Monday, April 29, 2002

That poor, poor bicycle repair man

The Washington Post headline has the Israelis “retaliating” again.

A joke: Donald Rumsfeld and his top aides go to the Oval Office. Rummy tells Bush that the invasion of Iraq will kill ten million Iraqi civilians and a bicycle repairman. Bush asks, “What’s this about a bicycle repairman?” Rumsfeld turns to his aides and says, “See, I said no one cares about the Iraqi civilians.”

Madagascar may be in the process of splitting apart. I’m not sure even they care. I like Madagascar because they have great names and I know how to pronounce them, having taken African history courses. Movies reviewed in four words.

A cricket pitcher has broken the 100 mph barrier. I started losing you people around Madagascar and it’s just going downhill, isn’t it?

The hunger strike and forcible feeding of Guantanamo detainees, front page news 4 weeks ago, still hasn’t been worth a single follow-up. Did it end 4 weeks ago, is it still going on? And not a word in weeks or months on the anthrax investigation.

Also not making the NY Times is Mugabe’s new target of attacks in
Zimbabwe, the Asian populace. If anyone’s memories extended as far back as Uganda in the 1970s, this might be a source of some worry, but it doesn’t. A couple of weeks ago George W. was asked if his father had made a mistake in not deposing Saddam Hussein; his response: “I can’t remember that far back.” The man truly speaks for the American people. Oh well, as they say at the White House, “Don’t nuance it to death.”

Sunday, April 28, 2002

I’m writing on Sunday night, and the UN commission to investigate Jenin still hasn’t begun work. Israel, which has nothing whatsoever to hide, keeps adding conditions, which now include only allowing it to speak to Israelis the government chooses, monitoring other interviews, telling the UN where it can and can’t go, and it wants none of the evidence collected ever to be used in, oh, say, a war crimes trial.

Under the new “anti-terrorism” laws, Michigan police can keep secret the reason for a search.

The farm bill is complete, and California is getting screwed, no surprise there. After last year’s posting on the web of the billionaires getting farm aid, they’ve decided not to have any limit on the amount of aid any single person can get (ok there is one, but with a zillion exemptions), and they’re going to keep the names of recipients secret this time. Agribusiness as usual.

Saturday, April 27, 2002

OK, I can’t hold it in any longer: a German commits mass murder, how could it be?

I’m better now.

A Guardian columnist informed his readers that his birthday was coming up and the one thing he didn’t want was the CD-ROM, just out, of the complete public statements of Margaret Thatcher, 1945-1990. 14 million words. #293.75, which the columnist thought was a suspiciously specific price.

Speaking of suspiciously specific, how about Cardinal George’s comments about there being a difference between a paedophile and someone who, say, has sex with a consenting 16-year old girl when he’s drunk? I liked the line in the policy statement about throwing out only “notorious” child-molesters. My computer dictionary says notorious means widely known, which is what they were trying to avoid by moving them around. I also liked whichever cardinal that was who said that even celibate homosexuals couldn’t be priests because they wouldn’t be giving up anything good, like marriage and heterosexual sex, but something bad, like gay sex. Yup, trust the Catholic hierarchy to turn this into an opportunity for gay-bashing.

It didn’t make it into any of the three papers I just read, but the Pakistani supreme court rejected a bid to stop Musharaf’s referendum as being unconstitutional. I don’t know how you even go about applying constitutionality to a referendum to maintain in power someone who seized it unconstitutionally in the first place.

A piece in one of the British newspaper on Bush’s pushing of abstinence-only sex ed. gives the figure that the programs postpone sexual activity by 18 months, but fails to note (and I mention it now in case any article you’ve read has done the same) that when they do have sex, they’re much more likely to have unprotected sex, presumably because they’ve never been taught any better. Bush wants to spend $135 million per year on this.

A Daily Telegraph headline, which was a lot more interesting before I realized what it actually meant: Internet Kills off Porn “Dinosaurs”.

A new trend: storing cells of umbilical blood, containing stem cells useful if baby needs a transfusion or bone marrow transplant. Cost (in pounds, though it’s mostly an American practice): #1,000 plus 70 per year.

