Friday, July 30, 1999

NASA sends up a probe to look at the asteroid Braille, flies it a million miles, and then finds that the camera is pointing in the wrong direction. Braille, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t write the jokes, I just live them.

Russia makes it legal to have stolen cars. But you’re supposed to go to the police and bribe them to have a special notice to put in the window saying “Wanted by Interpol”. After a year, you can legally re-sell the car. This is yet another opportunity for the police to extort bribes, although I can’t figure why that notice wouldn’t be an open invitation for someone else to steal the car. With something like 800,000 stolen cars in Moscow (out of how many? the papers didn’t say, but it sounds like 800,001), there’s just no storage room for recovered vehicles.

Similarly, traffic ticket extortion is so blatant in Mexico City that they ordered all police to stop issuing traffic tickets and left the job to a few--exclusively female--cops. Evidently that worked in Lima.

Tonga, whose entire income comes from selling Internet sites with its domain, has joined the UN, the 188th country. Can you name them all? In alphabetical order?

A site to check out:, which is just what it sounds like.

Wednesday, July 28, 1999

Don't screw with an Englishman's tea

China celebrates the end of the century by organizing a book-burning.

Sydney, Australia is to open a legal heroin-injecting room. It will be run by nuns. Presumably if you don’t shoot up just right, they rap your knuckles with a ruler.

So this clinical psychologist in Britain is arrested because the police wrongly think he’s involved in an attempted bombing. After six years of legal action, the jury refuses to award him £500,000 for unlawful arrest and imprisonment, but does give him £100 for two tea bags the cops used in his house and some washing-up liquid (evidently British cops wash up after themselves).

Tuesday, July 27, 1999

Tom Lehrer was right; satire is dead. Yesterday I was joking about China insisting that Taiwan is an isthmus. Today, it was insisting that the temperature in Beijing was 104 instead of 113 (they’d have to send people home if it hit 105).

The Washington Post has been serializing a biography of George Dubya this week, which is rather interesting. Highlights: not being told his sister was sick until she was dead (he was at boarding school), chewing tobacco at the Harvard Business School, dating Tricia Nixon (once), drunkenly challenging his father to a fight, checking the “I do not volunteer to go to Vietnam” box when joining the Texas National Guard. Today (Wednesday, that is) focuses on his military record. My favorite sentence is that the colonel “who twice had himself photographed with Bush said his status [as son of a Congressman] ‘didn’t cut any ice.’” Bush himself of course says that he just wanted to be a pilot, which raises the question, does he have a civilian pilot license today, I mean, if he likes piloting so much? Also, does two years of pilot training mean he was a slow learner? Also, he learned to fly the F-102. Was the son of a Congressman deliberately assigned an obsolete plane due to be retired to make sure he’d never go to Vietnam?

2nd favorite story from the Onion today, “Dog Urine Lowers Heart-Attack Risk, say Snickering Researchers.” My favorite follows:

The Onion * 28 July 1999

Focus On Language

NEW YORK--According to a report released Monday by the Modern Language Association, speakers of the Star Trek-based Klingon language outnumber individuals fluent in Navajo by a margin of more than seven-to-one. ...

Monday, July 26, 1999

South America is gradually turning back into banana republic land. Venezuela just elected a Constitutional Assembly that will give Hugo “I am Venezuela” Chavez the authority to take all power into his hands and secure a second term. That will make Venezuela the third country down there, after Peru and Bolivia, to actually vote in a dictator knowing full well what they were getting.

Evidently kings in Morocco are supposed to be married, so the new king quickly got himself engaged right before going to dad’s funeral.

It didn’t make it into the newspapers at the time, but the police in Hawthorne California, last year shot a guy 106 times. Unlike the guy in NY this year, he was at least armed (with an air pistol), but like NY, the more frightening fact is how many of the bullets missed. One went through several walls and came to rest two blocks away on the bed of a teenage girl. We have to take these over-powered guns away from the cops.

The Burmese have arrested a dissident, a girl aged three, whose father they failed to catch.

If we’re going to have armageddon before the end of the year and make all those Christians happy, it’s likely to come out of Asia. US satellite information said back in May that India was making preparations to invade Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, and of course both those countries are nuclear powers. China today claimed the ability to fire a ballistic missile from nuclear submarines and directly threatened any country that comes to the aid of Taiwan, which not only hasn’t taken back last week’s declaration that it is a nation, but is rumored to be planning another announcement to the effect that it is an island. China, which insists that Taiwan is an isthmus, has threatened massive nuclear bombardment. And North Korea is about to test a missile. On the positive front, the US has decided to forgive Vietnam and normalize trade relations.

