Friday, November 30, 2001

The Olympics people have asked the world to please stop all violence during the Olympics, just like they did in the ancient world. That'll work. They also reminded Muslims that Mormons enjoyed polygamy too.

The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that private corporations operating prisons can’t be sued for constitutional violations.

Did you know that the president's hairdresser is an Afghan? The daughter of a former prime minister, too.

Headline in Daily Telegraph: Ecstasy Worse for Women. I foresee a new feminist cause (this works if you're talking about the drug or just regular ecstasy).

The Department of Justice is now offering free citizenship to people who pass on information about terrorists. Guys, the Legion of Honor, a knighthood, whatever, but citizenship is not some sort of door prize.

Justice is also going to (or already is) secret let the INS set aside release orders issued by federal immigration judges.

The Supreme Court hears a case about Kansas’s policy of taking away prison privileges of sex offenders who don’t “take responsibility” in a therapy program, for crimes they weren’t caught for--while attached to polygraphs, and without immunity.

The Washington Post points out rather depressingly how many of the Bush administration officials who were forced to divest themselves of investments saved a fortune when they dumped their Enron stock (currently worth $.36) for $50 a share.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

It's always nice as a historian to see evidence of the historical attention-span of the US, and again today the NY Times & Washington Post fail to carry a story found in the Times of London, that between 1954 and 1973 the US army used 7th Day Adventist conscientious objectors as guinea pigs in biological warfare experiments.

Bush threatens Iraq, which his Right wants to be the next target, if it doesn’t admit UN inspectors.

The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (that's its pope) has appeared in an ad for an oil company.

Excuse of the week: Ashcroft's claim that he's keeping the list (and numbers) of detainees secret to protect their privacy rights. It would be bad enough if he had said to protect their privacy, but he actually said their right to privacy. Of course, there's no place more private than a prison where you're being held secretly without charge (remember that next time you're planning to get away from it all).

Safire's column yesterday talked about those 8 Germans tried by Bush-like military tribunal during WW II. It seems one of them actually called the FBI after he was put ashore, but they ignored him, and he called again until they believed him. The secret trial was to prevent this becoming known. FDR planned to resist the Supreme Court if it tried to give them a real trial, but this was the Court that allowed Japanese internment, so not much hope of that. I presume that just because Bush "orders" that there be no appeal from the tribunals to a real court, that isn't anything the courts actually have to take any cognizance of (although Congress could do it), but perhaps someone with a law degree will correct me if I'm wrong?

Here's a story you'd really like to see videotape of: 3 farmers were trying to kill a pig in Hungary. The first one electrocutes himself, whereupon the second has a fatal heart attack (the first one died too), and the third injures himself with the stun gun. The pig survived, and is laughing its ass off.

At the annual Royal Variety Show, which as it sounds is a variety show, the cast of the musical version of the Full Monty performed a bit. Yes, they showed the queen their penises.

After reading that story in the Times, I was a little alarmed when I went to the Daily Telegraph and saw a headline Queen to Exhibit Hidden Royal Treasures.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

There's nothing like reading several newspapers to make sure you have no idea what's going on. The New York Times says that Yemen is joining the fight against terrorism; the Times of London says Yemen's going to be one of the next targets, along with Sudan and Somalia.

A South Korean prisoner of war escapes from North Korea after 50 years. Not exactly Steve McQueen, is he?

Pakistan sends planes to evacuate its pro-Taliban forces from Afghanistan. Obviously with US permission.

The British royal family is giving an insight into the weird habits of British education. Prince William avoided (or did he?) a tradition at St Andrew's that involves heavy drinking and a shaving cream fight. Prince Harry played a traditional Eton game called The Wall, whose rules several newspapers devoted what seemed like pages to trying to explain. The game ended this year without a goal being scored. There hasn't been a goal scored in something like 90 years.

A major scandal at the journal Human Immunology, which published an article proving that Jews and Palestinians from the Middle East are genetically pretty much the same, so that the Jews are not a distinct people. The author got fired off the staff and the journal has written to university libraries suggesting they just rip those pages out.