Ariel Sharon’s approval ratings have shot up since last month from 35% to 65%. Israel is only going to get nastier, you know. There’s a fair amount of talk about the Palestinians out-breeding the Israelis, but among the Israelis, it’s the religious fanatics who out-breed rabbits, and the last decade’s immigrants have mostly been from the outer Soviet republics and transfer their existing racist antipathies from Asians to Palestinians. Right now the country is as open-minded and liberal as it’s ever going to be again.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

smoking goat gonads

You might want to check out the latest Molly Ivins column (, which contains the phrase found in my subject line.

So Arafat had a nice little kangaroo court for the alleged assassins of the racist Israeli tourist minister, a court at which no real lawyers or judges were present, and sentenced them, and the Israelis still aren’t happy. Well, tough shit, because it still complied with the 1993 peace accords. Like it or not, Israel can no longer demand that they be handed over.

The other Trial of the Week occurred in Britain, where a man was sentenced to 6 months for stealing golf balls. He was caught emerging in a wet-suit from the water hazard of a golf club with 1,158 balls. He quite rightly argued that the balls were lost and therefore recoverable by anyone, and that no one could prove that those golf balls belonged to the golf club in which they were found. Says the Daily Telegraph, Free the Whetstone Golf Club One!

The US’s funding of the Venezuelan opposition comes out. Why does the National Endowment for Democracy still exist? You only hear about it when it’s trying to influence foreign elections or destabilize a country the US government doesn’t like.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Something fairly remarkable happened last week. The US was applauding a coup in Venezuela, and it was supported in this by not a single Latin American country.

Some of the coup leaders have turned up in Florida (where else?). Do you suppose they will be excluded from the country? We do have laws about that, and in fact used them in the past against another Venezuelan coup leader, Hugo Chavez.

A German artist was arrested in Salzburg, Austria (as was I, once). On the municipal building is a plaque with a single sentence from Theodore Herzl: “I spent some of the happiest hours of my life in Salzburg.” The artist added the rest of the quote, which is that he couldn’t stay there because they’d never let a Jew be a judge.

This should be fun. Kofi Annan is now threatening to send the UN inspection team to Jenin despite Israel’s insistence that it not show up until, oh, October-ish, around tea time. This after letting Israel veto members of the team, including former Irish president Mary Robinson. I’m sure the US will treat this with the same indignation poured on Iraq when it tries this sort of thing.

Monday, April 22, 2002

You can tell a lot about a democracy by who it blames when the results of the democratic process are profoundly unsatisfactory.

That’s a great start for an essay on the results of the first round of the French presidential election. Too bad I’m not going to write that essay. Still. The Times yesterday blamed an electoral system that allowed in too many candidates. I think we’ll get a lot of the “too much democracy” line. Lets all blame Ralph Nader again. Voter apathy is a good one, provided we not blame the voters for the failures of the politicians. Britain is facing local elections in which the neo-nazis might do well if the turnout is low, so France has focused minds on getting the voters out. I think most “democracies” have gotten way too willing to play to the committed voters and ignore how many people won’t bother to vote for the choices handed to them. But there is so much in modern politics to be cynical about. Jospin looks way too much like Dr Strangelove and has the personality of an Al Gore. The crime isn’t that he lost to Le Pen, it’s that he wasn’t ever going to beat Chirac, a man with 7 corruption investigations that he’s ducking. Or Italy, run by a man who built an empire on Mafia money and rewrites the conflict of interest laws to eliminate the crimes he likes to commit. These two should be in jail. Gerhard Schroeder is pissing away the electoral lead the SPD used to have in Germany and is more concerned with going to court against anyone who says his hair is dyed. Which it is. I mean, come on. Democracy won the ideological battle against communism, and is now daily losing it to influence-buyers and hair-dyers.

Saturday, April 20, 2002

Tom DeLay, House Majority Whip (this is from the Saturday Washington Post) tells some Baptists that God is using him to promote a “biblical worldview” in American politics and that he wanted Clinton impeached so badly because he held “the wrong worldview.” He also told parents to send their children to good Christian colleges, and not to Texas A & M and Baylor, the latter of which expelled him for drinking and carousing (did you know that? I didn’t.)

