Thursday, May 29, 1997

Paula Jones's lawyer is running for Virginia attorney general, which I'd never have known if I just read the NY Times. He recently got into trouble when one of his former clients reported (or had a tape of? I've already forgotten) him suggesting she pose for Playboy. He excused himself by saying that it was after he'd had a couple of drinks. So that's ok then.

Frank Rich in today's column says that the AMA's sudden switch to support of the bill banning late-term abortions is not without precedent. In 1964 the AMA opposed putting warning labels on cigarettes, trying to get Southern congresscritters to support its opposition to the establishment of Medicare.

After Palestine said that selling land to Jews now carries the death penalty, there was a lot of coverage of the 2 people assassinated, but none of the fact that 12 people have so far been arrested under this law. Which Palestine just extended to cover all Palestinians living in Israel, marking the first time, I believe, it has tried to claim sovereignty over the whole area of Israel.

Speaking of enlightened acts, Israel just sentenced a right-wing Jew under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for having put a curse on Rabin a month before the assassination. It was news to me that Jews even had curses, just like gypsies. Anyone care to speculate on what a Jewish curse would be like?

Just saw the Clinton-Blair summit on tv. I had to turn the "smarm" knob way down.

Blair's "spiritual mentor" at public school turns out to have been a major pedophile.

Wednesday, May 28, 1997

Your fact of the day: the phrase Peeping Tom comes from the one guy in Coventry who peeped at Lady Godiva. Which makes the term several hundred years old. I just read this in a 1849 book.

Tony Blair may not be reversing any of the disastrous policies of the Thatcher-Major years, but he is setting up a review of the cases of the 307 soldiers executed during World War I for cowardice.

A NY Times story on the many executions in Texas says that the last meal cannot include liquor, cigarettes or bubble gum, as these are against the rules. And no dirt either. Evidently someone once asked. He ate yogurt instead.

Everyone has noticed that the new dictator of Zaire has banned political parties and demonstrations, but I haven't seen much coverage of the Taliban-style decrees banning women from wearing pants and short skirts.

Thursday, May 22, 1997

The commerce secretary is trying to get fast-track authority from Congress to add Chile to NAFTA. To do it, he's willing to drop those pesky labor and environmental provisions. By the way, there was supposed to be a report on the environmental impact of the existing NAFTA by now, but Mexico wanted a veto.

A company has denied lead-free, environmentally-friendly bullets. Now when you dump that corpse in the river, you won't be poisoning the water supply. Not with lead, anyway.

The former East German spy chief Markus Wolf, who the government keeps trying to put in jail, is about to publish his memoirs. First revelation: the US offered him $1 million to come on over in 1990. Just like '45 all over again.

Someone copyrighted the phrase "Summer of Love."

Wednesday, May 21, 1997

Why can't a woman be more like a gay man?

That air force pilot was discussed on Politically Incorrect tonight. Harvey Fierstein says that while she's being court-martialled for lying, gay men are supposed to. So she'd have been ok if she slept with a married woman, but not a married man.

Also, Reagan's son Michael insisted that Bill Clinton's friends all die of gangland-style killings, but he's not drawing any conclusions.

Tuesday, May 20, 1997

Why can't a woman be more like a man?

Does anyone else think that the court martial of the woman B-52 pilot is actually an elaborate practical joke? I mean, I thought it was amusing that they were charging an unmarried woman with adultery, but today's NY Times says that another part of the charge is conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

Speaking of conduct unbecoming, there's a new biography out of Viscount Melbourne, the British prime minister 1834-41. Evidently he beat up his wife and his mistresses pretty regularly, but really got off on whipping children. He encouraged his friends and relatives to leave their children with him so he could "educate" them. He actually had discussions with young Queen Victoria about this. She thought that the practice of beating school boys was degrading, while he said that Eton hadn't flogged him enough. This was before the birth of Victoria's children, so she may have changed her mind later. Edward could probably have benefited from a good paddling in his 50s.

Speaking of mad, bad and dangerous to know (actually originally said about Lord Byron, whose mistress Melbourne's wife had once been--he beat her up too--and who wrote the first vampire literature in the English language)(ok, it's not a great segue, but it's still a segue), Romania has lately taken up Vlad Draculya as a national hero and is quite pissed off at all the fuss over the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker's little book.

Speaking of not treating your citizens very well at all, it seems that 5,000 Russian soldiers are now dying each year. 1,000 are suicides, the rest are, well, hazing. Really really bad hazing.

And speaking of soldiers behaving badly, I trust you are all following the newly-released British intercepts of German radio messages in 1941, indicating that it was not the SS but ordinary German police (well, occupation police, but still police) who killed most of the Jews in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, starting at the very beginning of the invasion of Russia. This could bring those Holocaust figures up another million.

