“Mission Accomplished” banner still a thorn in Bush’s side

Nearly everyone has by now acknowedged what a dreadful mistake it was for Bush to celebrate the march into Baghdad under the now notorious Mission Accomplished banner. Now it seems that Bush himself agrees:

Six months after he spoke on an aircraft carrier deck under a banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished,” President Bush disavowed any connection with the war message.Later, the White House changed its story and said there was a link.

The “Mission Accomplished” boast has been mocked many times since Bush’s carrier speech as criticism has mounted over the failed search for weapons of mass destruction and the continuing violence in Iraq.

When it was brought up again Tuesday at a news conference, Bush said, “The `Mission Accomplished’ sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished.”

“I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff — they weren’t that ingenious, by the way.”

That explanation hadn’t surfaced during months of questions to White House officials about proclaiming the mission in Iraq successful while violence continued.

After the news conference, a White House spokeswoman said the Lincoln’s crew asked the White House to have the sign made. The White House asked a private vendor to produce the sign, and the crew put it up, said the spokeswoman. She said she did not know who paid for the sign.

I’ll bet I know who paid for the sign, and I’ll bet the spokeswoman knows, too.

What a mistake. It will make the perfect poster for some Democratic presidential hopeful, and a reminder to all of us of just how cocky we were back then.


Ann Coulter, a blank slate

Clinical tests prove that Ann Coulter (aka SmoothBrain) has virtually no gray matter. Thanks to Orcinus for pointing this out:

I know this is just temporary, but …

Does it strike anyone else as extremely fitting that, if you go to the site reserved for Ann Coulter’s blog, readers are informed that this is where “Ann Coulter speaks her mind” …

And it is nothing but a blank page?

It’s still a blank page.



I referred briefly to the new Beijing blog I’m enjoying, and wanted to add another quick comment.

Jeremy’s blog is focused on the media and advertising industries in the PRC, and has a rich array of photos and examples of how marketers there are branding their products (including the recent Chinese romp into outer space).

As a member of a closely related industry, I find this very interesting and hope that everyone can take a minute to do some exploring. It’s brand new, but I expect more good things to come.

Jeremy’s fluent in written and spoken Chinese and he’s looking for a graphics designer and a Chinese copywriter, if anyone’s job hunting.


Mind control a la Chinoise

Conrad has a disturbing post on Beijing’s most recent crackdowns on those awful threats to stability — Internet cafes and Roman Catholics.

What happened to those reforms I keep hearing about?


More CCP monkey business

The man who exposed a real estate scandal in Shanghai should be rewarded, no? Here’s how the government rewarded him:

A lawyer who helped expose a real estate scandal that tarnished the reputation of Shanghai, China’s showcase commercial city, has been sentenced to three years in prison on charges that he disclosed state secrets, his defense lawyer said today.

Western human rights group say the case against the lawyer, Zheng Enchong, amounts to an attempt to intimidate lawyers who aggressively defend their clients. The sentence appears to undermine China’s recent efforts to counter diplomatic pressure on its rights record by releasing prominent dissidents.

I know, I know — what’s the big deal? The Chinese always do stuff like this. Always have, always will. It’s their culture. We can’t apply Western standards to them. Things are different there and we need to respect that. And besides, they’re reforming!

Bullshit across the board. If they want to be our partners and if they want our investment money and the priviliges of being a global player, we need to hold them to the same standards as we do our other partners. Look at all the sanctions and punishments we dole out to Cuba for its human rights abuses. Is China any better? No, I don’t think so.


Strangest story of the week: Toy dog that breaks wind sets off airport security

I can’t make this up:

A novelty toy dog which breaks wind sparked a major security alert at an American airport.
Page designer Dave Rogerson’s life-size mechanical terrier set off a security detector at Norfolk Airport in Virginia.

Armed security staff were alerted when the toy’s wind-breaking mechanism registered as a high explosive on sensitive monitoring equipment.

Mr Rogerson, 31, from Thorner, Leeds, was questioned by FBI agents and looked on in amazement as they took a series of swabs from the mechanical toy’s rear end.

The toy animal was eventually returned to him, but he was not allowed to take his planned flight and had to take an alternative route to North Carolina.


Amnesty International sets sites on China’s abysmal human rights record

Finally, it appears that China’s approach to human rights (i.e., jailing, beating and oppressing those who believe in freedom) is up for some serious scrutiny:

Amnesty International urged the European Union on Tuesday to rethink its China policy ahead of a high-level visit to Beijing, saying the Asian country’s economic success overshadows a justice system plagued with human rights abuses.