Indeed, I keep seeing these stories about censorship in academia and I'm just so thrilled I can't tell you. By the way, did I mention what a great job George W. Bush is doing? One group compiling a blacklist is called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, on whose board sits Lynne Cheney.

The NY Times mentioned a couple of days ago that there is a site with a "Rapture Index," where they put a numerical value to the likelihood of the world ending on any given day. Evidently September 24 was a record.

At the you can find a page called Sunday Surfer which has links to various websites in which you can find out your pirate name, your Sopranos mob name, your Oz prison bitch name, what Mr T. would call you, and so on.

The tv show Big Brother has reached Russia, where they're too drunk to notice the irony. Also, it has a different name there. So here's the skinny: Margo started fooling around with Olga, including showering with her. Olga was voted off the show, so she went after Alexander (more showering). His girlfriend got upset so he had to leave the show to make up with her. Margo has had sex with Max a couple of times now, and if you wanted confirmed what you always thought about Russian sex: 63 seconds.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

I only realized after I sent out the last e-mail how amusing it is that the news that Bush cut refugee quotas was reported (indeed, hidden) in the Thanksgiving newspapers. Now that's irony!

Speaking of irony, Bush gave a speech yesterday saying that women should be involved in any new Afghan government, which he said should be "broadly-based."

This week, Rummy Rumsfeld has said that he wants bin Laden dead rather than alive, that the US troops in Afghanistan have orders to take no prisoners, and that the foreign Islamists in Afghanistan shouldn't be allowed to leave the country. Mark those speeches as exhibits one, two and three at a war crimes trial, if there were any justice in this world, which there is not. I've grown to really really dislike Rumsfeld, so much so that I just split an infinitive and I don't even care. I hate his voice; I hate his smug face; I hate his suits.

If it's good enough for the US, it's good enough for the rest of the world, at least when it comes to destroying human rights. India's Hindu nationalist government, the NY Times says, is implementing anti-terrorism legislation exactly modeled on ours, indefinite detention and all. So, according to the British press, is Zimbabwe's increasingly mad president Mugabe. More to come there.

Before I forget, a congratulations to the Portland police force for resisting FBI requests to hassle foreigners on little if any evidence.

I've been meaning to talk about the religious war this isn't supposed to be for some time. It's not a war against Islam, we hear over and over. Of course it is, it's just less clear who the other side is supposed to be, and that lack of clarity suggests why Islam is bit by bit winning the war. It isn't Christianity against Islam, although for some people it certainly is, including I'd venture to say Ashcroft and Bush. But the anti-Islamic side is too diverse for that, and I'm not talking about Israel (which responded to Powell's toned-down speech on the Middle East by firing shells into a school and simultaneously destroying Palestinian housing in a refugee camp yet while reinforcing the settlements), but China, which took advantage of the excuse for another major crackdown that noone's paying attention to, the Philippines, Russia and the Central Asian republics which are always happy to kick some Islamist ass, and on and on. These countries are defending the nation-state against an Islam which is either separatist or trans-national. The only nation-state really holding its own against militant Islam is Turkey, and it won't last forever, and it accomplishes it largely through coercion, by shutting down cultural forms and by forcing Islamic head-dress off of women by the same force the Taliban used to put it on. The problem is, in the ideological fight between militant Islam and the nation-state, only one seems actually to stand for anything. What did Algeria stand for as a nation when it abolished elections the Islamists were going to win? Or Turkey, stand for anything. What did Algeria stand for as a nation when it abolished elections the Islamists were going to win? Or Turkey, really? What are the values deployed by the Russian state to win over people attracted to a political Islam? And how about America? Bush told us all to stand up to the terrorists by shopping, but forgot to suggest that people stand up to the terrorists by voting in the states and localities that had elections this month. And this is America, which is supposed to be a model. You know how the US is a model, don't you? It's vain and self-centered and has big fake tits. It's the reason we don't have to practice what we preach and don't have to spend much of anything on foreign aid, compared to other industrial countries, and do all the horrible things we do in the world. Because we're a model, dammit, and it's our job to do whatever we want to do while the rest of the world looks on in admiration.