Friday, May 16, 1997

Bribery made easy

Singapore sentenced a 16-year old to 2 yrs for the crime of possessing a pack of cigarettes. Think all those Southerners who were so enamored of caning are paying attention?

Just what beautiful downtown Ashkhabad (the capital of Turkmenistan, but of course you all knew that) needed: a 240-foot tower topped by a 40-foot revolving statue of President Niyazev. Yup, I knew that skyline needed something.

Thursday, May 15, 1997

A followup to my e-mail of December 3:
Secondly, a heart-warming story from the NY Times: a 14-year old girl sets fire to her house after years of physical and sexual abuse such that one could only be sorry she hadn't taken out more of her family. Her father has never visited her in jail but did send a picture of the burned-out house on her birthday. Naturally, the state of Indiana put her in a maximum-security prison ($25,000 a year) instead of the juvenile treatment center ($82k) the judge begged the state to put her in. You're waiting for the punchline, well I've got two: she has found a new mom in the joint, or "the closest thing to a mom I ever had" in another murderer, and second, she has been ordered not to talk about being abused in group therapy sessions because her fellow inmates in the special-needs unit are upset by her stories, since they all abused or killed their children.

The Indiana Court of Appeals now says incarcerating her with adults violates the state Constitution.

The British Parliament is shy 2 members, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, elected for Sinn Fein from Ulster. They can't take an oath of loyalty to the Queen, so they can't take their seats. On a historical note, the first woman elected to Parliament was also a Sinn Feiner, and therefore was not technically the first woman MP, who was another damn foreigner, Nancy Astor. I don't know why they couldn't just take the oath with their fingers crossed; after all, Labour MP Tony Banks did...

I don't expect much from Tony Blair, although if Scotland gets its own Parliament again it may be worth it. I especially don't expect much on the civil rights front, given that the new Home Secretary Jack Straw is as rabid as the last one, about whom more anon, in the same way that Janet Reno is a worse Attorney General than whoever held that job under Bush (I know she's worse since I can't remember his name). But there might be some improvement on immigration. Amazingly, the Tories were sending 97% of Algerian asylum-seekers back. One just got killed, so that's been suspended. And everyone's favorite sob story, a Nepalese boy brought into Britain by a millionaire whose life was saved in the Himalayas by the boy's father, who died a bit later, only to be ordered out of the country years later by Michael Howard, has also been reversed.

But my favorite soap opera is the Tory leadership fight. The front-runner to replace Major was Michael Portillo, who lost a safe seat at the general election (to one of the 2 new gay MPs). The new front-runner Michael Heseltine withdrew from his hospital bed when his heart acted up again. The current front-runner may be William Hague, who is 36. The theory is that he may be too young now, but by the time his party has any chance at all of regaining power, he should be 45 or so. Or it may be Michael Howard, the ex-Home Sec. Neither is close to electable, so I'd be happy with either. Howard right now is facing charges that he misled Parliament about the circumstances in which he fired the head of the prison service a couple of years back. This used to be a serious matter when there were still standards in British public life, before sleaze or sex scandals became the Tory equivalent of a bar mitzvah, like a statutory rape charge is for a Kennedy. The charge is coming from the former Prison Minister Anne Widdecombe, so Howard's people are responding with a really offensive sexist smear campaign, suggesting that the fired guy wooed Widdecombe over to his side by sending her chocolate and flowers, the inference being that a 49-year old spinster (her term) is so starved for affection....

Finally, a quote from Jonathan Swift: "The bulk of mankind is as well qualified for flying as for thinking."

Thursday, May 08, 1997

Paper or plastic: In Afghanistan, only the latter is now an option. See, the recycled paper in paper bags may be recycled from the Koran...

John Redwood, the right-wing candidate for next leader of the Tory party, announced his candidacy in a press conference at the Goring Hotel.

Monday, May 05, 1997

A disappointing headline

The story "Heroin found hidden in elephant" turned out to be about a wooden elephant.

Sunday, May 04, 1997

I've watched way too much of the BBC coverage of the British elections this week. I know this because right now I can't get Labour's crappy pop song theme music "Things can only get better" out of my head. It's only marginally less annoying than Clinton's "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow."

Last night I woke up from a dream that inspired a great joke I was going to pass on to you all today when I finally got up. As I recall it went like this: "Gpiyrb sadter3t dafsgertgre dzxm ewrerdf sd3hjgv." Ha ha!

An article in today's NY Times says an unnoticed provision of the Welfare Act allows AFDC money to go to, get this, for-profit orphanages. There is one chain of these started by the founder of Jiffy Lube. Any takers on coming up with a suitable joke based on that fact?