Saturday, July 24, 1999

Who says academics aren't practical?

So the Pentagon has taken to ignoring the whole appropriations process and just spending any damned money it feels like. See, it’s that wasteful bureaucracy (i.e., Congress) that makes everything so expensive, like that Comanche helicopter they’ve stuck so much crap on that it can’t actually get off the ground.

Environmentalist extraordinaire Al Gore appears for a photo op on the Connecticut river in New Hampshire, and to make sure that his boat was stable they opened the dam sluices, released 4 billion gallons of water and raised the river 10 inches. In an area with drought warnings.

An interesting letter to the NY Times about last week’s Religious Freedom Act or whatever it was called that prevents the state putting an undue burden on religious practice (I mentioned this when it passed the House). The letter-writer says that if a Christian denies her a job because she’s a lesbian, she must have the right to go into court and say that Christianity doesn’t actually justify discrimination, and isn’t that just the sort of argument that shouldn’t take place in a court of law. Well, unless they accept that *my* religion (Zen Odin-worship) permits me to break the speed limit and never pay taxes or anything else I damned well want, then religion itself must be evaluated by courts of law. Good luck.

A guy who graduated from the University of Leicester with an MA (or MSc depending on which British paper you read) in criminology, the next day held up a building society. The manager gave chase and disarmed him (actually the gun was a fake, but the manager didn’t know that) by kicking him in the bollocks. He was sentenced to life today. If anybody has any connections in Leicester, I want to know what this guy’s thesis was on.

Tuesday, July 20, 1999

Castro sues US for the 637 assassination attempts against him. And those are just the ones *he* knows about!

Last week the California prison guards’ union spent enough in campaign contributions to defeat a bill to remove the ability to prosecute prison guards from the counties to the state attorney general. Several county DA’s have said that their offices don’t have the resources to penetrate the wall of silence. The poor schmuck who was DA of King County, home of Corcoran with its gladiator games and weekly shootings, only got one brutality case to court, whereupon the union poured a fortune into his opponent’s campaign funds and turned him out of office. Of the many unjustified shootings, none has resulted in a prosecution in the last decade.

Welsh devolution is beginning to go a little weird. Druids from Brittany want British citizenship because of French discrimination against Celtics. Others moving into Wales: the KKK, which is suddenly quite big. Wales is as ethnically diverse as Minnesota, which is why the Klan thinks it can create ethnic no-go areas. Previously, the only sign of ethnic conflict was that an awful lot of weekend homes owned by Londoners tended to have mysterious fires.

Rio de Janero drivers are allowed to run red lights at night, given the recent spurt of carjackings.

Israeli PM Barak is in the US to declare that after a few thousand years of hostilities, he’s setting a deadline of 15 months in which to create everlasting peace. Also, he wants to buy 50 fighter-bombers.

After being missing a few centuries, Dante’s ashes turned up in a library.

Kelantan, the only strictly Islamist state in Malaysia, has ordered its civil service not to hire any pretty women.

In 1944, the US had a plan to exchange German nationals who had been in Latin America for Jews with South American passports in concentration camps. Foreign Minister and later PM Anthony Eden vetoed it, as he was afraid the Jews would go to Palestine.

Friday, July 16, 1999


I’m reliably informed that a new word in the English language connotes people who reinvent themselves to appeal to the crowd, as for example Hillary Clinton. The word is “panderella”. Use it in a sentence today.

On the other hand, not everyone is so flexible. Monica Lewinsky’s latest boyfriend is trying to break up with her, but she keeps showing up at his office, bringing unwanted gifts, etc etc.

George Dubbya’s refusal to accept federal funds and spending limits means, according to the papers, that after the primaries are over, he’ll have tons of money and Gore will be broke. Horse puckey! The same thing was said about Dole in 96, when he was supposed to have gone broke defeating Forbes. Gore will a) use soft money, b) break the law. Everyone does it. It was recommended by FEC staff that both the Dole and Clinton campaigns be heavily fined after 1996 for their violations, but the FEC is toothless and it never happened. If it does, what do they care? If they default on the fine, they ain’t going to jail, and if they become president, they’ll have plenty of money.