Speaking of big fake tits, enjoy your turkey, and pass me the white meat.
Hatred of refugees continues to increase. John Howard was re-elected as prime minister of Australia on a platform of beating up refugees. The new Danish government's slogan will be Keep Denmark Blonde and Bland. And, oh yes, Bush just cut the refugee quota for this country by another 10,000.

Fuzzy math: stories in the NY Times Wednesday & Washington Post Thursday about the persistence of the number of 5,000 dead for September 11, although the real number is nowhere near that high.

Fuzzier math: what is this "reward of up to $25 million" for bin Laden. Is that like, "You are already a winner, you've either won $25 million or fries"?

Speaking of bait and switch, Bush, who promised that half of that $40 billion would go to NY, decided that the city only deserved $9 billion, now $11 billion after complaints from NY Republican congresscritters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

The great communicationizer

Headline in today's NY Times "Bush Offers Public Defense of Military Tribunals Order." Bush said: "To the critics, I say I made the absolute right decision."

OK, it's terrible grammar, but what an argument, huh?

Sunday, November 18, 2001

So does anyone believe that the US bombing of the Al-Jazeera transmitter was an accident? And why is there no one objecting to it?

I forgot to follow up on that congressman John Cooksey of Louisiana, who made the comment about people with diapers on their heads 2 months back. Coming from the state he's coming from, y'all may have thought he was a hick in a pickup truck, and he may well be. But he's also an eye surgeon.

One of the Guardian's columnists, I think one I've forwarded pieces by before on the US and Afghanistan, says she's getting a lot of hate mail from the US and is happy about the quantity of salt water between her and them. And then does it again. She says that the US, subordinating everything else to its efforts re bin Laden and making deals with the unsavory Northern Alliance, is treating the entire country of Afghanistan as collateral damage.

There was a story in the Sunday Times of London about pro-anorexia websites, but I've been unable to find them. They defend anorexia as a lifestyle choice and give advice about how to hide it from your parents. Anyone know about this? One site originates in Stanford and there was some reference to "Goddess Anna." As a movement, they may or may not be called the Starving Annas. I don't know what that means, but a google search suggests an unusual array of celebrities whom some people care to designate as goddesses.

Slapstick will never die as long as there are cats. As pissed as I am at Turquoise for bringing in that mouse 24 days ago and losing it, I'm certainly enjoying watching her try to catch it again. She finally succeeded Friday. And lost it again. Today she actually touched it with her paw. And lost it. The cartoons once again did not lie to us: mice are smarter than cats.

Saturday, November 17, 2001

John Mortimer, the author of Rumpole of the Bailey and whatnot, aged 78, has been discovering Tantric sex. His favorite position is The Plumber: you stay in all day but nobody comes.

89 Senators sign a letter telling Bush not to criticize Israel.

Laura Bush gives the weekly radio address today, on the subject of how badly the Taliban treated women. I'm guessing she just found out about it.

Never has the CIA/military lost control of its clients so rapidly as in Afghanistan, where the warlords are already telling us to get lost so they can get on with their looting and score-settling. Funny, they were so courteous to their guests when it was bin Laden et al, but all of a sudden the US and British military are being treated like a flatulent mother-in-law....

Friday, November 16, 2001

The US mysteriously gets its aid workers/missionaries back from Afghanistan, and every newspaper has a different version of how it happened. Mark my words now, because there will be an I told you so later: we paid ransom to someone. No question in my mind.

Radio Sharia has changed its name to Radio Afghanistan and has broadcast the voice of a woman for the first time in 5 years, the slut.

Music can also now be heard, although as the Daily Show pointed out, they are 5 years behind the times and still like the macarena.

Speaking of crap music, Dubya forced Putin to listen to a concert of country music. Shortly after that, for some reason, any chance of a deal on Son of Star Wars disappeared.

Evidently that story about the Arab who wanted to learn to fly a plane but not to take off or land was a complete falsification. Too good a story to check the facts.

If the US does go ahead with that military court thing, the only method of execution open to it is firing squad.

