle East.

Today's headline article:

Bush says U.S. won't withdraw from Iraq

RIGA, Latvia -

President Bush, under pressure to change direction in Iraq, said Tuesday he will not be persuaded by any calls to withdraw American troops before the country is stabilized. "There's one thing I'm not going to do, I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete," he said in a speech setting the stage for high-stakes meetings with the Iraqi prime minister later this week. "We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren."

Well, two things popped into the Mandarin's little head right away.

First, did Shrub just say that it will be our children and grandchildren who will finally secure victory in Iraq?

And secondly, it is now crystal clear that Shrub is not an aficionado of George Carlin, one of whose most famous lines (referring to Vietnam) was:

We’re always afraid of pulling out. “Pull out? Doesn’t sound manly to me, Bill. Let’s leave it in there, get the job done!" Because that’s what we’re doing to that country, after all…

And Shrub is never one to avoid an opportunity to look like a manly man, even without a "Mission Accomplished" banner and a strategically padded flight suit.

Original photo caption: U.S. President George W. Bush wells up as he finishes a speech at the University of Latvia in Riga, Latvia November 28, 2006. Bush, in Latvia for the NATO summit, appealed to NATO allies to provide more troops with fewer national restrictions for the alliance's most dangerous mission in Afghanistan. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Friday, November 24, 2006

The end of the "Pottery Barn rule?"

Back in the summer of 2002, when -- as we now know -- Shrub and his neocon militia were already deep into planning their invasion of Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell advised Shrub that he should be mindful of the so-called "Pottery Barn rule." As quoted from Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack:

"You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people," he told the president. "You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all." Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it."

Powell might well have been recalling the words of Shrub's father, President Bush, who wrote in 1998 about his decision to limit the Gulf War military mission to liberating Kuwait:

While we hoped that popular revolt or coup would topple Saddam, neither the U.S. nor the countries of the region wished to see the breakup of the Iraqi state. We were concerned about the long-term balance of power at the head of the Gulf. Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. ... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome. [Time Magazine, 2 Mar 98]

More than eight years later, this has the ring of prophesy, as we read endless headlines about tribal and sectarian strife costing the lives of over a hundred Iraqi civilians a day,
month after month, including a couple of hundred yesterday, our Thanksgiving Day here in America.

So Shrub's ignorance
has triumphed over his father's thoughtful "reality-based" foreign policy, and we have inherited a country full of broken pottery. What a Thanksgiving turkey he has turned out to be!

And the sad part for everyone, especially our troops in the field and the Iraqi populace trying to live another day without being
kidnapped and shot, is that Shrub hasn't the slightest idea how to fix what he has broken.

Original photo caption: Vehicles burn following a car bomb in the centre of Baghdad. Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Hey, Putin, does this dress make my ass look big?"

At this week's APEC meetings in Hanoi, lame duck Shrub and his boy toy Putin were inseparable, and made quite the cute couple in their matching dresses.

The traditional Vietnamese dress called the Áo Dài (pronounced "ow yai" in south and central Vietnam and "ow zai" in the north) is commonly worn by women. These days it is rarely worn by men, and then only on cultural or ceremonial occasions.

Original photo caption: Wearing traditional 'ao dai,' U.S. President George W. Bush walks with Russian President Vladimir Putin after a group photo with leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2006. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Friday, November 17, 2006

1LT Shrub (Texas Air National Guard - AWOL) finally makes it to Vietnam (updated)

This is an emotional topic for the Mandarin, and the crushing irony of Shrub's semi-triumphant trip to Hanoi is almost unbearable.

The short version of the story, for my younger readers, is that Shrub avoided fighting in Vietnam because his daddy’s friends jumped him ahead of an eighteen-month waiting list and got him into the Texas Air National Guard (TxANG) despite his being unqualified for appointment.

His six-year military obligation began on 27 May 1968. A few months later, he was commissioned an officer without having taken any of the three required routes to an officer’s rank: ROTC (the Mandarin’s route), Officer Candidate School (OCS), or a direct commission after at least eighteen months active duty service as an enlisted man. The program under which his commission was fast-tracked was usually reserved for medical doctors or other critical specialists.

In return for an immediate assignment to pilot training, he agreed to serve as an active pilot in the TxANG for five years following graduation. He graduated on 29 Nov 1969, making his obligation to be on continuous flying duty until the end of November 1974.

Shrub was assigned as an F-102 pilot to the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS) in Houston, once again being jumped to the head of the line - this time a number of more experienced pilots, some of whom had been waiting more than a year for a slot in this highly desirable unit. As a pilot on active flying status, Shrub was obligated to complete at least 36 flying days a year, including one weekend a month (hence we active duty officers called them “weekend warriors”) and one two-week summer training camp. He served honorably until April 1972. That was the month the Air Force began requiring drug testing as part of the annual pilot’s physical exam.