Gray Davis wants the UC and CalState systems to require community service for graduation. I recommend that UCLA students go to the poor parts of LA to teach literacy to the disadvantaged USC students. CalState Humboldt students can unionize the workers on the vast marijuana fields. I could go on all day. Any suggestions for what, say, UCSC students could do? All entries must be in by August 8th, void where prohibited.

New laws: South Carolina has banned the sale of urine. Maryland students caught making bombs will lose their driving licenses (if they can’t drive, then they convert that car into a mighty fine explosive device, no?). Georgia has legalized public breast-feeding. And a judge in Alabama has struck down the law against vibrators [You’ll get my vibrator when you pry it from my cold]

Thursday, July 15, 1999

One of those military grunts they stick at the bottom of a missile silo with his finger on the button of a Minuteman missile is a Catholic with a serious complaint: they’re letting girls in. He is suing so that he doesn’t have to be stuck in a small space with women. I don’t imagine he’d be a lot of fun in the fallout shelter either.

The 11th Circuit says that it is ok to have student prayers on school PA systems. The 11th Circuit is wrong.

Congress passes 306-118 a religious rights bill that will probably lead to as many idiocies as it solves. One of my favorite of the latter: a Penn. town that refused zoning permission to an Orthodox temple because it didn’t have a parking lot. Orthodox Jews, of course, being famous for driving to temple on a Saturday. Then the temple said it would build a parking lot, and was again turned down, because it would create traffic jams. As stupid as that is, the bill will eliminate the ability of locals to apply zoning regulations to churches at all, which isn’t right either.

Teenager logic: there is a 15-year old in England who would rather die than have a heart transplant, because that would make her “different from other people.” A court ordered the transplant anyway.

I’d like to see a State department official tied to a chair and be made to explain the logic of the One China policy. It seems to boil down to, “Don’t fuck with the Chinese, they’re crazy”, but so are the Serbs and pretty much everyone else in the world except the boring old Swedes. I personally don’t think the Chinese are quite as thin-skinned as they pretend to be, and that they’re just pulling Nixon’s old “mad bomber” tactic, successfully, on the rest of the world. The US is still apologizing for bombing its embassy in Belgrade, which I’d have stopped after the tenth kow-tow on the general principle that there is a limit to how many times the Chinese should be allowed to call us liars and still be treated as the victim. Speaking of crazy Chinese, today they responded to Taiwan’s announcement by proclaiming that they now have the neutron bomb, indicating that they want to re-unify with Taiwan but don’t particularly care if there are any Taiwanese left when they do it.

There is going on, on the beaches of the German Baltic, what the Times (or the Telegraph?) call a new cold war, between nudists from the old East Germany--who knew? but evidently there grew up quite a nudist culture in the bad old days--and the West German tourists who are trying to take over the vacation spots of the old East, and are prudes. Naked Germans, let that be the last thought before you go to sleep tonight and see what sort of dreams you have.

Wednesday, July 14, 1999

The US has gotten WTO permission to put sanctions on Europe for not taking our hormone-stuffed beef. The Europeans are cranky at having American chemistry experiments shoved down their throats (of course, when my mother was taken off hormones in May, she got pretty cranky too, so maybe that explains it). Personally, I’d allow the stuff, but with the biggest, gaudiest warning labels, with pictures of test tubes and skull-and-crossboneses. Next up: genetically modified foods, something which bothers the Americans so little that the FDA doesn’t even test the stuff, just asks the companies to promise nicely that they are safe.

Almost along the same lines, see today’s Molly Ivins column on the US pressure campaign on African countries not to make generic versions of the American-developed AIDS drugs they can’t afford to buy (although they can get them if they don’t mind being guinea pigs for untested drugs).

So George Dubya bought and sold a house never noticing the covenant that only allows white people to live it in (except for servants, who can be any race). It’s that attention to details that he plans to bring to the White House.

Senator Bob Smith drops out of the Republican party for purposes of the presidential elections but expects to keep all his senatorial committee assignments. It seems to me that if you quit a party, you quit a party. He may run under the Taxpayers’ Party, a party of people who don’t want to be taxpayers.

The Northern Irish peace plan collapsed, as I long predicted. Some day I’ll predict doom and be wrong; won’t my face be red then!