The US is going to go for the death penalty against a former Air Force guy who thought about selling secrets to Iraq and Libya. That is, he wrote letters suggesting such a deal, although he may not actually have sent them, if I understand this correctly. So there may be no actual crime, and they’re trying to use the death penalty for something that isn’t murder. This is bad. It gets worse. They plan to claim that he actually did sell secrets, but since they have no evidence of it, they’re planning to make that claim only in the penalty phase.

Yet more stories from Jenin. The considered opinions of the reporters from the Observer and the Sunday Times are that there was no massacre per se, but that it was pretty bad. My favorite story is this family of 13 people the soldiers kept confined to one room while they operated from the rest of the house (i.e., they were kept around as human shields). The soldiers fed the dog but not the children.

Friday, April 19, 2002

Don’t nuance it to death

Two incredibly British stories: a woman is reported to the RSPCA for neglect of her dog. Reported by a burglar. And the man who ran a marathon for charity wearing a 120 pound deep sea diver’s outfit, in only 128 hours, 29 minutes and 46 seconds. I saw the last few feet on the BBC, and it was painful just to watch. He also runs super-marathons in the Sahara (whatever those may be, I don’t want to know), has climbed Everest and is thinking of bicycling across Australia. He recovered from leukemia himself.

Bob Barr’s report on the vandalism by outgoing Clinton staffers revealed $14,000 in damage (if you include a lot of normal wear and tear). 170 members of the Bush and Clinton staffs were interviewed, at a cost of something like $200,000.

In the Times there is the diary of a 15-year old Palestinian girl in Jenin, whose house was taken over by Israeli soldiers. She got to see her father used as a human shield.

A NY Times columnist, the new guy whose name I can never remember, notes that the director of Medicare and Medicaid has defied a subpoena to testify before Congress. See, the Bush admin figures on future health-care spending are ridiculously low, too low to stand up to any questioning at all. This is in order to bolster the Bush claim that tax cuts can be afforded.

Everyone’s still trying to figure out what Bush meant yesterday when talking about the failed Powell mission. He seems to have given permission for the Israelis to keep doing what they’re doing, but an official, unnamed, told the press “Don’t nuance it to death.” I think George W. has just been given a new motto.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Declaring victory and going home

Bush is actually saying that Powell made progress, although most newspapers seem to be using the words “humiliating” and “defeat” in close proximity. But then Bush is the guy whose proclamation of Jewish Heritage Week used the phrase “in the Year of Our Lord 2002,” so his engagement with these things may not entirely be trusted.

Some unnamed government leaker said that Powell was getting along well with Sharon, that they had a “general thing going” (meaning that they were both former generals, not that the “thing” was non-specific). I assume this means that they can reminisce over the times they both ordered people buried alive by bulldozers, Powell in the Gulf War and Sharon at any number of times between 1953 and this week. Ah, memories.

Israel is opening a concentration camp in the Negev desert. Oh, and it’s taking as hostages the mothers and wives of the Palestinians who took sanctuary in the Church of the Nativity.

Bush the Elder famously considered the Bill of Rights to be very much a work in progress, supporting I once counted something like 7 or 8 constitutional amendments: school prayer, abortion, flag burning, balanced budget, I can’t remember what all else. Junior not so much, but he did just come out in favor of a “Victims Rights” amendment, which wasn’t important enough for the NY Times or Wash Post to mention, but I was reading the LA Times yesterday while waiting for the idiots in the microfilm room to figure out how I could read one reel without having to resort to a mirror.

Virtual child porn is upheld by a Supreme Court in which Clarence “Long Dong” Thomas was surprisingly quiet. Various aspects passed by 6-3 or 7-2. What’s wrong with the right wing of the court was demonstrated by the dissent in the 6-3 part allowing people to use computers to stick a child head on an adult body; they said that it would allow the pornographers to pretend that real child porn was photo-shopped. That’s surely an enforcement problem which has no place in a decision on constitutionality.

See the piece in Slate on Scalia’s advocacy of the torture of prisoners.

The Bushies can’t make up their mind about what they said to the
Venezuelan coup plotters and when they said it, taking back the early statement that they spoke with the leader on the very day he took power. Now they’re claiming that in their many secret talks with these people, they advised against a coup. Yeah, that’s believable. And Otto Reich is evidently giving secret briefings to Congress claiming that Cubans were involved in shooting demonstrators, which is possible I suppose but no one
else has even suggested it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

The ant war continues, with the Argentinian ants beginning to take hold in England.

