The President is known for his glancing acquaintance with the English language, and his ability, even when armed with the right words, to say the wrong thing. But today’s Bushism from Slate is staggering, a mark of the pure genius of the man:

“I’m honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein”

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Laki Craters

The BBC has a report about new research on a volcanic eruption in Iceland in 1783. The research suggests that perhaps 10,000 people died in the UK as a result of a cloud of emissions from the eruption, combined with some unusual weather conditions. Clearly this highlights the surprising interconnectedness of areas across the globe. But what was more amazing to me was that the after-effects of the volcano killed 9,000 Icelanders, one quarter of the population, in a time known as The Misty Plague (or the typeface-challenging “Móðuharðindin“).

Imagine if an event with such devestating consequences had happened in Europe (oh right, the Black Death) or the US (ah yes, the Jamestown settlement starvation, or smallpox and related colonial acts, depending on your viewpoint). We know about these things, but imagine how many other countries have similar cataclysms lurking in their pasts. Truly amazing.

On the Fritz

An interesting article via The Bleat today from Sen. Fritz Hollings, the Senator from Disney. In it he argues that Bush’s attack on Iraq is actually part of his policy on Israel, rather than a part of the ‘War on Terror’. I liked Lilek’s summary of the idea as “Charles Krauthammer used his super-powerful Jew Beams to cloud the minds of hapless pliable goyim.” But, perhaps because I’m not an American, it doesn’t seem that unlikely to me (apart from the bit about the ‘Jew Beams’). I don’t really grasp what the affinity America has to Israel is based on.

I know the religious arguments about fellow people of God, and the political aspect of a vocal Jewish community in the US, and I understand them, but I don’t ‘get it’. Given that I’m not sure why America is so involved, it’s hard to say where that involvement would end, and the idea of this being a plan for Israeli security is as (un)reasonable as others. And as a concept it’s fine; I don’t think many people would argue that Middle-East peace is a bad thing, though we’ll all quibble on what it would look like. But the degree of, oh, let’s say confidence, that such a sweeping plan would entail is impressive to say the least.

And when I say impressive, I of course mean terrifying.

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Very Amusing, Speaker

Here’s an excerpt from an exchange between a reporter and Dennis Hastert:

The exchange started when a reporter asked: “Can I combine two issues, Iraq and taxes? I heard a speech from John McCain the other day…”

Hastert: “Who?”

Reporter: “John McCain.”

Hastert: “Where’s he from?”

Reporter: “He’s a Republican from Arizona.”

Hastert: “A Republican?”

Gosh, Mr Speaker, what a wit! Not since the contests between Gladstone and Disraeli have we seen such barbed, incisive ribaldry! Who says the spirit of Swift is dead? I’m so glad you’re one of the leaders of your country.

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