Friday, May 26, 2000

Israel has pulled out of Lebanon. After Kosovo and Chechnya, it has decided that occupying armies are just so '80s; aerial bombardment is the new black. The head of the South Lebanese Army, which took all of 1.3 seconds to disintegrate after its masters left, said that he had thought they were allies and has now realized that Israel only cares about itself. I couldn't stop laughing for five minutes after I read that.

A Texas death-row inmate tried to sell seats to his execution on eBay, until he was caught at it. Oddly enough, no one was buying.

A "black box" has been developed for guns, in the first instance police guns, that will tell when and where it was shot and at what angle.

Sunday, May 21, 2000

The Israeli Supreme Court abolishes the law against women reading from the Torah at the Wailing Wall, formerly subject to 6 mos in prison.

A committee of the Arkansas Supreme Court votes to disbar Clinton. I guess it was a bad decision to have slept with all of their wives.

John Gielgud is dead at only 96. Dammit, he was still working, he was too young to die! It'll be interesting to see if the NY Times obit mentions that he was gay. Gielgud was known for gaffes, which may or may not have been. Seated next to the prime minister 50 years ago at a dinner, his opening conversational gambit was, "Where are you living now?" If history records Attlee's answer, I haven't seen it. Similarly, he once asked
Christopher Reeve what he was currently working on. Reeve was at a studio in London, and was wearing a red cape and a blue shirt with a big S on it. According to the Times obit, "If marble could speak, it would have sounded like Gielgud."

And if any of you only remember him from Arthur, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
One of those new regional leaders in Russia was the last member of the KGB to make an arrest for political crimes, in 1988.

Tony Blair's wife Cherie Booth has a baby. For those betting on "Leo," collect at once (the British will bet on anything). It seems that not only was Cherie's father an actor on the British prototype for All in the Family (I like to think playing Meathead, but I've never checked on this), but there were several other actors named Booth in her family tree, one of whom made a bit of a name for himself in 1865.

OK, so I revealed here a month or so back that the racial epithet used by whatever Texas official that was, was "porch monkeys" (which Kevin would really like to know to what that term refers) (that was terrible English, wasn't it?). Anyway, it seems that as a kid, Barbara Bush washed Dubya's mouth out with soap for using some racial epithet. Anyone care to find out which one?

In Britain, an animal rights group attacked a meat factory today, firebombing ten lorries. In non-animal rights circles, we call that a "barbeque."

Saturday, May 20, 2000

The ears that wear the crown

Prince Charles was speaking out this week against genetically modified foods. The victim of a botched genetics experiment himself, Charles said "And Monsanto is developing these huge ears of corn. What, what's everyone laughing about?"

13 members of the House voted for increased fuel efficiency standards for cars & SUVs, three hundred and some odd for freezing them, the lop-sidedness of the vote telling you something about how the guardians of our collective interest are no smarter than those acting from self-interest. As to vehicle safety, well, if you could buy a vehicle that increased the likelihood of having an accident in which you killed someone else ten-fold, while reducing the likelihood of death to your own children to zero, you might well consider that to be in your own interests, but the collective interests of society should compel government to stop you doing it. This is why we have a government. Incidentally, when you see the statistics about SUVs hitting smaller cars, you never see stats about what happens when SUVs hit each other--which would be a good start, if you ask me.

Can you tell I was nearly side-swiped yesterday?

Clinton is to forego his plans to address the nation on China trade tomorrow, realizing it would be easier just to bribe members of Congress.

The Sunday Times says that Israel started tapping Clinton's e-mail in 1998. Didn't Ken Starr say something along those lines too?

I mentioned a few days ago that Putin had organized Russia into 7 new regions. He has appointed the heads of those regions, 5 of whom are generals from the Chechen wars or KGB people, at least one famous for his treatment of dissidents. Bad treatment, that is.

Best book title of the day: Speak Clearly Into the Chandelier: Cultural Politics Between Britain and Russia, 1973-2000.

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Washington Post headline: "Fire Ruined 5 Historical A-Bomb Buildings".

In Britain, a "Champion for Older Persons" has been named, to advocate whatever for people over 50. He is, of course, 46, which makes him too young, he claims, to know why everyone is now referring to him as Champion the Wonder Horse.

So the IRA finally agrees, not to decommission its arms, but to put them beyond use, subject to inspections. It is the inspections bit that I don't think they've quite thought through. Since they are not giving up their arms, the inspectors must keep the locations secret. Now imagine a black South African, Cyril Ramaphosa, and the former president of Finland wandering around Ireland trying to look inconspicuous.

Vladimir Putin, who we still know very little about and so don't pay enough attention to, has just given his plan to tackle the problem of centrifugal forces. He is dividing the country into 7 regional districts, which precisely overlap with the military districts, with the same headquarters. Not very subtle, really.

The 100th birthday of the Queen Mum in August will be the first royal occasion to sell seats to corporate sponsors. Next they'll be putting Pepsi ads on her oversized hats.

Saturday, May 13, 2000

The Pakistani Supreme Court says that last year's coup was legal because the government was corrupt. I therefore feel legally justified in asserting that the current military government is corrupt and that I am now the King of Pakistan.

Los Alamos is on fire. The people of Hiroshima must be laughing their asses off.

A casino in Coachella Valley, wherever that might be (California is all I know, so it's obviously a reservation) has bought a defibrilator.

Chuck Quackenbush, the state's insurance commissioner, had a secret fund of nearly $2 million to fund tv commercials featuring Chuck Quackenbush right before his last election. One said that his department had a billion to return to Californians. He was referring to the assets of 86 failed insurance companies. The filing deadline had expired for 84 of them.

Sierra Leonean rebels are threatening to skin UN hostages alive. And they could do it, too.