OK, when I first mentioned this yesterday it was as a curiosity of the natural world. Today I’d like to propose that it is actually the end of the world as we know it. These ants displace local ants, their sudden success after 80 years since their arrival in Europe is related to global warming, and, oh yes, they don’t spread seeds. Which is where the end of the world comes in, since there goes your ecosystem. Did I mention that the same ants are taking over in California?

Speaking of the end of the world, in a sure sign of the apocalypse, some politicians take responsbility for their own actions, the Dutch government resigning over their troops’ inability to stop the massacre in Srebrenica in 1995.

Speaking of massacres, in Jenin... ah, fuck it, next topic.

The Bush administration’s fingerprints turn up on the Venezuelan coup a lot sooner than I’d guessed. Did you notice that everyone who had contact with the coup plotters was a veteran of Reagan’s Contra wars? Latin American policy is full of these Ollie North wannabes like Otto Reich and Roger Pardo-Maurer, and whatever anonymous jerk admitted to the NY Times that Chavez was elected, but added “Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters, however.” Another ironic reference to Florida, I assume. The US may have done more than wink at the plotters, since there was some sort of American plane waiting to ferry Chavez out of the country. Ari Fleischer today did not deny this but gave this somewhat confusing, where not actually false, statement: “the transportation was arranged after his resignation through the Venezuelan military.” Note that Fleischer is still peddling the lie that Chavez resigned, a couple of days after some Congresscritters complained that they had been briefed by the government to that effect, with no evidence.

Monday, April 15, 2002

The US keeps going to Arafat with proposals that match Sharon’s agenda. Today’s is Powell’s idea of a conference to which Arafat would not be invited, but instead maybe foreign ministers. Powell himself this last week has been a perfect refutation of that idea, embodying the impotence of a foreign minister with no authority to do anything.

He did, however, get Arafat to condemn the most recent suicide bombing in Arabic. Israel immediately said that they couldn’t care less, that only action mattered. Which is fair enough, but why then has the Bush admin spent so much effort trying to get a concession that Israel wasn’t interested in in the first place?

Reporters for the London Times and Guardian have been wandering around Jenin, taking in the sights and talking to the locals. Someone in the Bush administration today talked about the need to end hatred of Israel. Read the reports and tell me what the appropriate attitude is.

Speaking of impotence, the pope has summoned all the US cardinals to Rome. Yup, a bunch of octogenarians sittin’ around talking about sex with children, wouldn’t you hate to be a fly on the wall at that one?

Speaking of insects, those in Europe have gotten strangely cooperative. Evidently they’ve inter-bred some, so they no longer smell each other as enemies, and the food situation has gotten pretty good, so a billions-strong super-hive now covers Italy, France, and Iberia, and is currently at war to subjugate the last remaining hold-outs in eastern Spain.

OK, fine, but I found it interesting. War correspondents’ reports on this battle may also be found in the Times and Guardian.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Well, Hugo Chavez seems to be back, and after the White House openly gloated about the coup. Oops. The US ambassador should be about as popular as the Saudi ambassador to Britain who wrote poems in praise of the suicide bombers.

The Sunday Times ( is full of atrocity stories from the Israeli... what’s the Hebrew for blitzkrieg? I especially like the guy they used as a human shield, shoving him through doorways until he gets shot, not by Palestians but by an Israeli sniper, in the leg, so they just leave him in the street, where he stays 24 hours until someone pulls him in. Today Sharon deliberately ruined Powell’s breakfast by showing him pictures of mangled bodies while he was trying to eat.

Here’s a story of the Queen Mum you didn’t hear much about: in 1941 she had a bunch of her more embarrassing mentally retarded relations (not by blood, at least not the niece who just died) in a home, where they stayed the rest of their lives, the last of the 5 dying this week and going to a pauper’s grave (the home was NHS). The royal family at one point claimed that 2 of them were dead, which they were not.

In our country, on the other hand, mentally retarded relations of former presidents become presidents themselves.

The UN, it seems, is supporting the families of Serb war criminals. Not intentionally, but it’s paying their lawyers such high fees that the defendants are extorting kickbacks of 1/3 to 1/2.

