Wednesday, December 31, 1997

Yesterday I saw a shiny very black Acura with the license plate "Lord Vadr".

The new president of Pakistan, after the last one is forced out, is a Muslim loon and former judge who once ordered a robber's hands and feet amputated and opposed women having the right to initiate divorce or be awarded custody of children.

This week I've been especially thrilled that the US does not have Britain's libel laws. It is illegal to name the 17-year old son of the tough-on-crime-tough-on-the-causes-of-crime Home Secretary who was caught selling dope. He seems likely not even to be tried, but the reporter who bought the weed has been arrested.

Careful readers of the previous paragraph will notice that I violated British law by revealing a piece of information that if I know it, most of Britain must as well, but it's not in any of the newspapers.

Sunday, December 28, 1997

It should be noted that the Ulster Loyalist shot to death in his cell yesterday, a man who rejoiced in the name King Rat, was in the Maze Prison, the same one from which a Nat escaped earlier this month dressed in women's clothes. Security, anyone?

Friday, December 26, 1997

Sentence of the day, From the Guardian: "The Prince of Wales would also probably not have met the Spice Girls in public had a sense of crisis not prevailed."

Sloppy headline of the week: "Brazil man kills wife for meager Christmas meal."

Wednesday, December 24, 1997


Hawaii's domestic partners law, 4 months old, is a miserable failure, with only 296 couples signed up. And not all of those are gay, since while it doesn't apply to hetero couples, it does apply to siblings, widows & adult children, etc. Kinky.

A Republican Xmas story: Michigan state Rep. Jack Horton (R-1950s) says that mothers shouldn't work, so he fires an employee of seven years who has just adopted. He says he's following his principles, which is not a word usually applied to misogyny. Naturally, he is a supporter of forcing mothers on welfare to work 20 hours a week.

Clinton has issued his annual pardons, which do not amazingly enough include anyone on his staff or immediate family, but do include some guy who was court-martialed in 1947 for stealing 4 pounds of butter, and someone who stole a bunch of spark plugs and is thankful that Clinton has restored his civil rights: he can now be a gun-owner again.

Finally, a cheery holiday thought: Russia has ended its pledge of no first use of nuclear weapons.
In the past 5 years, while the homicide rate in the US has dropped 22%, that on Indian reservations has increased 87%. Does anyone know why?

A recent spill of classified info shows that it is possible for governments to keep secrets for long periods of time, always a valuable reminder. Two from the year of my birth: JFK was, as has been generally believed, ordering a withdrawal of troops from Vietnam before he died. And the US developed and deployed baby nukes, 1 kiloton devices designed for mining harbors and such, carried by parachutists and divers. Also the "Davy Crockett" nuclear bazooka. If you're doing any last-minute shopping....

Also, the head of the KGB 1961-67 says that the plot that deposed Khruschev was only bloodless because he refused Brezhnev's request that he assassinate Mr. K.

Also, a couple of people from State under Carter, including Richard Holbrooke, have a piece in today's NY Times to the effect that Kim Dae Jung was expected to be executed in 1980, but that South Korea was waiting until before Reagan's inauguration, figuring that Reagan would let them get away with what Carter wouldn't. So Holbrooke contacted RR's nominee to head NSC, Richard Allen, and had him contact Seoul.

Also, the CIA crippled Taiwan's secret nuclear program with a spy who defected to the US in 1987, taking all the papers with him.

I'd say we need juries second-guessing tv casting decisions like we need pregnant "vixens". The story is so silly that no one's complaining about the 1st Amendment aspect.

Bosnian Serb elections are in and the fascist wins over the fascist.

Wednesday, December 17, 1997

The holiday season is upon us and that can mean only one thing: secret executions in Japan. Probably tomorrow, a whole bunch of people will be taken out of their cells and hanged. Didn't know that Japan had the death penalty, did you? That's cause it's all done in secret. Even the executees don't know who they are yet, and certainly not their lawyers, cause it's a secret until they are, as I said, taken out of their cells and hanged. Whatever happened to a lump of coal in a stocking?

The shortest president in American history was James Madison, 5'4" and under 100 pounds.

More in my continuing coverage of sterilization of the retarded: Australia is still doing it, although it's illegal now.

Fun fact of the day: the moon is 15,654,023,458 inches from the earth, give or take an inch. A very expensive project just bounced a laser off the moon, because you really need to have that distance accurate to within an inch, just like you can never have too many digits in pi.