Aaran Lapin, the inventor of Reddi-wip, dies. Whipped cream in a spray can, the man was a genius I tell you, a genius!

Sunday, July 11, 1999

A woman Clinton didn’t have sex with! Maybe!

Well, the DNA tests say that little Danny Williams still doesn’t have a father. So were the big papers justified in never mentioning the story? Well, until the tests came in, it was just he said/she said, same as Paula Jones, same as Anita Hill.

Paul Wellstone says that he can’t run for president after all, because he has a bad back. Hey buddy, so did John F. Kennedy! It seems an odd reason not to run (or would seem so, if I didn’t have a bad back myself), but if we look back to what I said about John Ashcroft last week, I’ll bet the bad back line is a tactical move to defuse his decision being attributed to an overly active sex life. Not that that stopped JFK in that department either. Wimp!

At least with Elizabeth Dole, who is now the Republican front-runner by the way, Congress can keep her on a leash by threatening to ban Viagra.

Thursday, July 08, 1999

Florida tried out its new electric chair. It didn’t set anyone on fire this time, but the guy (who went from wheelchair to electric chair) did have a major nosebleed. Oh, and he died.

The Washington Post says that oral sex is really big among 13-yr olds and up in this country right now.

NY Times headline: “Corpse is Found on Whale”. If they’d added “naked corpse,” which the guy was, it would have been even more interesting.

Clinton is the first president to visit a reservation since 1936.

So George Dubya used his dad’s influence to get into a National Guard unit he was hopelessly unqualified for. Of course almost none of his opponents went to Vietnam either, and some like Gary Bauer still haven’t put together a story to explain it. I can’t wait. Pat Robertson had a bad knee, didn’t he? Bradley had to play basketball. Quayle & Forbes were also in the Guard. And Orrin Hatch was exempt from WW2 because a brother died.

Russian troops are finally allowed into Kosovo. In a compromise that has the smell of Clinton all over it, they will be under NATO command, but they won’t actually have to follow any orders they don’t like. A lot like the position of the presidential candidates in relation to Vietnam.

Saturday, July 03, 1999

A tabloid newspaper I saw on line in Safeway (I was on line, not the newspaper) said that John the Baptist’s severed head has been discovered after 2,000 years. I didn’t read the story, but I’m betting it’s been in a college dorm somewhere, made into a bong.

I said the Northern Ireland peace deal would fail, and it has, but no one really feels like going back to war either. It’s foundering on the fact that Sinn Fein has to pretend that it doesn’t speak for the IRA, while the Unionists say that an agreement with SF is silly if they don’t. They’re basically waiting until they can find some form of words by which SF will guarantee decommissioning, at which point they can say “Ha, we knew it all along, you are all just a bunch of terrorists.” Sheesh.

The pusillanimity of the American press is boundless. Both the NY Times and the Washington Post mention that the bald eagle is off the endangered species list, McNeil-Lehrer even showed film of the photo op, but no one even mentioned, much less showed, the eagle biting Clinton on the hand.

Also, in the obits of former Tory party grandee and adviser to Margaret Thatcher, the Viscount Willie Whitelaw, all the British papers, but not the NY Times, quoted Thatcher saying of him, “Every prime minister needs a Willie.”

Privatizing Medicare has worked wonderfully, hasn’t it? I mean, the whole future of the program collapsed this week, but all the reporters are on holiday or something. The HMOs that are supposed to run this program for us just threw 250,000 old people out of their plans and raised the premiums on the rest enough to force many more out.

Speaking of which, Blue Cross just raised my premiums by 1/8. Do you *know* how sick I’ll have to get this year to make sure that they don’t make any money off me?

Another under-reported story: the Indonesian military, disguised as “anti-independence militias,” just terrorized the UN election monitors right out of East Timor. They’ve already forced a postponement from the highly auspicious original date for the referendum of August 8.

The US, displaying that sensitive diplomacy that worked so well in Kosovo, has simply ordered Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania to refuse permission to Russia to fly troops to Kosovo over their airspaces unless it gives in and puts its troops under NATO command. I did say that it was our plan to negotiate their role forever while quietly excluding them.

A lesson for America: New Zealand has a rating and censorship system for computer and video games, so there are all these censors sitting in rooms trying to figure out how to get into Level 8 to see if there’s anything objectionable there.