Saturday, August 29, 1998

As I predicted right off the bat, the Sudanese factory was probably not what the US said it was. Oops. Incidentally, soil samples from where? The land around it is evidently all paved.

And in the camp in Afghanistan, we killed mostly, well, those of in the big UC campuses should have expected this--foreign exchange students from Asia (in this case Pakistan). We've managed to push Pakistan further into Islamism, with the prime minister announcing a total shift to sharia law with mandatory five-times-daily prayer. Oh, and they have one of our intact cruise missiles now and are taking it apart. Fortunately, this one already missed its target by 400 miles, so they may not be learning anything all that useful. That's the thing about Afghanistan: chickens always come back to roost there. That was my first thought when I heard that foreign-financed terrorists were operating out of Afghanistan: boy, must the Russians be laughing up their asses at us over this one. The lost cruise missile (or maybe two) is like those stingers we gave to the Mujahadin and then spent years trying to buy back at inflated prices after the Russians left. And Iran is massing its army over the Afghan border because the Taliban seems to have taken a bunch of Iranian officials--yes, including embassy officials--hostage.

New game for reporters: figure out which Russian businessman seems to be giving Chernomyrdin and Yeltsin their marching orders this week and write an article calling them the new Rasputin. Hours of fun.

Not helping Russia any is that its chief foreign banker, Germany, is having an election in which another fat leader who way outstayed his welcome is going to be booted out.

Speaking of terrorist targets, Radio Free Iran begins operating in a couple of days. There would have been a Radio Free Iraq too but the US decided to operate it out of Prague without actually bothering to ask the Czechs whether they'd like this future ground zero in the middle of their capitol. Next to a nursery school. So it's been postponed a bit.

Britain is thinking about changing its law to prevent anonymous sperm donation.

OK, since the Church of England allowed the ordination of women, a lot of clergy have defected to Rome, but there's one whose wife is one of the new priests. And you thought Clinton's home life was a little frosty.

Speaking of which: cigars?

From the Sunday Times (London): "Eleven garden gnomes have been found hanged from a bridge in northeastern France in what appeared to be a mass suicide. Police at Briey found a suicide note in which the gnomes said they wanted to "quit this world" and join a "sect of the temple of submissive dwarves". The gnomes' origin remains a mystery: local gardeners report nothing suspicious.

Friday, August 28, 1998

If the lottery is a tax on innumeracy, what do we call Clinton's terrorism policy (I'd call it an anti-terrorism policy, but the US did drop missiles on Khartoum)? Some terrorists mount an operation probably costing a few thousand dollars to destroy embassies worth millions. So we respond by destroying a primitive training camp (barracks, tents and an obstacle course) worth thousands of dollars, at most, by dropping 50 or 60 missiles worth $1 million each on it. Surely a win-win situation, even at the loss of Terrorist University (watch out for the frat initiations, but the keggers are awesome, dude!). And this is the "war of the future," huh?

Let me be the first to say that chemical weapons are a bad thing, but I have yet to be convinced that the plant in Khartoum produced anything more than human and veterinary medicine. For a start, a fair number of westerners have been inside it and haven't seen anything untoward. And I'm getting increasingly curious as to the terminology being used--"precursors" to nerve gas? Does that not mean that we know damned well the plant was incapable of producing actual nerve gas and are so claiming only that it could have produced components of nerve gas, like any pharmaceutical, chemical, or paint factory in the entire world? Something like the airstrips in Grenada that could have landed Soviet Migs--or Canadian tourists? No, I suspect this was just added on as a justification after intensive focus group studies, just like Bush didn't start talking about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction until other rationales failed to produce high enough poll ratings. And because Clinton needed two targets to match the two embassies.

In the same way, I suspect this bin Laden character has been promoted, and probably promoted way out of his league, to Darth-Vader-of-the-year to put a human face on the Enemy.

The language I dislike most is the language of legality. I've heard several times, I think from both William Cohen and Madeline Albright (incidentally, one hates to give in to anti-semitism, but having those two fronting this policy doesn't really help a whole lot in the Middle East), that this was a legal action. What is meant by this? It is true that the 1996 Terrorism Act does allow the president to do literally anything against he wants against anybody he deems to be terrorists, which is pretty much the same as having no law at all, but it doesn't matter since these actions took place outside the boundaries of the US. So Sudanese and Afghan law should apply, unless we claim that the cruise missiles have diplomatic immunity, and I'm willing to bet there is nothing in the laws of either nation that says that other countries can bomb them, although perhaps the lawyers on this list will correct me. Recycled paper isn't even legal in Afghanistan, so I doubt missiles are. That leaves only United Nations law, which allows for self-defense. Which is what we're claiming, although normally revenge doesn't quite count. So we're claiming to have foreknowledge that bin Laden was planning lots more terrorism. Probably picked it up off his web site or something, since if we had such great intelligence sources, I suspect they'd have mentioned something about the embassy bombings in advance.