Shrub disobeyed a written order to complete such a physical in May 1972. His last flight as a TxANG pilot was on 17 Apr 1972, more than 31 months short of his five-year flying obligation. By then, he was not even flying the F-102. A few months before that date, he had been ordered to take remedial training flights in a two-seat trainer (the T-33). At the time, this was an unequivocal sign of performance problems in the cockpit. His military pilot status was formally revoked on 1 Aug 1972 for having failed to appear for his annual flight physical and mandatory drug test.

Around that time, without permission, he moved from Houston to Alabama for a few months to work on a political campaign. He was AWOL for the months of May through September 1972, failing to appear for his required one weekend a month of training. He trained intermittently in Alabama beginning in October. He was also paid for a few days of training in Houston, but no one at the 111th FIS remembered ever seeing him there on the dates in question. He did not accumulate the required days for the fiscal year ending 30 Jun 1973. He also disobeyed written orders to attend the mandatory two-week summer training camp in 1973.

The 1973 personnel evaluation by his home unit, the 111th FIS, was submitted blank, the author citing Shrub’s failure to appear at the unit at any time during the year ending 30 Jun 1973.

In September 1973, Shrub requested a transfer to a reserve Unit in Boston so he could begin the Harvard MBA program. That request was not approved, but he moved to Boston anyway and did not attempt to join any reserve unit there.

The following month, he received a disciplinary discharge from the TxANG and was transferred to the books of the Air Force reserve, where he was liable for immediate call-up. By then, the war was over, the last US combat forces having been withdrawn five months earlier. He remained in that status for over a year and was discharged from the military service on 21 Nov 1974. He had not attended any required training in the previous seventeen months, or flown an airplane since April 1972.

This is a photo of Shrub's F102, cockpit empty and waiting for his return. Mission accomplished?

Shrub's original military files, as released by the White House, can be seen here.

A detailed time-line follows, extracted from publicly-available excerpts from Shrub's actual military personnel record, with hot links to relevant documents.

Note: the six disputed “Killian” memos that Dan Rather presented on CBS News (and for which he lost his job) are included here in their correct chronological position, but are clearly marked “unauthenticated.” The material released by the White House itself is abundantly sufficient to establish dereliction of duty.

17 Jan 68

Takes the Air Force Pilot Qualification test. Scores 25%, the lowest acceptable score. (Some give date as 19 Jan)

30 Jan 1968

Tet Offensive begins in Vietnam.

27 May 68

Accepted into the Texas Air National Guard (TxANG), the same day he interviewed with General Staudt, the Commanding Officer of the TxANG, despite an 18-month waiting list at the height of the war in Vietnam. Ben Barnes -- then Speaker of the Texas House and a friend of the Bush family -- has said on the record he arranged this as a favor to Bush Senior. Private Bush acknowledged a six-year obligation.

28 May 68

Signs agreement that if he is sent to flight school, he will serve the TxANG as a pilot for five years after graduation. Graduated 29 Nov 69, so his obligation to serve on Flying Status would run until Nov 1974.

08 Jun 68

Graduates from Yale

14 Jul 68

Initial Active Duty (Basic Training), until 25 Aug 68 at Lackland AFB, TX

03 Sep 68

Discharged from Enlisted Status

04 Sep 68

Commissioned 2LT without ROTC, OCS or required period of prior active duty (usually 18 months) through a direct commissioning program usually reserved for doctors and other specialists in high demand by the service.

04 Sep 68

Assigned to the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Ellington AFB, Texas -- despite a waiting list of already-qualified pilots. Other members of the unit, pilots and non-pilots, included the sons of Senator Tower, Senator Bentsen, and Governor Connally, plus seven Dallas Cowboys players.

05 Sep 68

Begins an authorized two-month leave of absence to work on the Florida Senate race of Ed Gurney.

21 Nov 68

Begins one year of pilot training at Moody AFB, GA

29 Nov 69

Finished Basic Pilot Training

29 Dec 69

Begins Combat Air training (F-102)

20 Jun 70

Completes F-102 training with 300 flying hours, returns to 111th FIS as Ready Reserve pilot. To be eligible for assignment to an F-102 unit in Vietnam, 500 flying hours was the minimum. Nevertheless, Bush volunteered for a three-month temporary rotation to Vietnam, but was turned down for that reason.

30 Jun 70

USAF decides all overseas F-102 units will be deactivated and their missions shifted to units flying newer aircraft.

Sep 70

Authorized leave of absence through November to work on Bush Senior's campaign.

03 Nov 70

Promoted to First Lieutenant.

