Monday, May 27, 2002


Before going in to meet Pootie-Poot, Bush spit out his gum into his hand. The image led every Russian news report.

At a Russian university, somebody asked him about the brain drain. Bush’s response: “It’s gonna take a lotta brains in Russia to create a drain.”

Colombia, which is Spanish for “Vietnam, but with better drugs,” just elected the right-wing-death-squad candidate president. He’s promising to kill lots of guerillas, and to do it with lots of American money.

Amusing reading of the week: the British embassy in Japan has issued a pamphlet on how to deal with English football fans--serve beer in plastic cups, messages in English on how to sort their garbage, learn a few English phrases like Hello and England are a very good team. “You might be afraid of their big bodies and large numbers....” (found at

Sunday, May 26, 2002

A couple of days ago, Bush said that Cuba was like a prison, with no civil rights. As opposed to the part of the island the US occupies.

An Israeli astronaut, the first, is going into space in, um, July I think. He has requested the Kosher meal. Tang and gefilte fish.

A lot of Russia’s criminals are orphans, and there are many orphans because life expectancy is so low now. But one boy was lucky. A couple took him from the orphanage. Unfortunately, they also made him clean his room. He’s 12, by the way. He didn’t like having to clean his room. Fortunately, he knew some criminals. From the orphanage. So he arranged a hit.

When the pope was in Bulgaria, he brought a present. A piece of Pope John XXIII (who was once a priest in Sofia). They won’t say what part. The Guardian story said that if anyone else got on a plane with a body part in his luggage, he might be in some trouble. If you’re a pope, evidently that’s considered normal behaviour.

You probably missed it, but there was a threat of invasion against Pakistan this week because it’s harboring terrorists. The threat came from General John Keane, #2 in the US Army. Fortunately, the Ghauri missile they tested today can’t reach the US (it’s named after a 12th Century warlord type who beat the shit out of some Indians). By the way, Pakistan evidently has many more nukes than we realized, thanks to a crash program to produce weapons-grade uranium. I don’t think westerners realize how ready both sides are to use their nukes. For a start, these are not world-ending weapons. They’re mostly only about 15 kilotons, which is enough to destroy Hiroshima but not enough to set off nuclear winter. They are, in a word, usable. And they’re five minutes away from their targets, which creates a lot of incentives to shoot first when that sparrow sets off your radar.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

One last joke about Bush’s speech at the Reichstag: He called terrorism the new totalitarian threat, at which point half the deputies thought: I knew Adolf Hitler, Adolf Hitler was a friend of mine....

Women wishing to join the Indonesian military must pass a virginity test.

In Moscow, Dubya and Pootie-Poot sign the new treaty, which finally has a name (although I believe both sides have their own name for it, which is what happens when you don’t negotiate long enough): the Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty. Yes, it’s SORT of a treaty. That should be easy to remember, and to make it easier, before long it’ll be the only acronym you need to know. In 3 weeks the US will renounce the ABM Treaty, and Russia will declare Start II dead in response.

Which reminds me: if you were the leader of a country in danger of nuclear warfare, what would you do to reduce tensions? If you answered, announce a missile test, then your name must be Musharaf, because no one else is that stupid.

Bill Clinton has been in China giving a speech on “The World Trade Organization and the Chinese Real Estate Economy.” Except it wasn’t, because he didn’t do any homework for it, so he just rambled on for 30 minutes about the time he visited China in 1998 and whatnot, and then collected his check for $250,000. Jeez, I hope Carter at least came back from Cuba with a few smuggled Havanas for his trouble.

The Israeli plan to turn the West Bank into not one but eight giant prison camps proceeds apace. Trucks will not be allowed to travel between them, so goods will have to be unloaded and change trucks, for no very good reason except to destroy the Palestinian economy. And Palestinians with Palestinian papers or, amazingly enough, from East Jerusalem, will not be allowed into Israel, nor Israeli Palestinians into Palestine.

