Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bizarro President

Shrub's latest gaffe - defying his own party's leadership by defending the sale of some U.S. port operations to a company with Arab owners, gave the Mandarin a nostalgia attack. Especially when the Mandarin read that Shrub wasn't even told of the potentially controversial decision at the time it was made and only learned about it later, from press reports.

Back in the early 1980s, boys and girls, there was a Middle Eastern dictator with billions of dollars of oil money to spend who was an avowed enemy of the U.S., sponsored terrorism and was seeking weapons of mass destruction. The Mandarin isn't talking about Saddam Hussein - he was one of our best allies in the region back then. We were worried about that Michael Jackson of the Middle East - Muammar al Qadhafi.

On August 19, 1981, during military exercises in the Gulf of Sidra, two U.S. Navy F-14s entered an area considered by the U.S. to be international waters, but claimed by Libya as within their coastal territorial limit. Two Libyan Su-22 fighters scrambled to challenge the F-14s and were promptly shot down. Amid fears that the incident might escalate to open warfare between the U.S. and Libya, our forces went on high alert and a crisis team worked through the night in Washington. In the end, Libya backed down from its threats to retaliate for the provocation and relations returned to a lower, more usual level of tension.

The enduring, some way bizarre, image of the event for Americans (well maybe not so enduring after all if the Mandarin has to provide this turgid footnote) was the White House crisis team's decision not to wake President Reagan up to tell him what was happening. He learned about it bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next morning over his breakfast, just like the rest of us.

A few weeks later, "Saturday Night Live" ran one of its all-time funniest sketches, based on the Superman comic book character Bizarro Superman. On Bizarro World, everything is backwards. The sketch was set in the Trapezoidal Office of the Black House, residence of Bizarro President Reagan. An excerpt:

Black House Aide #2: Where am the Bizarro President?

Black House Aide #1: His job in Washington, so of course he in California.

Black House Aide #2: That don't make Bizarro sense.

Black House Aide #2: Hello. Ah-ha! Phone did not ring, so me answer it. [answers phone] Goodbye! Oh, no! Oh, no! There's a crisis! There's a crisis! Quick, Bizarro President! Go to sleep!

[Bizarro President drops his head onto his desk and falls asleep]

Black House Aide #1: Phew! That was quick Presidential action. What a leader!

Black House Aide #2: Him am incredible! Bizarro Americans all love him!

Black House Aide #1: Of course.

Bizarro President: [waking up] Me right-to-lifer, so me support the death penalty!

Black House Aide #1: It's that kind of statement that has made him the darling of the Bizarro empire.

As Bizarro George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot learn from Bizarro history are condemned to repeat it."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A neocon true believer recants

Francis Fukuyama, one of the intellectual godfathers of the Neo-Conservative movement, now wishes it would just go away (click me for full story):

Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism," he argues.

"Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally."

Mr Fukuyama, one of the US's most influential public intellectuals, concludes that "it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention [in Iraq] itself or the ideas animating it kindly".

Going further, he says the movements' advocates are Leninists who "believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practised by the United States".

Too bad Shrub doesn't read newspapers or he might start to worry.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The lighter side of Condoleeza

Multiple choice captions today.

The Mandarin likes:

"If Iran so much as tries to make a bomb, I'll grind them to dust, just like this."


"Zero. Exactly zero is how much chance Hillary would have against me in 2008."

Submit your favorites, boys and girls.

Original photo caption: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testifies about 'The International Affairs Budget Request for Fiscal 2007' at the U.S. House International Relations Committee hearings on Capitol Hill February 16, 2006. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Déjà vu all over again -- Shrub is behind his Vice President 1,000%

Darth Cheney is toast. Shrub's team (meaning Karl Rove) will ease Cheney out this year so they can appoint an heir-apparent as Vice President to run in 2008 so Shrub's vision (meaning Karl Rove's vision) for spreading messy Rumsfeldian democracy in the Middle East can continue. This is not good news for Bill Frist.