01 Jun 71

Credited with 46 days of flight duty in previous year (minimum requirement was 36 days).

2 Feb 72

Unauthenticated Killian memo to Harris enquiring about Bush’s pilot certification. (1st memo)

Mar 72

De-rated from flying the F-102 and required to undergo remedial training in a two-seat training aircraft (the T-33), usually a sign of pilot performance problems.


Early this year, some sources claim Bush was arrested for possession and use of cocaine, did community service working at an inner-city youth outreach program and had his criminal record expunged. Other sources claim none of that ever happened. The drug issue is mentioned here because Bush’s detractors link it to his decision to disobey orders and not take any required annual flight physicals beginning in April 1972.

Apr 72

US Air Force announces mandatory drug tests as part of all annual flight physicals

17 Apr 72

His last flight in an F-102. He still had a Military Service Obligation to serve as a pilot on Flying Status for another 955 days (until 28 Nov 1974), but he never again flew any TxANG or other military aircraft until his famous "Mission Accomplished" stunt over thirty years later.

4 May 72

Unauthenticated Killian memo formally ordering Bush in writing to report for flight physical no later than 14 May 72.

May 72

Bush expresses the intention to relocate to Alabama during May to work for Blount campaign until November.

15 May 72

Bush’s last day on the base at Ellington. Beginning now, there is no evidence of attendance at any required drills or training activities for five months, technically going Absent Without Leave ("AWOL"). The usual punishment for such action, and it was enforced many times, was to be placed on a list to be called to active duty immediately, for up to two years. Bush’s time spent in pilot training in 1968-70 might have been credited against the two years, leaving him liable at the very least for say six more months of active duty, and in the worst case for the full two years.

Note: AWOL simply means any unauthorized absence. Desertion is defined as: "leaving or remaining absent from [one's] unit, organization, or place of duty, where there has been a determined intent to not return; if that intent is determined to be to avoid hazardous duty or shirk important responsibility." You decide whether Shrub was AWOL or a deserter.

19 May 72

Unauthenticated Killian memo regarding his conversation with Bush, who wanted to get out of training in Texas and do it in Alabama. Killian also counseled him on having missing his physical, Bush said he may be to busy in Alabama to take care of the flight physical while he is there.

20 May 72

Per his pay records, Bush does not attend, and did not later make up, two days of mandatory training the weekend of 20-21 May.

24 May 72

Bush applies for permanent transfer out of the TxANG to the US Air Force 9921st Air Reserve Sq, Montgomery, AL. Note he entered an incorrect AFSC (occupational specialty code) of 1125B rather than 1125D. This would have incorrectly listed him on the records of the USAF Reserve as a pilot trained to fly only two types of already obsolete aircraft, the F-89 and F-94, both no longer in service. He also listed his Training Category as “G” (no drills required) instead of the correct category “A”. Bush was not legally eligible for this transfer because of his unfinished obligation as a pilot. He was still in Training Category “A”, requiring 48 half-day drill periods plus 15 active duty training days a year. Also, merely having filed an application to leave the TxANG did not relieve him of his obligation to continue drills in Houston, two days of which he had already missed the weekend before he filed the request.

26 May 72

Commanding officer of 9921st accepts Bush, but cautions him the 9921st is not a "ready reserve" unit and training there may not satisfy his MSO (military service obligation). This unit was a training category “G” unit – also called a “postal unit” because its members had completed their Military Service Obligation and were no longer required to attend any drills.

01 Jun 72

Credited with 22 days of flight duty in previous year, which was 12 days short of his minimum requirement of 36.

Jun 72

Per his pay records, Bush was not credited with or paid for any training in or attributable to Jun 72, rendering him technically AWOL or a deserter, depending on his intent (see above).

Jul 72

Per his pay records, Bush was not credited with or paid for any training in or attributable to Jul 72, rendering him technically AWOL or a deserter, depending on his intent (see above).

31 Jul 72

HQ Air Reserve Center, Denver, disallows his request for transfer to 9921st, citing Bush's Ready Reserve obligation and the inappropriate status (training category "G" or “postal”) of the destination unit.

Aug 72

Per his pay records, Bush was not credited with or paid for any training in or attributable to Aug 72, rendering him technically AWOL or a deserter, depending on his intent (see above).

01 Aug 72

Unauthenticated Killian memo reports revoking flight status for failing to meet TxANG/USAF standards including failure to take physical. Comments Bush has made no effort to meet his certification requirements. Also reports he has directed a Flight Review Board be convened, a very serious matter for a military pilot. Bush's flying status was formally revoked in these written orders on the same date.

3 Aug 72

Memo from Major Shoemake, TxANG Personnel officer, to Bush’s unit - rebuking them for having submitted an unacceptable transfer application for Bush.