The Dems have changed the rules on primaries, allowing more early
primaries so that candidates with more money will sew up the nomination more quickly. And somehow, California will be screwed again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

So Gore won Florida after all. Bush is so protected from the press, and the press so lapdoggy, that I wouldn't be surprised if we never hear his reaction. (Several good pieces of analysis in Slate)

Speaking of democracy, Israel decided to strip an MP of immunity and prosecute him for speech-crimes. I wish they'd stop pretending to be a democracy. By the way, the deputy is not only an Arab, as the American media seem to be willing to report, but a Christian, which for whatever reason they are not.

Still speaking of democracy, Nicaragua obeyed American instructions and did not return Daniel Ortega to the presidency. You did know that the US had been threatening reprisals if the Nicaraguans made the wrong choice, didn't you? If you didn't, thanks again to the American media, which will also shortly forget that there was ever a country named Afghanistan.

Congratulations, on the other hand, to John Simpson, who marched into Kabul and claimed it for the BBC. Simpson earlier snuck into Afghanistan in a burka. He was also the one in Baghdad 10 years ago who was reporting while outside his window a cruise missile took a left turn at a stoplight, and generally has this incredible deathwish that's made him so interesting to watch. Evidently he started out his career in 1970 by being hit in the stomach by Harold Wilson. The Guardian ran a bio in tomorrow's paper (grammatically incorrect, factually correct, sorry) as well as stories of war reporters past, the ones who went onshore in Normandy, the first reporter into Paris in 1944 (Ernest Hemingway, who liberated the Travellers Club, the Ritz and 50 martinis), and Marguerite Higgins of AP, who liberated Dachau in 1944, literally, she arrived before any troops and got 22 SS to surrender to her.

It seems that Kim Philby was originally recruited by the KGB to
assassinate Franco.

Well, I said that the last thing Bush wanted was what he insisted two months ago was the only thing he wanted, the trial of bin Laden. I was wrong, but only because I was thinking of a trial as something that involved evidence, a jury and rule by law. Silly me. He actually plans military tribunals behind closed doors and preferably in some foreign country, with evidence kept secret (if there is any). Evidently military tribunals have been used before, for example to execute 8 German saboteurs put ashore in 1942, and to execute the alleged accomplices of John Wilkes Booth. The latter is generally considered to have been a travesty of justice, so it's probably about right. By the way, the criterion for somebody having to go before a military rather than a real court is a "finding" by the president that they are a member of a terrorist organization. In other words, they have already been found guilty without a trial, by a process that violates the separation of powers.

Time will tell what really happened in Afghanistan this week. Rout, or strategic retreat? The Northern "Alliance" now occupies too much territory, too many cities, and has nothing to spare to go on the offensive. It has also shattered the international "alliance" which opposes the Taliban but doesn't think much of them. Still, did anyone really think there was going to be a broad coalition in power? About as likely as the plans being floated by the US and Britain for occupation of Kabul by the UN or by Muslim nations only. And the Taliban still have those US missionaries. The one thing Bush has done right is not to talk about them at all. Maybe he learned one thing from his father about not paying off kidnappers.

Sunday, November 11, 2001

Burundi is currently detaining a suspected spy--a stork with monitoring device.

As bad as John Aschroft is, when he introduced internment without trial, he at least didn't use the occasion to denounce "air fairy civil liberties" like British Home Secretary David Blunkett.
If you're looking for humor, that'll be the next e-mail.

I must report two deaths, that of Joe "Spud" M, well you'll have to look up the name if you give a shit, or I'll have to learn how to read my own handwriting. He's the inventor of the cheese and onion potato chip. And Ken Kesey, who probably felt the need for munchies on more than one occasion, if you catch my drift.

OK, I warned you: in South Africa, a 9-month old is gang raped because, as we all know, that's a cure for AIDS.