Friday, April 12, 2002

The story about the Bush idea of using nukes in Star Wars has yet, two days later, to appear in either the NY Times or the Washington Post. You really do have to read 5 newspapers to know what’s going on. One might also ask: what are the US troops in the Philippines up to now? Yemen? Georgia? etc? Are we still forcibly feeding prisoners in Guantanamo?

In the French presidential elections (safe bet: the incredibly corrupt Chirac will be re-elected), the candidate for a center-right party slapped a 10-year old Arab boy, and his ratings doubled, and he is now being courted for greater things, like possible prime ministership. To be fair, the kid was picking his pocket. Deja vu for me, that story.

The War Crimes Tribunal is now in existence, and what a week for it. The Unilateral States of America is not only not participating, but has banned anyone in government helping prosecutions before it in any way, and is considering sanctions on anyone who does.

Speaking of criminality, more and more black people have been claiming the slavery tax credit on their income taxes, some for political reasons, some the victims of scams. And the IRS is actually paying some of them, maybe $30 million or more so far, by mistake of course. Evidently if you’re black you can deduct $43,000, the current value of 40 acres and a mule.

Speaking of black, researchers have decided that the Black Death was not caused by bubonic plague after all.

The US has recognized the coup government of Venezuela, which has abolished the country’s congress, supreme court, atty general, constitution, and name. Bush says that now the status will be one of tranquility and democracy. Or in other words, the country is now back in the hands of the rich white people. Yeah, I know, this is me never being satisfied, since I was deeply opposed to the election of Chavez, who had previously attempted a coup (so has really nothing to complain about today) and was obviously a lunatic driven mad by power, if you consider being president of Venezuela to be power. But he was an indio, which drives the white elite crazy, and a sort of socialist who liked Cuba, which drove the US crazy. If the CIA didn’t arrange for him to be driven out, it would have, even if the country wasn’t a major oil producer.

By the time Powell finally arrived in Israel, it was already way too late. He had his knees cut off. Not by the latest bomber (the White House is now calling them homicide bombers, and Fox News immediately followed suit), not by Sharon, but by the folks back at home. Bush, you may not have noticed, but you can be sure everyone in the Middle East has, has stopped calling for the immediate pull-out of Israeli troops, and yes, called Sharon a man of peace. They said that the decision to meet Arafat was made entirely by Powell. By the time Powell arrived, it had been made abundantly clear that he did not speak for his own government. It’s time to resign, while he still has some faux dignity left.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

Making the gravy train (gondola?) run on time

Israel has successfully followed the United States in throwing away all the sympathy gained for it by terrorist acts against it. We sure don’t need to see another news interview with an Israeli teenager saying how it isn’t even safe to drink lattes at a cafe anymore, when people in the West Bank are without water.

When Ariel Sharon offered Arafat a one-way ticket to Beirut, I thought what I’m sure we all thought: “Man, what a crappy travel agent he’d make.” So you have to wonder who’s Colin Powell’s travel agent, as he makes his way slowly to Israel by way of Morocco, Spain and possibly Tahiti. In Morocco they asked him if he was lost, shouldn’t he be in Israel? His response is unrecorded, but I like to think it was “I came to Casablanca for the waters.”

Did you know that Israel is the only recipient of US foreign aid that gets it all at once in January, rather than paid in instalments? Not that Bush would threaten the funding (which I understand is now mostly military aid), but he couldn’t if he wanted to.

Sharon has been quietly gathering right-wing nuts for the winter, adding 2 religious right parties to his cabinet in case Labor develops a backbone and quits. It might have been nice if some of the media had told us what their positions are, but I assume pretty ghastly, given that they’re supposed to push to the right a cabinet that already includes advocates of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Arab states and Palestinians need to recognize Israel, but no one ever says what that means. I’ve said this before, but not in a few years, so it bears repeating: what is there to recognize? Israel has no borders; I mean, even Israel couldn’t tell you what it’s borders are supposed to be. It has no constitution, but has essentially been a self-selecting body, setting the rules as it goes along for the choosing of its successors. You could say the same thing about Britain, but it’s not quite the same thing. How about the Israeli population? Well, Sharon would exclude from that Palestinians who actually lived there but were expelled by military force and terror, but include, potentially, me and any other Jew in the world. Recognize Israel, I’m not even sure there is such a thing.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