Sep 72

Per his pay records, Bush was not credited with or paid for any training in or attributable to Sep 72, rendering him technically AWOL or a deserter, depending on his intent (see above).

05 Sep 72

Bush requests permission to perform “equivalent duty” (meaning substitute drills in Alabama for required drills in Texas with the 111th) for Sep-Nov 72 with the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group at Dannelly ANG Base, AL. This was not a transfer – he remained on the books of the 111th in Houston.

15 Sep 72

Request to perform equivalent duty with 187th for Sep-Nov approved, but the September drill date had already passed when the request was granted.

07 Oct 72

Bush invited to report to 187th for equivalent duty Sat/Sun 7/8 Oct 72. Both the Commanding Officer and the Personnel Officer of this unit said in later interviews that he did not appear at any time in 1972 to train with them.

28/29 Oct 72

Per his pay records, paid for two days training in Alabama to make up Oct training missed in Texas.

04 Nov 72

Bush was invited to report to 187th for equivalent duty Sat/Sun 4/5 Nov 72. The Commanding Officer and the Personnel Officer of this unit said in later interviews that he did not appear to train with them.

11/12 Nov 72

Per his pay records, paid for two days training in Alabama to make up Nov 72 training due in Texas.

13/14 Nov 72

Per his pay records, paid for two days training in Alabamato make up Dec 72 training due in Texas.

Nov/Dec 72

Returned to Houston after Blount lost the election. Did not report back to the 111th. Did not resume training with his home unit.

4/5 Jan 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training in Alabama to make up Jan 73 training due in Texas.

6/8 Jan 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training in Alabama to make up Feb 73 training due in Texas, 35 days early and therefore contrary to regulations limiting substitute training to no more than 30 days ahead of time, rendering him technically AWOL or a deserter, depending on his intent (see above), for February 1973.

9/10 Jan 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training in Alabama to make up Mar 73 training due in Texas, 60 days early and therefore contrary to regulations limiting substitute training to no more than 30 days ahead of time, rendering him technically AWOL or a deserter, depending on his intent (see above), for March 1973.

27 Jan 73

Paris peace talks result in a cease-fire agreement in Vietnam.

Mar 73

Last U.S. combat forces depart Vietnam, leaving behind only a small group of advisors and enough Marines to guard the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.

7/8 Apr 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training with 111th in Texas, but that unit's Commanding Officer later wrote that Bush was not present. Had he actually been there, it would have been Bush’s first actual day training with his unit in Houston since 17 April 1972, almost a full year during which he did not appear for duty at his home unit.

1 May 73

Ordered to attend summer “active duty for training” at Ellington during the period 22 May - 7 Jun 73. He disobeyed this order and did not attend.

02 May 73

Bush's TxANG Commanding Officer writes in his fitness report of Bush, that Bush had not been observed at the unit at any time during the twelve months ending 30 Apr 73. Page one. Page two.

19/20 May 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training with 111th in Texas.

22 May 73

During this period, until 30 Jul 73, Bush was credited with 35 reserve points on a form that does not explain what they were for. Early version, unaltered or incomplete. Later version, altered or more fully filled in.

23/24 Jun 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training with 111th in Texas.

23 Jun 73

Air Reserve Personnel Center returns the 2 May 73 fitness report to his unit, querying the lack of any ratings, and says Bush should have been reassigned to another AFSC (occupational specialty code) in May 1972 since he was no longer flying or serving with the 111th FIS, so carrying him on the book as a pilot was unauthorized.

24 Jun 73

Unauthenticated Killian memo to a superior officer saying that Harris and he cannot rate Bush for full year ending 30 Apr 73 because he had not trained with the 111th after April 1972. Killian further comments that, “His recent activity is outside the rating period,” supporting evidence that Bush had finally returned to the unit after 30 Apr 73 to begin makeup drills. (5th memo)

16/17 Jul 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training with 111th in place of training due in Aug 73, 33 days early and therefore contrary to regulations limiting substitute training to be done no more than 30 days ahead of time.

18/19 Jul 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training with 111th in place of training due in Sep 73, 66 days early and therefore contrary to regulations limiting substitute training to be done no more than 30 days ahead of time.

21/22 Jul 73

Per his pay records, paid for two days training with 111th.

18 Aug 73

Unauthenticated “CYA” memo by Killian saying the brass want him to write a fake annual evaluation for Bush, but that he would refuse because Bush had not been with the unit that year and he had no info from the Alabama Air National Guard to support a review. Says he would backdate the review but not assign Bush a fitness rating.