Latest black conspiracy theory: Ron Brown was assassinated. Oh I know his plane crashed, but evidently he was shot to death as well, either before or after the crash. Alan Keyes and Congresscritter Maxine Waters want an investigation.

Did the New York Times really think that the predominance in public suggestions that the new White House dog be named "Fudge" was because of his coloring? One former White House aide, I forget who, wrote a piece in the Times last week suggesting that the dog should watch its back, given what happens to the unconditionally loyal in this administration. Last month there was a big fuss in Britain over the disappearance of the Downing St. cat Humphrey (named after Sir Humphrey Appleby of the tv series Yes Minister), whose kidney ailments have made him an embarrassment, shall we say. There were suggestions that he was put down because Cherie Blair hates cats. It turns out that this was a lie put out by the Conservative Party Central Office. And some cable company just hired 3 strippers to surprise Tory leader William Hague, who is getting married tomorrow. Humphrey's exile should be a lesson to Socks and Buddy: don't pee on anything, or you may "disappear." After all, you don't see Warren Christopher around anymore.

Tuesday, December 16, 1997

Sometimes I get a wild urge to relieve my bladder over it, splattingly on the ant-like crowds

Alan Clark, the famous British politician and adulterer, is suing the Evening Standard for satirical diary entries in his style, saying it detracts from his reputation as a man of letters. Here is an excerpt from his real diaries:

"I travelled down by train, and a plump young lady came into my compartment at Waterloo. She was not wearing a bra, and her delightful globes bounced prominently ... I gave her a huge grin; I couldn't help it." (18/2/84)

"Palace Hotel, Helsinki, Saturday, 27 September: God knows what's going to happen tomorrow. A kind of 'getting to know you' day has been laid on, with fishing on the lakes, drinking schnapps and (I don't like the sound of this at all) a sauna. Doesn't everybody wander about sweating, but naked?

"But I don't in the least bit mind letting girls see my penis. I suppose it's because I fear - for quite extraneous physical reasons - becoming lightly, or indeed heavily, tumescent and attracting the attention of other men."

"Department of Employment, Thursday June 23, 1983: there is a tiny balcon, a gutter really, with a very low parapet, below knee height. Certain death on the Victoria Street pavement eight floors below. Sometimes I get a wild urge to relieve my bladder over it, splattingly on the ant-like crowds."

"British Embassy, Sofia, Wednesday April 13, 1988: far too many people seem to know that today is my birthday, which of course I don't like at all as it makes it more difficult to ignore the fact that I am 60. I refuse to be 60. 'Mirror, mirror on the wall ...' etc. And the Bulgarians are threatening to sing Happy Birthday."

Saturday, December 13, 1997

The bit about the dead resumé-enhancing ambassador I most enjoy is that he used his "military record" to overcome Republican objections to his being completely unqualified to be ambassador to Switzerland, and to evidently thinking that Switz. was a NATO ally. Does anyone else remember Reagan lying about his non-existent war record, or Dan Quayle claiming to be a "Vietnam era veteran"?

In 2350 BC, the great civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia all collapsed at once. The cause seems to have been massive meteor strikes. They'll be back in 3000 A.D. Keep watching the skies.

Emissaries of the Taliban spent the week in Texas, signing a $3 billion deal with Unocal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan, backed by the US government.

This week, the day before Gerry Adams met Tony Blair at No. 10, an IRA prisoner escaped. This from the Sunday Times:

Asked to explain how a man dressed in a badly fitting wig, inexpertly applied make-up and a home-made frock managed to walk out of a maximum security jail in Northern Ireland, a source close to the governor said: "Well it's hardly our fault. I mean we have Mo Mowlam in and out of here all the time."

Thursday, December 11, 1997

That Israeli Mossad official who made up his Syrian source used to teach at the Mossad spy school--a course on "The Lie as Art."

The cold war is over. Germany will sooner or later move its capital to Berlin, where the government always used to make its best decisions. And Kazakhstan just this week moved its capital to Akmola. Mosquitos in the summer, -40 degrees in the winter, hundreds of people dying of cold each year because the gas and power supply is less than reliable.

Two records in Britain: their oldest person just died at 114, which means she was 18 when Queen Victoria died. She is not the oldest person ever to live in Britain, if you count Thomas Parr, who died in 1635 at the age of 152. Well, that's what it says in those ads for Parr's Life Pills I keep seeing in newspapers from the 1840s.

And someone set the traffic ticket record, for speeding at 154 MPH. An Aston Martin, if you're wondering.