I suspect Helen of Troy was much more attractive than Monica, but did she give blow jobs?

Wednesday, August 26, 1998

Just heard the Boxer/Fong debate. Fong is playing the poor victimized Chinese card, which is a little bizarre to a Berkeley student. One-fourth of the debate was on Clinton's penis. Key phrase never to be used again: zero tolerance.

Clinton's response to calls for evidence about the Sudan plant: trust me. Yeltsin's response to the ruble crisis and the run on the banks: I'm in complete charge.

Yeltsin, by the way, has disappeared.

Thursday, August 20, 1998

Thu, 20 Aug 1998

Just read an e-mail, which I won't forward since it's too long-winded to be worth it, but someone having problems with a Microsoft product called up their support line, which charges money, and a lot of it, and doesn't necessarily refund it if they fail to fix the problem, and then called the Psychic Friends Network. A comparison showed that the latter was faster, cheaper, more courteous although, admittedly, the psychics didn't solve the computer problem either.

According to a newspaper story, Chelsea is the glue holding the family together right now. I can just picture it. "Chelsea, can you ask your mother to pass the ketchup?" "Tell your father to get one of his bimbos to pass the damned ketchup!"

Newt Gingrich has been awfully moderate this week. Do you suppose it was that lying-to-Congress thing and that fine he had to pay a while back? Is he still in hock to Bob Dole, I wonder? Now, here's a question. One way in which Gingrich lied was in promising not to orchestrate a spin campaign, which he then did. Now, with which other Congresscritters was he closeted that weekend, and are any of them calling Clinton a liar this week?

I know the first question a reporter asked the defense secretary today was whether he'd seen the movie Wag the Dog, but I didn't hear what the answer was. Now was the bombing because a vacation at Martha's Vineyard turned out to be an inappropriate follow-up to a national almost-confession, sort of like OJ on the golf course? Or was it to put a break in that line-up of Senators and such calling for his resignation, which I don't believe anyone has done since the bombs fell?

A chemical plant in the center of a capitol city. No, nothing dangerous in that choice of target, no sirree billie-bob.

Terrorism is just a license for anything we want to do, isn't it? Yesterday, the Irish prime minister announced a bunch of new measures which he described as draconian, for use against the Real IRA and such. That must be the only time I've heard someone supporting actions use the term draconian, as if it was a positive term. Britain, too, is talking about going back to the good old days of internment, conviction on the word of a single cop, supergrasses, further cutbacks on the right to silence, etc., that brought us the Guildford 6, the Bradford 4, etc etc etc.

Starr is still going to try to match up the semen stain. Is there anything probative in that after Clinton has confessed fucking her? Monica, by the way, is seriously put out because she thinks they had a genuine relationship which he is reducing to mere sex. Poor girl.

None of the people Clinton made lie for him have seen fit to resign. Who was the last person to resign on a matter of principle in this country, anyway? William Jennings Bryan?

Meanwhile, the Russian economy has collapsed and Yeltsin is showing more signs of dementia, and Congo-Kinshasa is about to erupt again, but wait, let's hear some more about that tie!

Tuesday, August 18, 1998

Some British tourists who were unsatisfied with their accommodations in Malta sued the company. The judge decided this needed to be looked into very carefully indeed, has just returned from Malta, and says their expectations were too high.

Words not used by Clinton in yesterday's speech-let: affair, sex, lie, sorry, apology, aardvark, semen-stained dress.

Quayle, the master of irony, said on Nightline last night that Clinton should resign.

Matt Drudge says that Clinton was wearing the tie Monica gave him yesterday.

Sunday, August 16, 1998

Clinton testifies. Whee. So where is the made-for-tv movies, already? And who should play Monica? I think we all fondly remember Sherilyn Fenn's ability on Twin Peaks to tie a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue, but I understand that Shannen Doherty has already gained 30 pounds in preparation for the role, a la Robert De Niro.

Speaking of crappy movies, the review in the NY Times of The Avengers, which was released without reviewers being allowed to see it in advance, was headlined "Shh, They're Trying Not to Be Noticed." I understand the movie could still make a profit if they just take out ads emphasizing the key's sole asset, which is that neither Uma Thurman in the catsuit nor Sean Connery under his kilt, are wearing any underwear.

Friday, August 14, 1998

The Union Bank of Switzerland, which conveniently lost its records of money deposited by Jews before and during World War II, spent years trying to collect the rather piddling sums it lent to British and other Allied soldiers who escaped from POW camps and arrived without money or food and unable to get their British pay.

OK, it was the Oakland City Council that deputized the cannabis buyer's club to make its activities legal, not Berkeley. What does that tell you?