5 Sep 73

Requests discharge from TxANG and transfer to Air Reserve Personnel Center (NARS) as of 1 Oct 73 to attend Harvard. NARS stands for Non-Affiliated Reserve Section -- meaning the inactive reserve with no further obligation to attend drills or training. As a condition of his early discharge from the TxANG, Bush agreed to affiliate with another Guard or Reserve unit in Boston, but later failed to do so.

Sep 73

Begins Harvard Business School

16 Oct 73

Reassigned to Air Reserve Personnel Center (ORS). The ORS is the Obligated Reserve Section – not his requested assignment of Air Reserve Personnel Center (NARS). Some personnel experts interpret this as a disciplinary action for failing to take 1972 flight physicals and missing 1973 summer camp and numerous drills. Assignment to ORS meant he was severed from the Guard and Active Reserve, placed on inactive status, and available for call to active duty. Bush’s signed acknowledgment of disciplinary reason for transfers from TxANG to Air Reserve Personnel Center (ORS). His orders. Texas ANG discharge. This was his final assignment. He remained in this status for another year without being called to active duty.

12 Nov 73

Fitness report addendum for year ending 30 Apr 73 (responding to 5 Sep 73 request for more info) says “Not Rated” for administrative reasons.

24 May 74

Original end date of Bush's six-year obligation, later extended because of his flight training agreement.

21 Nov 74

Discharged from inactive reserve, five years after completing flight school.

30 Apr 75

Saigon falls to the North Vietnamese army one day after the dramatic evacuation of the U.S. Embassy by helicopter from the rooftop.

17 Nov 06

Mandarin's head explodes to see Shrub in Hanoi, smiling under a bust of Ho Chi Minh, telling his hosts that the minor ideological differences of the 1960s and 70s should be bygones and we're all just one big happy family now.

Original picture caption (top photo): A bust of revolutionary communist leader Ho Chi Minh is seen at rear as U.S. President George W. Bush smiles before the start of his meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, not pictured, at the presidential palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, Friday, Nov. 17, 2006. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dietrich lives!

The Mandarin lives in Southern California, and earlier this year our local papers (and perhaps yours, too) were full of the story about a Swedish millionaire who totalled his $1,000,000 Ferrari Enzo going 162 mph while racing one night on the Pacific Coast Highway ("PCH") in Malibu. Police found the Swedish millionaire sitting in the passenger seat of what was left of his car. Even though he had a bloody nose and was in the passenger seat, only the driver's airbag had blood on it. Even so, the Swedish millionaire said he had not been driving, it was his friend "Dietrich" who had crashed the car, and then ran off into the hills above PCH.

Well, Dietrich was never found, and it turned out that the Swedish millionaire was really an ex-millionaire who had been some kind of con man, and even the Enzo was due for repossession because he had fallen behind on the payments on it and another exotic car. Now, he is going to jail for embezzlement.

But, imagine the Mandarin's surprise to read today of recent events in Australia that have "Dietrich" written all over them:

Police in Sydney said 240 people were under investigation over [a] speeding scam, where hundreds of motorists blamed either the same dead man, or a person living in another state, for driving their cars at the time of the speeding offences.

Come to think of it, when the Mandarin got that ticket a few years ago, wasn't that the day some Australian bloke named Dietrich borrowed the Mandarin's trusty Saab?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Shrub plays defense

In this shot, besides the, shall we say, cautious look on his face, Shrub seems to be protecting the family jewels -- note the left hand position.

But can you blame him? After the symbolic kick in the balls he got in Tuesday's elections, I suppose he can't be too careful when the new Majority Leader is sitting right there in person....

Original photo caption: President Bush, right, shakes hands with Democratic House Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Calif., during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Intelligent design

The Mandarin is now a believer in intelligent design: the voters have sent Katherine Harris into a well-deserved retirement.

The Mandarin's prediction for the House was thankfully too conservative, although one small disappointment in the overall delightful picture was Tammy Duckworth finishing two percentage points short of upsetting Peter Roskam in the Illinois 6th.

In the Senate, if the razor-thin Democratic leads in Virgina and Montana hold up through the recounts and lawsuits, the Mandarin's guess will have been spot on (allowing for mistaking Socialist Independent Bernie Casey in Vermont as a Democrat - sorry, Bernie).

Anyway, the voters have comprehensively repudiated Shrub, Big Dick, Karl "Shrub's Brain" Rove, Rummy [update: Rummy takes one for the team], Condi and the whole incompetent crowd of neocons and their camp followers. Golly, how will the Wall Street Journal editorial page spin this one?

It was worth the long wait, boys and girls. A boatload of bums have been thrown out. Now let's hope the Democrats can deliver on their promise to be different.

On to 2008!