The Mandarin realized Cheney's days were numbered today as he read various headlines proclaiming Shrub's full support for his embattled Veep. Not to mention all the bright orange "Don't shoot!" ties sprouting around the White House

[Begin flashback to 1972, when the Mandarin was hardly taller than an eggroll standing on its end.]

Remember Thomas Eagleton? Senator Eagleton (D-Mo) was George McGovern's (first) Vice Presidential running mate. The free press, doing their job, uncovered information that Senator Eagleton had been treated briefly for depression years earlier and had undergone electro-shock therapy. McGovern announced that he was behind Eagleton "one thousand percent," and had no intention of dropping him from the ticket. Three days later, guess what. McGovern dropped him anyway and replaced him with some other guy, the Mandarin forgets who. Sargent Shriver or something like that.

Anyway, the Mandarin fully expects Big Dick to be back home in Wyoming hunting snipes, or whatever they hunt in Wyoming, by the time the first snow dusts the Wind River Range this fall.

P.S. The picture is Senator Eagleton. And for all you younger readers out there (you know who you are), the late great Hunter S. Thompson's book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail is the definitive study of the McGovern campaign self-destructing and a lot more about that bizarre year in American politics. Which of course the Mandarin is too young to remember. That's the Mandarin's story and he's sticking to it... one thousand percent.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Darth Cheney finally comes clean

The Vice President of the United States has finally come forward and publicly accepted full responsibility for his serious lapse of judgment the other day down in Texas:

February 13, 2006

Statement by the Office of the Vice President

It has been brought to the Vice President's attention by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department this afternoon that, although he had acquired a 125 dollar Texas non-resident season hunting license, he lacked a 7 dollar stamp for hunting upland game birds. To address any questions about the licensing:

-- A member of the Vice President's staff wrote a check for 140 dollars understanding that this would purchase a Texas non-resident season hunting license that would permit the Vice President to hunt quail in Texas. It appears now that the license itself cost 125 dollars, and an extra 15 dollars covered the cost of a Federal migratory bird stamp. The Vice President did not need the Federal stamp, as he already possessed one.

-- The staff asked for all permits needed, but was not informed of the 7 dollar upland game bird stamp requirement.

-- Because the requirement is new, the Department has informed us that it is issuing warnings, and the Vice President expects to receive one. He will take whatever steps are needed to comply with applicable rules.

-- In the meantime, the Vice President has sent a 7 dollar check to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which is the cost of an upland game bird stamp.

And, oh, by the way, um... sorry I, um... accidentally, uh, shot some old guy in the face with a shotgun.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I miss Dan Rather sometimes

I'm sure Dan Rather, a Texas boy like Bob Scheiffer, would already have video in the can (or whatever video is in after you shoot it) of someone firing a 28-gauge shotgun at a firing range target to see the big hole chopped out of it by the pellets.

Rather: "So, let me get this straight. At the same range that Vice President Vader, sorry, Vice President Cheney shot Mr. Whittington, this is what the same kind of shotgun shell did to the paper target?" [zoom in]

As the Mandarin recalls, at that range, even with bird shot, someone isn't "sprayed," they're, well,... shot. They don't put you in intensive care to pick a few little pellets out with tweezers.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cheney gets his man, sort of...

Maybe the Darth Vader helmet needs its range finder re-calibrated? The Mandarin reads this in the press:

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.

Harry Whittington, 78, was "alert and doing fine" after Cheney sprayed Whittington with shotgun pellets on Saturday at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong.

Armstrong said Cheney turned to shoot a bird and accidentally hit Whittington. She said Whittington was taken to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital by ambulance.

Cheney's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, said the vice president was with Whittington, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, and his wife at the hospital on Sunday afternoon.

The Mandarin wonders if Cheney (a/k/a Lord Dark Helmet) might be regretting those five consecutive Vietnam War draft deferments he used to stay out of the Army. The Mandarin recalls clearly from his own days learning how to shoot the M-16 in Basic Training that killing your man with the first shot is a key success factor in military marksmanship. But I guess a face full of bird shot is better than nothing. Or did someone simply give Cheney some faulty inteligence about the target's location?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Shrub thwarts attack on L.A.... phew!