The 9th Circuit rules that people on Medicare have constitutional due process rights not to have claims turned down without a reason giving and a hearing by those HMOs the Feds are trying to force everyone on Medicare into. The decision is sensible and obvious enough, which means it will be reversed by the Supreme Court, which hates sensible and obvious almost as much as it hates the 9th Circuit. The interesting part is the Clinton Administration's position, which is that the decisions of the HMOs aren't subject to court review because they are not the actions of government. This is where privatization leads us, to a world where the Constitution no longer applies to actions taken by people working for the government because those people are alleged to be private. I know there are privatized federal prisons whose managements claim not to be bound by federal rules on things like excessive force and not killing prisoners and stuff.

I'll say it again: just when I think I have no expectations of Clinton left to be disappointed, he manages to disappoint me. Who would have thought they actually didn't want to find any evidence of Iraqi "illegal" arms programs because it would mean, I don't know, all that paperwork, I guess.

Finally, according to the LA Times, Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ellen deGeneres, Madonna, Andie MacDowall, and I forget who all else, are turning 40 sometime this year. Feel old, feel very very old.

Thursday, August 13, 1998

Some days ago, the Animal Liberation Front in Britain (come to think of it, I have one of their t-shirts somewhere) released 3,000 minks from a mink farm. The British papers have been full ever since of stories about how minks are really the most vicious animals on the face of the earth, and attack anything that moves. The locals are not happy.

Till dress us do part

Athens: A bride-to-be suffered a nervous breakdown the night before her wedding on the Greek island of Crete when she took friends to the couple's new home to see the wedding dress - only to find the groom wearing it and in a passionate embrace with his best man. The wedding was called off, an Athens news agency reported. (Reuters)

Wednesday, August 12, 1998

The Nevis referendum on independence from St. Kitts failed to win the necessary 2/3.

Hillary Clinton says that it's just anti-Arkansas prejudice fueling the attacks on husband Bill (if your idea of a good time is oral sex from the chubby much younger intern, you just might be a redneck) Clinton.

Sony accidentally invented and sold the #1 item on the wish list of teenage boys everywhere, the x-ray specs. Their camcorder's night vision filter (for filming sleeping babies and philandering husbands) can pretty much see through clothing in the right light.

Somebody from the Carter Center was showing a bunch of Chinese visitors how democracy worked by taking them along while he voted in the Georgia primaries. Where he was promptly refused a ballot in his own party, as they kept insisting he was a Republican. The Chinese, according to the Washington Post, were baffled. When it was finally straightened out, the guy voted in the Democratic primaries, in which there was only one candidate for governor. The Post doesn't say, but one presumes the Chinese were less baffled by that.

The Post has an article on welfare reform which says that a major cause of the shrinking rolls is not people being kicked off, but hurdles being put in the way of people ever getting on to begin with. Sometimes they get one-time payments, which may be all they need. Some are made to go after 40 job opportunities first, which may work. Oregon gives people one-way tickets to California, which works for Oregon. But mostly this has a sense of being number-mongering, that civil servants are now being made to go after lower welfare caseloads based strictly on numbers, in the same way that the lowering crime rate is partly based on police departments, under pressure to get those numbers, downgrading crimes, and of course Robert MacNamara's famous body-counts. A civil servant with a quota of people to screw over makes the spine shiver even more than "I'm from the government, I'm here to help." No one knows how many just give up when they realize there will just be more stupid hurdles endlessly. One civil servant saw nothing wrong with forcing people to rely on relatives, which should ensure that the really poor drag down the not-quite-so-poor.

Speaking of unfortunate relatives, Mark Thatcher, idiot son of Margaret, who made his money in illegal arms deals in the 1980s and security services in the US in the 1990s, has a new career: loan-sharking to the underpaid police and civil servants of South Africa, where he now lives.

Finally, for Bay Area residents: Channel 20's new owners are ditching the dogs. Boooo!

Sunday, August 09, 1998

Magic shoes

China hails sole survivor

Beijing: A Chinese soldier thrown high into the air when he stepped on a landmine near China's border with Vietnam survived unscathed thanks to the experimental boots he was wearing, the People's Daily said. A Chinese military university is testing the special protective footwear for mine clearers in the southwestern province of Yunnan, the site of thousands of mines left over from China's 1979 border war with Vietnam. (Reuters)

This story just baffles me. What sort of shoes are these? I'm picturing giant springs.

Friday, August 07, 1998

Fri, 7 Aug 1998

There's a story in tomorrow's London Times about a World War I soldier who got caught in a French town behind German lines and spent four years hiding in a cupboard.

Wednesday, August 05, 1998

Israel has banned the practice of posthumous circumcision.

A joint US/Russian military exercise that was supposed to involve a Marine landing at Vladivostok is halted, scared off by a bunch of old communists with red flags. Where is Tom Hanks when you need him?

Monday, August 03, 1998

Chanel no. 1

Daily Telegraph:
A ZIMBABWEAN man has been jailed for a month for bottling his urine and selling it as perfume.