When the Bush administration talks about education, it always uses the word accountability. The rest of the time, it prefers to avoid the subject. Case in point: the Pentagon is asking for a large slush fund for foreign military assistance, entirely at the discretion of the Pentagon, with none of those pesky restrictions based on human rights, drug production, support for terror, etc that are supposed to apply to regular foreign aid (until Bush signs the waiver). Also unaccountable are businesses who injure their employees through repetitive stress; Bush has a plan to deal with it and, surprise, it’s entirely voluntary.

Also unaccountable, as in accountable to a court of law, is the treatment of POWs in Guantanamo. The latest plan is to bring in Pakistani intelligence officers to “interrogate” the prisoners.

The Taiwanese, worried that they are falling behind in teaching their populace English, have assigned the task to their garbage trucks, which will now broadcast simple phrases in English such as “How much does a pound of cabbage cost?”

In a case which has medical ethicists as excited (in a creepy way) as only medical ethicists can be, a lesbian couple (that’s not the issue), nay a deaf lesbian couple, has been having children through artificial insemination deliberately designed to be deaf. They’re those weird type of deaf people who think of it as some sort of lifestyle choice. One commentator asked if it was not the job of parents to ensure the most advantages for their children. One of the parents gave an interesting response, though, that black people in America are worse off than deafs, but no one complains about people deliberately choosing to have black children. Of course, the whole issue could have been avoided if they’d been able to *adopt* a deaf kid rather than making another one.
Two stories this week of Bush politicizing ecological science. A report, the product of 12 years which said that caribou would be harmed by a pipeline in Alaska, was replaced by a two-page jobbie cobbled together in 7 days which said they wouldn’t. And the US is not supporting the American who heads the UN body looking at global warming, because he believes it exists, and is instead supporting a pliable Indian.

To the increasingly long list of things about His Fraudulency, add sentences with the word “needs” in them. “Saddam Hussein needs to go.” “Arafat needs to say, in Arabic...” No, Georgie, this is what you want, not what they need.

Sharon has decided to treat Colin Powell’s arrival next week as a deadline before which he needs to commit as many atrocities as he can, like one of those game shows where people run around supermarkets trying to throw expensive items into their cart within 60 seconds (which I seem to recall is how Kevin used to earn his living). I’d like to think this isn’t what Bush had in mind, but I can’t seem to make myself think that.

I was going to remark at some point on the fact that while no Palestinian leader seems to believe that terror tactics are bad (or Palestinians period, including parents of the suicide bombers) (although it should be said that at least the bombers volunteered; Bush talks about Palestinians who dragoon children into these missions, but it’s not like Israel doesn’t have a draft), neither has anyone resigned from the Sharon government in protest. But then, I haven’t noticed anyone protesting the torture through forcible feeding of the POWs, or the fact that Rumsfeld says he intends that that alleged Al Qaeda leader will tell everything he knows, which can obviously only come about through some form of torture or threat of death (but most likely sleep deprivation, which is considered by experts to be the most invidious form of torture, but doesn’t leave scars).

Bush would be more believable if he named specific practices he didn’t approve of: shooting Palestinian civilians through doors in front of children, for example, leaving old women to bleed to death in the streets while ambulances are blocked, that sort of thing. I read an account by the head of a clinic who was made to enter every room in front of the soldiers, who quickly realized that he was being used as a human shield.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

Hello from Doe Library. Just read a London Times editorial twitting a politician thusly:
“He asks whether the Afghans, in resisting us when we occupied
military positions in their country, did not do what we should have done ourselves; but he omits to express any reprobation of the treachery which provoked us.”

That’s from the November 7, 1879 issue, the politician was William Gladstone.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Yesterday I heard some of the tributes in Parliament to the Queen Mum. “She smells of wee but we love her” was not amongst them. Someone said she has gone to “perpetual peace and rest.” What else does he think she’s been doing for the last 101 years?

Bush finally gets pissed off about the Middle East. Ooooo. “Enough is enough,” he said, indicating that one word is exactly equal to the same word, just as sure as eggs is eggs. What he actually means is, now Christians are being threatened, and that’s something else entirely, that something else being “enough.”