Original photo caption: Sarasota, Florida, January 16, 2004. Harris lost her long-shot quest for the Senate on Tuesday after a gaffe-prone campaign that saw the former Florida election official shunned by her own party chieftains. (Peter Muhly/Reuters)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Did Karl Rove decide the timing of Saddam's verdict?

Josh Marshall is shocked. So is the Mandarin.

Well, if it turns out Karl and Shrub don't have Osama in the White House kitchen's walk-in freezer, then it would make sense.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A sweep?

The Mandarin, fresh from his insightful prediction for the 2004 Presidential election, fearlessly predicts the following:

50 Democrats
49 Republicans
1 Independent caucusing with the Democrats (Lieberman)

223 Democrats
212 Republicans

Of course, the Mandarin reserves the right to come back and change his mind at any time.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Keith Olbermann said it better

The Mandarin bows before him - he has succinctly summarized the issues better than anything the Mandarin has heard in a long time. Watch it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

How not to tell a joke (updated)

Today, the Mandarin is recalling President Ford’s famous gaffe:

On October 6, 1976, during a televised presidential debate in the 1976 presidential election with rival Jimmy Carter, President Ford became confused stated that Poland and Eastern Europe were not under the domination of the Soviet Union. When challenged over his comments, he repeated "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration." [Wikipedia]

That led to a lot of Republican back-filling and damage control, always beginning, “What President Ford meant to say was…..”

Enter John Kerry, definitely no David Letterman when it comes to delivering jokes.

Kerry’s script:

Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.

What Kerry said:

You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.

What Senator Kerry meant to say was [déjà vu attack] that Shrub, the poster boy for people who are intellectually lazy, allowed his ignorance and intellectual laziness to get us stuck in Iraq.

Now, unfortunately, between Kerry's lame delivery and the short attention span of the american TV audience, the combat veteran with three purple hearts is once again facing character attacks from a bunch of draft-dodging chicken hawks like Lieutenant “AWOL” Shrub and Dick “multiple student deferments” Cheney.

Anyway, the lesson for Senator Kerry is, apologize whether you meant it or not, and read the Mandarin’s lips: no more ad libs. Leave the jokes to Al Gore.


Kerry's full statement of apology:

As a combat veteran, I want to make it clear to anyone in uniform and to their loved ones: my poorly stated joke at a rally was not about, and never intended to refer to any troop.

I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.

It is clear the Republican Party would rather talk about anything but their failed security policy. I don’t want my verbal slip to be a diversion from the real issues. I will continue to fight for a change of course to provide real security for our country, and a winning strategy for our troops.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The Mandarin is back from his travels, but nothing in the news seems funny enough to make fun of these days. Maybe as we get closer to election day, things will pick up. Maybe it was the tedium of marking his mail-in ballot, looking up the records of all those judicial candidates and deciding how to vote on the various ballot propositions. Tough assignment on decaf....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sex, Denial, and Rain, in no particular order

The Mandarin is in Bellevue, Washington for a few days, attending the annual meetings of the American Literary Translators Association (or ALTA). Think rain. For an airplane book for the flight from beautiful downtown Burbank, the Mandarin splurged on a copy of Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III. The Mandarin was hard-pressed not to think of Hot Shots, Part Deux, but managed to keep from giggling as he paid the $30.00.

Well, reaching page 180 out of 560, the Mandarin has got to say, some of us knew all along these guys were incompetent idiots, but reading it chapter and verse is kind of a vindication. If it is Mark Foley's flirtatations that are the last straw for the Republicans next month, well, whatever it takes. But compared to a pitiful middle-aged pedophile IM-ing teenaged boys about their "wood," the stuff in this book is effing dynamite.

By the way, the opening night of the ALTA conference was led off by a group in Swedish costumes singing Swedish songs in Swedish. No subtitles. The roof was leaking above my table, and the little drops hitting the tablecloth every minute or so became a kind of a bilingual version of the Chinese water torture. (Or agressive but fully legal Chinese water interrogation method, as Shrub now calls it.) But despite the Mandarin not understanding much Swedish (the Mandarin has owned eight Saabs, though), it was great fun and a good way to get into the spirit of the conference.

Tomorrow, things should liven up a bit. The Mandarin is giving a bilingual reading in Tibetan and English of some poems by the Sixth Dalai Lama of Tibet (died 1706), an extract from a much larger set of poems coming out in book form next year, if the Mandarin can get time to review the page proofs. And later that day, unless James Dobson or Jerry Falwell shut us down, the Mandarin's explicit presentation on sexual themes in Classical Chinese poetry should bring a blush to the tender cheeks of the masses.

Film at eleven.

And, way to go, Jeffrey Sebelia, winner of Project Runway and actually a really nice guy when you meet him in person.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Playing catch-up

After two weeks in Italy, the Mandarin returns to find a number of notable events took place in his absence.