The war continues, and bombing continues, three weeks after the Pentagon said it had bombed everything worth bombing. So are they bombing worthless shit, or did all the first bombs miss? You be the judge, because they aren't talking. The Morons' War is getting more and more moronic, more and more unrelated to its ostensible aims. And the US, which started out self-obsessed, has just gotten more so. Even normally intelligent people, like William Saletan of Slate, are writing that the Taliban is to blame for the US bombing civilians, because they position tanks and anti-aircraft weapons amongst civilians. Under what scenario would anyone make it easy for their weaponry to be targeted? In what sense did the fact that the US decided to bomb a country obligate that country to make it easy? Bush today told the UN that it was everyone else's "duty" to help us in our war, which looks increasingly like our war despite efforts to pretend it was everyone's war. And he also said that other countries can't pick and choose between terrorists. Oh really? Here are ours:
November 11 2001 TERRORISM

THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE'S CRUEL HISTORY: Mujaheddin write their name in blood

Jon Swain, Peshawar
In a macabre ritual known as "dead men dancing", victims' heads were chopped off. Petrol was then pumped into their necks and set alight as the blood spurted out and the bodies jerked about in their death throes.

In Afghanistan, rape, mutilation and torture have been rife over the past decade. The skinning alive of victims has been a particular favourite of warring groups, along with the roasting of prisoners in containers left in the desert sun.

The Afghan warlord whose perverted mind dreamt up the "dead man
dancing" routine was Abdul Ali Mazari, a leader of the Hazaras, Afghanistan's Persian-speaking ethnic minority. Mazari headed a group called Hizb-i-Wahdat, which is now a key part of the Northern Alliance, the loose confederation of militias that is the spearhead in Afghanistan of America's and Britain's war on terrorism.


Friday, November 09, 2001

Russia has reintroduced the concept of the closed city. Cancel your winter vacation plans to visit Norilsk.

Health officials say that they may never completely sterilize the Hart Senate Office Building. Nor will they ever get out that old man Strom Thurmond smell.

Bush ended yesterday's speech "My fellow Americans: Let's roll." Oh good, now he thinks he's in a '70s cop show.

Thursday, November 08, 2001

Gored by a gnu

I was in the public library today reading microfilm when a gaggle of let's say 10-year olds wandered into the room. One of them asked me what I was doing and I said that I was reading a newspaper from 1872. "That's crazy!" one of them exclaimed.

It hasn't made the American press, but Ariel Sharon says that he wants another 1 million Jewish immigrants to Israel. It's not clear where he thinks he'll find that many. Argentina? The US?

In a Spanish animal park, a keeper is gored to death by a gnu. I don't have anything to say about that, but isn't it a great phrase? Gored by a gnu. Say it out loud. Gored by a gnu. Makes you feel good just to say it.

The Justice Department has decided to listen in on conversations between federal inmates and their lawyers. Terrorism, you know. It is against the lawyers' code of professional responsibility to speak with a client without confidentiality, so these people have been effectively stripped of their right to counsel. Or at least ethical counsel.

Gored by a gnu.

A newspaper ad is now running asking "What do Saddam Hussein and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Have in Common? Neither Man wants America to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

That's like so September 10.

I'm informed that that last phrase is now in among the teenagers.

Palm Beach County is auctioning off its voting machines. I assume the lower bid wins. Ba dum BUM.

That undisclosed location Cheney went off to: he's been shooting

Gored by a gnu.

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Combover theater

You can tell how much Bush is worried about support dropping off for the Moron's Crusade: he's starting to claim that bin Laden is trying to go nuclear. This is precisely the same claim his father introduced several weeks into the War to Make the World Safe for Feudalism, when public support for going to the rescue of the oil shieks of Kuwait had failed to develop.

Saw Satan, I mean Henry Kissinger, being interviewed on ITN yesterday on how we should bomb the crap out of Afghanistan. You understand this is the man who until recently was employed by Unocal to try to get the US to recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan.

Remember those pictures of baby seals being clubbed to death back in the '70s? If you're like most people, your reaction was "Where can I sign up for that?" The answer may be coming: the Norwegian minister of fisheries has suggested turning the seal hunt into a tourist industry.

I just saw a book ad for "Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset."