Maureen Dowd describes Guliani as a charismatic, drink-the-Kool-Aid kind of leader.

A sumo wrestler is disqualified after his loin cloth falls off. Evidently that's against the rules.

In 1958 the Air Force investigated the possibility, since it was so far behind in the space race, of exploding a nuclear weapon on the moon. On the dark side, with the sun behind it, so that the mushroom cloud (would there be a mushroom cloud in a vacuum? Somehow I doubt it, but the reporter wasn't up on his physics) would be visible from earth. It would also have been a serious plastic surgery job on the Man in the Moon.

Speaking of which, there is an operation to stop blushing. Evidently it's a serious problem for some folks. By the way, I forget what they're calling it, but shyness seems to be the big new psychiatric growth market. You may have seen ads for drugs for this on tv. Anyway, stopping the flow of blood to the cheeks is not as easy as it sounds. It's actually controlled by something or other near the lungs, so this is major abdominal surgery.

A story about someone who collects collective nouns. In case you were wondering, which you weren't: a smuck of jellyfish, a grist of bees, a bale of turtles, a siege of herons.

Friday, May 12, 2000

It's a girl! India has its 1 billionth Indian-type person born today. Indian authorities say they can't imagine how their population keeps growing so rapidly. The girl, whose name I can't remember offhand, but it means faith in Hindi, was born this morning. Her engagement was announced this afternoon.

A town in Cornwall, drawing up a map to hand out to all the tourists, found out that one of its roads was called Cowshit Lane. They are deciding whether to include that on the map.

A long piece in the Friday Washington Post on Texas and the death penalty (hey hey GWB, how many kids did you kill today? [so it doesn't rhyme, shoot me, but not in Texas if you know what's good for you] Why, one, actually). That lawyer who kept falling asleep during trials? 12 of his clients have been executed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2000

The US Air Force tried to keep secret a report that says that in Kosovo NATO only hit 14 Serb tanks, while claiming 120, 18 armored personnel carriers, not 220, 20 artillery pieces not 450. This won't be a secret to you people, since I said the same thing last June. Newsweek got it this week.

NY Times Headline: Pilot's Rapid Descent Cited in Osprey Crash. That's pretty much the definition of a crash, isn't it?

The US plans to seek the death penalty for the embassy bombings in 1998 in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, although I'm pretty sure neither of those places were in the US. By the way, I wonder how the Sudanese pharmaceutical industry is recovering. The US is never going to admit it was wrong on that one, is it?

Speaking of never admitting you're wrong, Salon has a piece on a probably innocent person Texas is planning to execute next month. He was convicted on a) the fact that he's an asshole in general, b) an eye-witness who the police corrupted by showing a photo alone before they put it in a photo array, c) his alleged fellow-murderers. The fun part of the article is the way the latter kept having to change their testimony, under the direction of the police, when it was simply wrong. That car was proven to
be up on blocks the night of the murder? Well, then it must have been this other car. I said she was screaming but she was found with a gag on her mouth? Um, he must have gagged her after she was dead. And so on.

One detail: the Texas Parole and Pardons Board never actually meets, hold investigations, even has conference calls. They just rubber stamp every execution.

Finally, a report says that cockroaches and other bugs feel pain. The scientists seem to think this will change the way people deal with insects. They are wrong.

Tuesday, May 09, 2000

San Francisco bans discrimination against fat people, although "sizeism" probably includes people of other sizes and shapes as well. I predict a really tangled lawsuit when a fat person accidentally sits on a midget.

An op-ed piece in the Times notes that while Dubya brags about having ended social promotion, the kids it affects are now in kindergarten. By the way, isn't "social promotion" the perfect term to describe Dubya's whole career to date?

The Zimbabwe attacks on white farmers look like spreading to Kenya.

Had it not been for a sarcastic piece in The Onion, "NPR Listener
Concerned About Sierra Leone," I might have said something here about Sierra Leone, where UN peacekeepers, in another stunning demonstration of competence, today ran out of bullets.

From the table of contents page to the British news section of the London Times:

[26]Impotence 'doctor' is jailed for deception
Potentially dangerous drugs sold to vulnerable clients at inflated

Inflated...prices. Talk about adding insult to injury, huh?

Sunday, May 07, 2000

Zimbabwe just imported 21,000 AK-47s for distribution to the police and squatters. This should be a fun election.

The Italian police, living up to their reputation for competence, have failed to capture an escaped prisoner after 46 days. The prison is on an island 1 mile square, and he hasn't left it.

Britain is celebrating a little rock slide in Dover, which means that France is now officially 60 feet further away.

Wednesday, May 03, 2000

Bumper sticker: Jesus is Coming--Look Busy.

The French Foreign Legion is actively recruiting gays. Make of that what you will.

A nine-year old boy who is the leader of a children's peace group in Colombia goes on tv to call for peace. The next day he is kidnapped. A simple "no" would have sufficed.

At a witches' festival in the Czech Republic, some participants accidentally sort of set themselves on fire, just showing again that witches and bonfires don't go together that well.

Chutzpah of the week award: a woman sends her lover off to pretend to be her husband so that his insurance will cover impotence treatment.

A cute little thing in the Times says that Jesse Helms quietly snuck a provision into an unrelated bill a while back that allows the Senate rather than the president to decide if Russia has inherited the Soviet role in the ABM Treaty, so that at any time the Senate could simply annul it.

In California news with great entertainment value: 1) Willie Brown made a deal with the SF Examiner for editorial support if he let them buy the Chronicle without opposition, proving what we've always thought about the morals of both the Examiner and Willie Brown. 2) The flaming wreck that is the career of Chuck Quackenbush, the former next-Republican governor.