Little Kim Calls Shrub's Bluff

Talking about playing catch-up, check out the photo of Shrub signing something called the North Korea Nonproliferation Act. The Mandarin assumed this photo was taken shortly after Shrub's "Axis of Evil" speech in January 2002. But, on reading the caption more carefully, the Mandarin realized the photo was taken yesterday!

[sound of Mandarin's head exploding]

So let's get this straight. Shrub nominates North Korea for Axis of Evil in 2002. North Korea threatens 4 1/2 years later, like last week, to detonate a nuclear test. Shrub declares that a noo-kyoo-lur North Korea is "unacceptable." North Korea detonates a small nuclear device (or did they?). So what does Shrub do? He gets Senator Frist to rush through a bill making the test retroactively (radioactively?) illegal. Phew. Boy does the Mandarin feel safer now. Nagging question: does Shrub know what the word "unacceptable" means? He's certainly been throwing it around a lot lately....

Did They or Didn't They?

North Korea's explosion was estimated by seismic experts to have been about 0.5 kilotons. That means you could get the same bang by exploding 500 tons of TNT. Sounds big, but keep in mind that back in 1970-71 when the Mandarin was a young artillery officer, the US Army had in its arsenal artillery shells designated "W-33" that were 8" in diameter (about the diameter of a salad plate), 37" long and weighed about 240 pounds. They came in various yields between 5 and 40 kilotons. [While classified "secret" when the Mandarin learned it, this info is readily available on the Internet now.] Compare the Hiroshima bomb, which yielded about 15 kilotons and weighed 9,000 pounds. Even the lightest yielding W-33 made a bang ten times larger than Little Kim's recent test. So, folks, as nukes go, this one was t-i-n-y.

If it was a nuke. The Mandarin's personal theory is that the North Koreans decided to call Shrub's bluff by putting a few boxcars of TNT in a tunnel along with a few ounces of radioactive material to fool our sniffer planes flying downwind of the test, lit the fuse, and ran like hell.

The Mandarin Successfully Guards First-Class Lavatories Against Terrorists

Thanks to cashing in a boatload (boatload = 100,000 miles per seat) of frequent-flyer miles, the Mandarin was able to travel to and from Europe in First Class on a Lufthansa A340-300. From his aisle seat in Row 1, the Mandarin was able to keep an eagle eye on the two lavatories for roughly twelve hours each way, ensuring than none of the seven other passengers in first class were able to sneak into the lavatory and make a bomb. The flight attendants were thoughtful enough to leave little tubes of shaving gel and moisturizing lotion in the lavatories for us to use during the flight, and the Mandarin was tempted to mix them together in the sink to see what happened, but then he remembered he was flying on a German airline.... So, instead, he followed the orders printed on the lavatory wall, wiping off the wet sink with his used paper towel as a gesture to his fellow passengers.

The Party of Family Values Finds Another Foot to Shoot Itself In

The Mandarin was pleased to learn the Republican House Leadership has a no-tolerance attitude toward perverted House Members who persistently try over a number of years to have sexual relationships with underage congressional pages. No tolerance for anyone finding out about it, that is. While the Log Cabin Republicans may feel like an endangered species as the Christian wingnut right gears up to purge gays from the party (and any gay Republican has a lot to answer for in the Mandarin's book), this isn't about gay or straight. It is about adults in positions of power trying to seduce children that have been placed in their care in loco parentis. Besides being sick, it is a crime. And knowingly concealing that crime is itself a crime. So I expect to see a few more sanctimonious family values Republican talking heads roll in the next few weeks. Starting with that lovable bear of a guy, Denny Hastert.

Countdown to Heartbreak

The 2006 mid-term elections are shaping up to be a repeat of the 1994 Republican take-over of Congress. Shrub, his handlers, and their Corps of Congressional Clowns have now alienated almost every key element of the Republican coalition: small government conservatives, fiscally responsible moderates, isolationist America-Firsters, immigrant-hating border fence advocates, radical Christian fundamentalists,... You name it, and each of them has something to shake their fists at while they stay away from the polls. Unless Karl Rove has Osama bin Laden's body stashed in a freezer in the White House kitchen for the much-expected "October Surprise," we could be witnessing a wholesale repudiation of Shrub and his administration that will make history. Call it a "November surprise."