We'll see if I'm right, but this may be the next Christian right-wing scandal after gays in Disneyland and Ellen DeGeneres: the Mass. Supreme Court has ruled that a divorced father who has recently found god may not teach his children about it, and certainly may not take them to his church where they are likely to be told that non-Christians like their mother, an Orthodox Jew, are going to burn in hell.

The Supreme Court just made an important decision on double jeopardy. The previous standard, since 1989, states that civil penalties can only be assessed separately from criminal ones if the amount involved is to compensate the government for injury caused, and not if they are so high as to constitute an actual punishment. Which seems reasonable. This has been reversed, 9-0 yet, which means that, what, 4 or 5 people must have changed their minds since 1989. The definition of whether a fine is civil rather than criminal is--whatever Congress says it is when it enacts the fine.

Now I'll repeat my question of last week since nobody answered it: SINCE WHEN DO WE HAVE TRIAL IN ABSENTIA IN THIS COUNTRY?

Thursday, December 04, 1997

First sentence of a book review in the American Historical Review: "The study of ancient Greek music is a curious one, in that we have little idea how it sounded."

Another academic book for everyone on your xmas list: “A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their Significance”. 20 bucks at finer bookstore everywhere. 372 pages, believe it or not.

You might check out the web site of the Museum of Bad Art.

The sooner they get Yeltsin out of office and into his own Pizza Hut contract, the better. The amazing thing is that only a day or two after his presumably drunken offer to cut nuclear warheads by one-third was disavowed by his handlers, his new offer to cut his ground and naval forces by 40% was actually reported as a serious news story.

No mention yet in American papers of Arafat's promise of a couple of days ago to declare independence in 1999 and NetanYAHOOOOO's threat to send in the troops.

Incidentally, the coverage of the Israeli Cabinet's fake commitment to withdraw an unspecified number of troops from an unspecified section of the West Bank at an unspecified date in the future got coverage almost as uncynical as Yeltsin's promises have been getting. If I were the Serbs or Saddam Hussein, I'd be issuing press releases during Free Ride Week.

As Nazi looted gold talks continue, little mention is being made of gypsies. A disproportionate amount of gold was taken from them, since gypsies are traditionally not great believers in bank accounts. Some of that gold was sent by the Catholics who ran camps in Croatia, where 28,000 gypsies were killed, to the Vatican.

There is a great battle going on as to who is the current Emperor of France, the inheritor of Napoleon's title (actually, Prince, but what the hell). The late Prince Louis Napoleon disinherited his son for marrying a commoner, and without permission yet. So lawyers for the grandson, age 11, are fighting it out with the disinherited Prince Charles. Say what you will, it's still probably of greater significance than the debate over whether Janet Reno should have appointed a special prosecutor over the burning question of which telephone Al Gore used.

In Maryland, lawyers are soliciting business by mail from people who are wanted by the police, but who do not necessarily know until then that they are wanted by the police.

Back to Israel: we'll see how this plays out, since Israeli censorship is pretty good at keeping information from the US as well as its own citizens, but it seems that last year a senior Mossad official almost started a war with Syria. For years he had used a fake Syrian source (or possibly a real source he just hadn't spoken to in years) to claim that Syria had no interest in peace. Last summer this right-wing loon decided to kill any possible pull-out from the Golan Heights by claiming that Syria was about to launch a military strike. Israel deployed its tanks, but didn't go over the edge. We'll see whether this gets any coverage in the US, where there has been almost none given to information from the Kremlin archives showing that the world was very close to a nuclear war in 1983.

A question for the lawyers: since when does this country convict people in absentia? France just refused to extradite someone convicted of murder in Pennsylvania, who would not have gotten a proper retrial.

Another lovely trend: an organization in L.A. is paying drug addicts $200 to be sterilized.

An interesting demographics story in today's Post and elsewhere observes that black male life expectancy in the District of Columbia is now 57.9 years, although a Sioux reservation has lower, while black men just over the border in Virginia live 14 years longer, and Asian women in upstate NJ live 97.7 years. Men of all races live 63 years in Baltimore (but it seems longer), which is lower than in Russia, while those in 2 Utah counties live 77.5 years (but it seems longer). There is thus a 40-yr gap in life expectancy between different groups in this country. By coincidence, British health figures in tomorrow's papers make a comparison possible. There is no racial breakdown, but the figures otherwise are much more closely grouped. Men in Cambridge live 7 years longer than those in Manchester or Liverpool, and the longest-lived women (by health district) live 12 years longer than the shortest-lived men, but that's hardly 40 years. No region deviates more than 5 years from the average male or female life expectancy. The NHS lives.