The Vatican is looking for a new “chief papal embalmer,” as the current one has died.

So cousins can now marry and have children, say scientists. Great, all my cousins are male.

If you think the Queen Mum’s death was the end of an era in Britain, prepare to gasp: Bobbies’ helmets are going to get a new design. The current 12-inch tall things, favorite targets for drunken students, have been in use since 1863.

See the NY Times piece about the guy in jail in Illinois since murder since 1946 who didn’t do it? Uncovered, once again, by journalism students. Evidently they gave him sodium pentathol and a spinal tap (which needs explanation), and they gave his confession to the papers--before he’d actually made any confession.

A Fairness and Accuracy Reporting study of news broadcasts on the 3 networks over a year and a half on events in Israel find many many uses of variants of the word “retaliation,” as in “Israelis today retaliated for yesterday’s suicide bombing by blowing up Chairman Arafat’s favorite camel, Booboo.” 79% of the time, it was used just that way--the Israelis retaliating for something Palestinians did--and 9% the other way around. In other words, in the most common formulation, the Palestinians were portrayed as the aggressors and the Israelis were only responding.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

With effort and fun

The Tom Ridge color of the day is blank, ‘cause I’m out of ideas.

Remember those stories about all the farm subsidies going to really rich people like Ted Turner? Well Congress decided to do something to stop it: the new farm bill requires that information to be kept secret. Problem solved.

The US claims to have captured a top Al Qaida leader, or possibly a waiter. And by captured, I mean sent along forces, presumably armed, in a foreign country, and simply removed people from that country. People say that Sharon is trying to prove that his forces can go anywhere they want and do anything they want, but the US really can.

Of that man, Donald Rumsfeld, in a euphemism excessively folksy even for him, said that we were “visiting” with him. Since this visiting is going on in a location the government refuses to disclose, I assume this visiting involves electrodes attached to genitals rather than lemon meringue pie, unless the CIA has uses for a lemon meringue pie which I’d rather not know about.

Speaking of torture, a) Amnesty International refuses to condemn the forcible feeding of POWs in Guantanamo, which is stupid of them, b) if you haven’t seen the picture of Johnny Taliban naked, blindfolded and trussed up like a Christmas goose, make sure you do. Prosecutors told the court yesterday how they intend to indict him for conspiracy to do things he didn’t actually do, including kill that CIA officer Johnny Spann who had just threatened to kill him. I would just note that Spann was not wearing a uniform, which according to Rumsfeld would make him an “unlawful combatant.” The judge kept interjecting gratuitously, asking what Lindh was doing there in the first place, and asking his lawyers if they’d ever been in a war. American justice at its most impartial.

The fuss about whether BBC reporters should wear black ties when reporting on the Queen Mother’s death goes on, and on. See The Times for how much ink can get spilled on this subject.

The fucking Michigan law against fucking saying fucking obscenities in fucking public has been fucking struck down in fucking open court, live on Court TV in what I understand was a fucking hilariously obscenity-laden trial. So you can shout “f...” in a crowded theater. for corporate anthems, which I’ve mentioned before but have since then really taken off as an internet past-time. KPMG’s song, with the refrain “We will be number one, with effort and fun,” is this week at number, um, two. “Together each of us will run for gold that shines like the sun in our eyes.”

Monday, April 01, 2002

The Tom Ridge color of the day is Soylent Green, which is people.

You wouldn’t know it from reading the NY Times or watching McNeil-Lehrer, but the US just started torturing hunger-striking POWs at Camp X-Files. Britain gave up this practice in 1974 (after force-feeding women IRA prisoners) and as far as I’m concerned any doctor who participates in it should be defrocked. There should be discussions of this in the AMA; there should be debates on Nightline; there will not be.

The top-selling book in France explains that 9/11 never actually happened, or maybe just that the Pentagon was never attacked.

In some ways I miss the old Catholic church. A statement from a priest was read at various pulpits, in which he apologized for having “inappropriate sexual contact” with an 8-year old. Now is that one of the Seven Deadly Inappropriatenesses or one of the Ten Suggestions on Avoiding Inappropriate Behaviour?