The FBI may not have been able to detect terrorism, but it did root out yet more traitors within the Bureau itself, punishing those agents who passed information to the Enemy--the Central Intelligence Agency. The one good piece of news out of all this is that the FBI failed in its attempt to get a warrant to tap Moussaoui. I’d heard that those requests were never ever rejected.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Drooling in the Vatican, drivel in Berlin

The NY Times today informs us that the pope cannot always control his saliva and that aides have to wipe it for him. Ok, but here’s the thing: there must have been great competition for that job.

In case you’re not paying attention, India and Pakistan have 1 million soldiers facing each other (and Britain is still selling them weapons, don’t know about the US). And both sides are too stupid to back down.

Bush gives a speech at the Reichstag. And unlike JFK, he really is a jelly donut. He said “We are defending civilization itself.” Just don’t ask him to spell it (although to be fair, the London Times spelled it with an “s”). He said this is in the capital of civilization for the last century, Berlin. He said that 9/11 was a dividing line as sharp and clear as Pearl Harbor. Which is probably his way of reminding the Europeans just how late the US entered the Second World War. Of maybe he thinks the war actually started on September 7th, 1941 (the day his father thought Pearl Harbor was). He sought to allay fears of an Iraq invasion: “I have no war plans on my desk.” So what do you think he does have on his desk? An electric train set? A collection of Spider-Man comics? A case of tequila?

Kudos to Jesse Ventura, for vetoing making the pledge of allegiance mandatory in schools.

Last night was another edition of Celebrity Boxing, which again I did not watch, although I understand that Horshack risked his new nose. Call me when it’s Jesse Ventura against Gary Condit.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The Washington Post headline of a study reported in the Journal of the Bleeding Obvious: “Uninsured Don’t Get Needed Health Care.”

In today’s NY Times, an unnamed spokesman, questioned about the failure to raise the Tom Ridge Color of the Day from yellow to orange, says “There is a certain art to this.” Let me help you out, chuckles: you add red to the yellow to make orange.

The FBI agent who wrote the Phoenix memo is the guy who was instrumental in breaking the Oklahoma city bombing.

Let me correct the NY Times, which says that Ariel Sharon threw the Shas Party out of government because he plans to reduce subsidies to families with more than two children (the paper helpfully adds that devout Jews have many many children) (I added the second “many”). Actually, he planned to reduce subsidies to families with many many children who duck military service, like many devout Jews do. Also, interestingly enough, Sharon plans to cut subsidies to settlers.

I said the US should apologize to East Timor. It seems what it’s actually been doing since Bush got into office is trying to screw Timor. Should have known: it’s got oil. Now the UN administration that’s been overseeing the place for the last 3 years has been re-negotiating the sweetheart energy contracts the Indonesians had. Which means the UN was negotiating with one of its members, Australia, which is a bit odd; also, they really should have left this, which more than anything determines the future of the country, to the post-independence government. One of the oil companies is Phillips Petroleum. Anyway, some Aussies met Dick Cheney, who started putting pressure on the Timorese. Also, Colin Powell put further pressure on them to sign a document refusing to accuse any Americans in the new international tribunal, presumably UN peacekeepers--except there are none from the US--so possibly protecting Henry Kissinger and, remind me again, who was the Director of Central Intelligence at the time?

Monday, May 20, 2002


In environmental news, the Japanese failed to overturn the ban on whaling, so they’ll just have to keep breaking it.

In other environmental news, Britain opens the first cow-shit-fired power station.

Bush should have greeted the independence of East Timor with a hearty apology for the US giving a green light to Indonesia to invade in 1975, but .... say, 1975, wasn’t his dad in charge of the CIA in 1975?

Britain legalizes adoption by gay couples, as couples, and other unmarried couples together for 2 years or longer.

Followup: the guy sent to jail for stealing golf balls has had his sentence over-turned.