Original photo caption: President Bush signs into law S-3728, the North Korea Nonproliferation Act of 2006, as Senate Majority Leader Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) looks on, in the Oval Office, October 13, 2006. (Eric Draper/The White House/Handout/Reuters)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Gone, but not forgotten

The Mandarin is taking a little holiday and will return in mid-October.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Shrub seeks clarity on torture

The Mandarin is relieved to see actual Republicans developing backbones on this issue. For chickenhawks like Rumsfeld, draft-dodger Cheney, the raft of Neo-Cons who never wore a uniform, and of course AWOL Shrub to say that we need to "clarify" the Geneva Conventions to make sure that abuses like "waterboarding," for example, are not considered torture, well, Shrub, here are two simple tests.

One: when a former POW (Senator McCain) who has been totured himself says the Geneva Conventions should not be watered down, that should be a hint.

Two: if by some unimaginable twist of fate your daughters someday followed in their grandfather's footsteps and fought in a war, and were captured, anything you would be outraged to learn they had suffered at the hands of their captors, well,... get the picture.

When the Mandarin was a young officer back during the previous pointless overseas quagmire (think rice paddies), he and his fellow soldiers were trained in the Geneva Conventions. The Mandarin even was issued a little wallet card with the key provisions printed on it.

And we were taught that if we were captured, we should hold out if at all possible for twenty-four hours, and after that tell the enemy whatever they wanted to hear. The assumption was that after twenty-four hours, anything useful a captured soldier knew, the enemy knew, so plans and codes, etc., could be changed to take advantage of what the enemy thought they had learned of value, to turn it against them.

If Shrub and his chickenhawks start interpreting the Conventions to permit abusive interrogations in the name of protecting Americans, American soldiers will pay the price in blood, sooner or later. Perhaps on a waterboard....

We need to live up to our ideals as a country. As a wise old man (whose initials were B.F.) once said, "The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either." The same will be true of a country who trades the long-standing protections of the Geneva Conventions for a temporary political advantage.

Original photo caption: President Bush pauses during a Rose Garden news conference, Friday, Sept. 15, 2006 at the White House. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Movie Description of the Week

The Mandarin was flipping through the on-screen cable guide this evening and came across this little winner. Unfortunately, he was drinking from a glass of water at the time and the professional-quality spit take that followed (never laugh out loud and drink water at the same time) was fortunately not caught on film.

"When Night is Falling." A bisexual mythology professor has an affair with a circus performer she met at a laundromat.

Well the Mandarin thought it was funny. Maybe you just had to be there.

Monday, September 11, 2006

If Shrub wants a Constitutional amendment banning flag-burning, this little trick ought to get him a serious spanking at the very least....

Talk about being made of teflon! The Mandarin wonders what the right-wing blogosphere would make of a picture of Hillary Clinton pulling this little trick.

Plus he did it on September 11th of all days, defiling a date that is sacred in the hearts of all Americans: the Mandarin's birthday.

And to my loyal readership, despite Shrub's callous insensitivity, thanks again for making it a memorable day in Mandarin-land.

Original photo caption: U.S. President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush stand on a carpet commemorating the date of the attacks of September 11, 2001 near a mural depicting those attacks outside the Ladder Company 10 firehouse opposite the site of the World Trade Center in New York, September 10, 2006. Bush lay a wreath at Ground Zero before visiting a chapel for a memorial service. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Condi 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."

The Mandarin is fairly sure Condi doesn't have a gun up her sleeve, like Travis Bickle did in Taxi Driver, but she sure does have that "I'm practicing my mean face in the mirror" look, doesn't she.

Note: Sharp-eyed readers will recall the Mandarin has used the Travis Bickle bit once before, but this one was just too good to resist.

Original photo caption: In this photo provided by CBS, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appears on CBS's 'Face the Nation' in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. (AP Photo/CBS Face the Nation, Karin Cooper)

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Mandarin Supports the President in the Fight Against Terrorists - President Clinton, that is....

Shrub is right - politicians who don't want the President to have the tools he needs to fight terrorism should be thrown out of office.

The Mandarin suggests we start with those Congressional Republicans who were "soft on terrorism" ten years ago.... click me.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto Demoted!

The Mandarin was saddened to learn that Pluto has been demoted:

Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is — and isn't — a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

However, all is not lost for Mickey's pal:

[Pluto] will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets."

We may have lost a planet, reducing the total in our solar system from nine to to the classical eight, but -- looking at the bright side -- Snow White has gained a dwarf.

How timely! As the Mandarin read recently, "three quarters of Americans can correctly identify two of Snow White's seven dwarfs while only a quarter can name two Supreme Court Justices."

So, the Mandarin proposes -- to avoid cultural confusion -- we keep the number of Snow White's dwarfs constant at seven, and improve the name recognition of Supreme Court Justices by 50% with one simple step: Pluto will join the Seven Dwarfs, replacing Dopey, at which point Clarence Thomas will officially change his name to Dopey (which the other eight Justices already call him anyway).