The Mandarin got home in time to watch the news tonight. Here's what he learned: the tallest building west of the Mississippi (what is it with the Mississippi anyway?) is in Los Angeles. Formerly called the Library Tower (or "Liberty Tower" per Shrub, whose bifocals weren't calibrated for the teleprompter), it is now named for a Minneapolis-based bank to which the Mandarin prefers not to give any free advertising. Of course, some of the Mandarin's friends who worked for the old First Interstate Bank in those days prefer to call it "Joe Pinola's Erection." Anyway, the tower is a bit over 1,000 feet high, and the Mandarin's office is in a building -- never mind which one -- that is about 1,000 feet from the Library Tower. Do the math.

So, how glad was the Mandarin that Shrub was on the job and saved him from being almost smushed by falling books from the Library Tower? But, wait a minute, the Mandarin says to himself -- what if the information that helped Shrub foil their dastardly plot was obtained through illegal wiretaps in violation of the Constitution and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

Well, Bob Schieffer had the answer on CBS tonight. The information was not obtained from illegally wiretapping Americans. It was obtained by means of "aggressive interrogation" of "suspected al Qaeda terrorists" by agents of third countries under the policy of "extraordinary rendition."

In other words, we had some poor schmuck (or however you say "schmuck" in Arabic) flown to someplace like Egypt and tortured until they spilled the beans. Or made up the beans to get the Egyptians to stop torturing them. Anyway, Mr. and Mrs. America, rest easy. Your civil liberties are intact. Unless, of course, Shrub decides they aren't.

Original photo caption: An airplane passes behind the U.S. Bank Tower, formerly known as the Library Tower, in downtown Los Angeles Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006. President Bush said Thursday the U.S-led global war on terror, with multinational cooperation, foiled purported terrorist plans to fly a commercial airplane into the Los Angeles skyscraper in 2002. (AP Photo/Kim D. Johnson)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Cartoon violence" takes on a new meaning

When the Mandarin and his generation (and perhaps yours as well) were growing up, cartoon violence meant something like the eternal struggle of Wile E. Coyote to catch the Roadrunner. (I wonder if he would have known what to do with a roadrunner had he ever caught one.)

Now, watching recent news headlines like "Four Die in Cartoon Violence," the whole coyote roadrunner thing seems kind of quaint.

No matter how open we are to diversity of thought and religion, sharing the planet with people who will try to kill us over a tasteless editorial cartoon published in a free press in a free country is something Miss Jaggers never prepared the Mandarin for in 12th-grade Civics class back in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Toto, we're not in Kansas any more, either.

Neither is cartoonist M.E. Cohen (click here and scroll to 7 Feb 06), who drew it better than the Mandarin said it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Remember those questions on the IQ tests they used to give us?

The one where they show you a bunch of things and say, "Which one doesn't belong?" Like, maybe, a duck, a goose, a turkey, and a skunk? This picture reminded the Mandarin of a question like that. Or maybe the Sesame Street song the Mandarin used to sing to his sons when they were little:

"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?"

Anyway, today's secret category was "Presidential Timber." The Mandarin sees three ex-Presidents, two powerful women who could be President (one of them will) and one,... well, you get the picture.

Original photo caption: From bottom to top, U.S. President George W. Bush, first lady Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton, his wife U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former President George H.W. Bush and former President Jimmy Carter attend funeral services for Coretta Scott King at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia February 7, 2006. Coretta Scott King was the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hours of fun for the whole family!

"George Says..." is a blast! Click here to play.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bipartisan sarcasm week

The Swiftboat Whitewater Veterans for Truth are already silk-screening this one onto a $9.95 t-shirt.

Original photo caption: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) greets people as she arrives for U.S. President George W. Bush's the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 31, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Reed