Bush’s nickname for Vladimir Putin is Pootie-Poot. We are governed by a five-year old, folks. I have a theory about W. Remember Tom Hanks in “Big”?

Condi Rice said that the warning Bush got on 8/6/01 was vague and only 1 1/2 pages. Whose fault is that? Bush made it clear early on that he didn’t want to be given any report longer than 2 pages.

The first head we need on a platter over this is John Ashcroft’s. His sole interest was the drug war, including, you’ll remember, raids on medical marijuana farms in California. For example, he sent up a proposal to Bush, on Sept. 10, calling for increases in the funding of 68 programs, none of them counter-terrorism. Being briefed by outgoing FBI Director Louis Freeh, he didn’t want to hear a thing about that subject. And he sent a memo to department heads, I think also Sept 10, listing his top priorities, none of which were terrorism. However in July, he did take action on threat assessments: he stopped flying commercial airliners and started taking chartered private jets.

Everyone in the admin had higher priorities. You’ll remmeber that Ashcroft’s pro-gun fanaticism was such that he had records destroyed after 9/11 that might have helped in tracking terrorists. And Treasury Sec Paul O’Neill hampered efforts to track terrorist money by his concern to help his friends by stopping efforts to stop money laundering and tax havens. Donald Rumsfeld refused to shift budget monies from his beloved Star Wars to anti-terrorism, and evidently stopped flights by the CIA Predator spy-plane started under Clinton to try to track Bin Laden---because of a turf war between the Pentagon and the CIA.

You’ll notice that with all the Bushie efforts to scare us this week, the Tom Ridge Color of the Day hasn’t moved off yellow.

Speaking of colors, did you know that carrots weren’t orange until the 16th century? It was an ideological thing in the Netherlands. Someone is now selling purple carrots, the way God intended.

I could make a joke about Stephen Jay Gould here, but I won’t.

One point about the pre-9/11 intelligence failures is that the Bushies have been insisting that to fight terrorism properly they needed to rip up the Constitution, but in fact they had about as much evidence as they really required well before they started pissing on the Bill of Rights.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Dick Cheney warns that there could be another terrorist attack any second. Well that would certainly distract the media from past intelligent failures, wouldn’t it? And if someone else makes that comment, he can just say that the opposition complains when they withhold vague warnings, and when they make them. Win win, isn’t it?

It occurred to me that the attempt by the Catholic church to blame everything on those darned homosexuals is sort of a step forward, in that it has to contain an acknowledgement of homosexuality as a sexual orientation rather than a mental disorder. What would be interesting is a definitive statement of church policy as to what exactly paedophilia is. I’m increasingly inclined to think of it as a sexual orientation, which is highly problematic in terms of how you deal with it. It’s too bad that the church, while espousing celibacy for priests, evidently knows nothing about how to keep people celibate, since that would be useful for paedophiles.

Sinn Fein wins 5 seats in the Irish parliament, including 2
former IRA leaders/gunrunners.

Israel is busily cantonizing the West Bank, turning it into 8 little bantustans, requiring Israeli permits to move between them.

Good article in the Guardian by Madeleine Bunting ( on the failure of military operations in Afghanistan.

Some British ramblers have failed in court to establish a right of way in Sussex that would have allowed ramblers to see some beautiful natural sights. It would have gone through a nudist camp. Nice try.

If you have #10,000 to spare, you can buy H G Wells’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. He drew dirty pictures in the margins.

US troops arrive in yet another country, Soviet Georgia, in order to protect terrorists. Seriously. Georgia harbors Chechens it’s unwilling to do anything about, and this mission seems to be our way of telling Russia not to invade because Georgia is our colony now.

At the detention facilities of the war crimes tribunal, Milosevic is best man at another prisoner’s wedding. Somehow, even in a group of Serb war criminals, I doubt that Milosevic is the best man.