Sunday, November 04, 2001

The Sunday Washington Post has a couple of worthwhile articles, one analyzing the detainees, and how the government is using detention as a tool, the other on the eroding line between law enforcement and intelligence-gathering, the very thing I was complaining a week or more ago about no one talking about. Better late than never. Also worth leading, the Seymour Hersh article in the New Yorker, "King's Ransom," available online, about Saudi Arabia's instability and US policy through the years. One thing it says which I kind of assumed, but it's nice to have confirmed, is that the Saudis asked us to restrain the CIA from operating there and that it complied, with results that should be obvious. Tom Friedman wrote a week or so back that in the 1980s they asked the US to recall an ambassador who was actually speaking to Saudi people. We took the hint and never since have we sent an ambassador who speaks Arabic. Ya know, all Afghanistan ever did to us was give sanctuary to someone we don't like. Saudi has a much higher population of those, and provides most of the money.

It's not just t-shirts that are a problem in the schools. I'm so glad I'm not a parent, I'd be in a constant state of outrage. Evidently it's now quite common to use drug-sniffing dogs on the students, just have the dog go up and down the rows.

Evidently bin Laden's "Afghan Arabs" all expect to die. One preparation they've been making is buying husbands for their sisters and daughters, by which I mean going into an Afghan village one night, asking who wants a wife, and giving him some money for promising to protect her. Like a fairytale romance, isn't it? Some of them are quite young, of course. Good luck with the rest of your lives, girls.

Saturday, November 03, 2001

People in New York have been buying canaries lately. To warn of poison gas attacks.

The NY Times says that of the 1,100+ detained by the Justice Department, most were actually arrested and released. Leading to the conclusion that Justice, which has miserably failed in all its terrorism investigations, is so anxious to look like it's doing something that it's willing to imply that it's been setting up gulags packed full of aliens. For the same reason, Ashcroft gratuitously insisted that 3 of the detainees had advance notice of the attacks, which Justice then had to deny.

Bin Laden sent out another videotape today, and you wouldn't know it from CNN, Bush's little lap dog. I saw it on the BBC world news. Evidently this is a holy war between Muslims and Christians. That lets me out then; don't have a dog in that fight.

R's have been lambasting poor hapless Gov. Davis for not sitting on the FBI's warning. It seems like even the FBI is in on it, pretending that its initial warning was more tenuous than it actually was. This is partisanship at its lowest. Presumably if he wasn't supposed to warn people he also wasn't supposed to take any precautions at all to protect the bridges, because such protections would be noticed and commented on and that might make people afraid. Especially deserving of a slap, Bill Jones, who is planning to run against Davis, who hypocritically started out that he certainly wasn't criticizing, BUT that the governor of Washington hadn't felt any need to issue a warning. Yes, a warning about a terrorist threat to bridges, and California only has the Golden Gate Bridge, while Washington has that really famous bridge, you know the one, what's its name again?

Thursday, November 01, 2001

Cocked and ready, if you know what I mean

Rumsfeld says that more special forces are "cocked and ready" for action in Afghanistan.

Speaking of cocked and ready, one of the changes in military policy under the Bush administration is the reversal of moves to integrate women into military life. Most of his appointees are of the no-girls-club tendency.

Speaking of cocked, but not so ready, there was a disagreement in the House of Commons today over whether it was the Taliban or the Northern Alliance who cut off the last president's penis and stuck it in his mouth.

Speaking of cocked and ready, Viagra-junkie Bob Dole, discussing vengeance for 9/11 (he was for it), quoted Melville: "Beware the people weeping when they bear the iron hand." I'd beware them a little less if they are able to do more with their iron hand than hold a pencil in it. What an odd metaphor for Dole to be using. Speaking of the handicapped, new British home secretary David Blunkett went on a ride-along with a cop, which is somewhat pointless since he's blind (Blunkett, not the cop).

No one noticed it, but at the Hague Tribunal yesterday, Milosevic claimed that he was fighting Bin Laden in Kosovo.

Bush signed an executive order designed to keep his records secret forever, and those of previous presidents. The Washington Post thinks he's protecting members of his administration who served in the Reagan administration from embarrassment, while evidently forgetting that Bush's father was vice president and involved in Iran-Contra and whatnot.