Amnesty released a report detailing alleged human rights violations, including the frequent use of the death penalty, forced labor camps, arbitrary detention and torture of AIDS patients and an ongoing crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement.


China executes some 15,000 prisoners a year, Amnesty said, though the government’s own annual official tally barely exceeds 1,000.

“Official reports in China … hailing the introduction of ‘mobile execution chambers’ for their ‘cost-effectiveness and efficiency’ should send alarm bells ringing in the corridors of the EU,” said Dick Oosting, head of the human rights group’s EU office.

The Amnesty report dwells at length on the fate of AIDS patients as the object of abuse. AIDS reporting in the official Chinese media tends to highlight intravenous drug use and unprotected sex.

“A less well-publicized factor has been the operation of blood-collecting stations in many parts of China during the late 1980s and 1990s (set up to meet) a highly profitable global demand for blood plasma,” said the Amnesty report.

The centers, however, allegedly ignore safety checks, causing HIV infections to soar.

The Amnesty report also scolds China for labor camps that “re-educate” more than 300,000 people, including Falun Gong practitioners, journalists, AIDS activists and “cyber-dissidents” who post “subversive” messages on Internet chat rooms.

I realize there are those who, hellbent on tapping into China’s “1.3 billion consumers,” would rather sweep such irritating facts under the carpet, but there has to be a day of reckoning.

Amnesty International is to be congratulated for its courage and tenacity.


Was Cheney the man behind the curtain?

Josh Marshall teases his readers today with a post that strongly and intentionally implies that Dick Cheney was the driving force behind the Niger uranium reference in Bush’s infamous SOTU address.

We know that everything got started when Dick Cheney brought up the Niger claims at a regularly scheduled CIA briefing in the early spring of 2002. Apparently, the briefer didn’t bring it up. Cheney did. There are various timing issues that come up here, which we’ll address in subsequent posts. But the basic question is, if Cheney didn’t hear about it from one of his intel briefings, where’d he hear about it? Specifically. Who put Cheney on to the Niger uranium story?

Marshall points to a tale of intrigue about how the yellowcake rumor (or prefabricated lie?) emerged first in Italy, and how a mysterious Italian businessman (who was once connected to Italian intelligence) got the ball rolling.

Who’s this “Italian businessman and security consultant”? Who’s he do his security consulting for? Any associations to any folks with names we know? Any connections to noteworthy figures in the United States?

More on this to come

Knowing Marshall, I suspect he already knows the answers to his questions. I also suspect there’s a hot little story here.


Taiwan, more progressive than the US when it comes to gay marriage?

A lot is happening over in Taiwan and I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to write much about it. Recently they have been standing up to Beijing in a dramatic display of independence and defiance. Now, the Taiwan government is proposing legislation to legalize….gay marriages!?

The Taiwanese Government is preparing legislation to legitimise gay marriage.
If the new law is passed it would make Taiwan the first country in Asia to recognise marriages between people of the same sex.

The proposals are part of a Human Rights Basic Law which is due to be debated by Taiwanese legislators before the end of the year.

The proposals are part of a drive to protect basic human rights in Taiwan, according to the presidential office.

They would legalise gay marriage and allow homosexual couples to adopt children.

This is a topic that makes even the most liberal nations squirm. I know Taiwan tends to be more free-thinking than many of its Asian neighbors, but I had no idea they were ready to even consider such controversial measures. It’s not a done deal though:

But several hurdles will have to be overcome before the plans can become law. First, they will need to be approved by the cabinet where there is some opposition, as the Bill also contains controversial provisions to outlaw all forms of capital punishment. Then they would have to be approved by Taiwan’s lawmakers

Based on my experiences in Hong Kong, Singapore, the US and China, I would be truly (and happily) surprised if this were to materialize. Even if it doesn’t, it’s a dramatic step in the right direction and shows us that anything is possible when people are willing to think outside of their usual belief systems.

Link via Silt, who somehow beat me to the punch on this one.


There’s always something

I just got back from the hospital, where I was upset (but not surprised) to learn that the painful shoulder surgery I underwent in July failed. The ultrasound technician said the bicep tendon has split in two and that it would take a grafting procedure (whatever that means) to re-attach it. So I am utterly depressed. If you happen to be a personal friend of mine, I am unplugging my phone in a minute, swallowing a fistful of melatonin to alleviate my jet lag and going to sleep. I may not post again for a day or two, as I go back to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow for two days to teach people how to react during a crisis (something I’m familiar with) and get back Friday night.