Saturday, May 18, 2002

So what do I think should go in the World Trade Center site? How about a pillory? We lock the directors of the CIA and FBI and, oh, Condaleeza Rice, in stocks and everyone gets to throw fruit at them. Good for the NY street vendors, good for tourism, infinitely less destructive than bombing Kabul.

A NY Times columnist makes the case that whatever Al Qaeda were up to, it was never going to be simple hijacking, which was not their style at all. And that’s even without the advanced warning it now seems we had from multiple sources dating back to 1996 (to say nothing of the original attack on the World Trade Center: if there’s one thing that Dubya understands--just ask Iraq--it’s that simmering resentment about the big one that got away). I’ve heard asked several times, But what could we have done differently if the warnings had been made public? There’s an answer to that which is not only obvious (so why has no one but me come up with it?)(or maybe someone is sending a letter to the Times right now--my flight Simulator joke turned up in today’s paper), it actually happened: the Pennsylvania plane. The passengers crashed the plane once they had figured out what was going on--might not the pilots, crew and passengers of the other planes have done so, too, had they had advanced warning? A second obvious answer is, if a warning had been made, maybe they’d have cancelled or postponed the attack, giving the FBI time to catch them. That answer also hasn’t appeared anywhere.

Ari Fleischer, speaking for the American people, says “They will welcome an inquiry if it’s free from politics, led by the responsible experts, and the determinations of what should be looked into are made on the basis of intelligence analysis and not political considerations.” In other words, let the same bozos at the FBI and CIA who originally fucked up determine the lines of inquiry.

And Laura Bush is wheeled out to say: “I think it is very said that people would play upon the victims’ families’ emotions, or all Americans’ emotions.” You mean the way you just did, Laura? Another candidate for the pillory.

Speaking of leaving cover-ups, I mean inquiries, to the responsible experts, only the NY Times seems to have had the story of an article by a Vatican lawyer, obviously vetted by his bosses, trying to prevent inquiries into paedophile priests spread from the US. He says that bishops shouldn’t give any information to secular authorities, shouldn’t force psychological testing on the priests, and should continue to transfer them without staining their good names [yes, in those words] by informing the new parish.

US military aid to Indonesia is about to resume, at midnight Sunday, when East Timor becomes independent.

Kaiser Permanente, which is so evil that its executives all dress as Darth Vader except that the helmet has a spike at the top (get it, Kaiser, German helmet, get it?), had a policy of paying its telephone clerks bonuses based on how quickly they got off the phone with sick people, and how few appointments with doctors they scheduled. TELEPHONE CLERKS!

The Russians are crowing over having assassinated a Chechen warlord, which they did by sending him a letter. Laced with poison. It’s nice to see the KGB up and running again, isn’t it?

If you go into the woods today: Economic conferences are no longer held in cities, at the request of the local McDonald’s and Starbuck’s franchises, I believe. So the G8 is due to meet in the Canadian Rockies. Only they just realized that it was the start of the grizzly bear hunting season--that is, hunting *by* the grizzlies. Secret services are a little nervous.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Gerhard Schroeder successfully defends his crown, as a German court rules that his hair really is that color.

Jimmy Carter and the White House agree that Castro won’t let dissidents speak out.

On a completely unrelated matter, Dick Cheney warns Democrats not to question the government’s handling of 9/11. It is irresponsible in a time of war, he says, and calls it “incendiary,” perhaps not the best choice of words. In a second day of spin rather than truth-telling, Bush, who came in second in the last election, says that Washington is a place where second guessing has become second nature. He is actually annoyed that people are upset by his cover-up. Bush: “Had I known that the enemy was going to use aeroplanes [I copied this from the London Times] to kill on that fateful morning, I would have done everything in my power to protect the American people.” Ah, so he needed to know the exact day, the exact time of day, and the exact method of attack before he could do anything. It seems that FBI agents were predicting that planes could be crashed into buidlings, so it wasn’t quite as unimaginable as the White House was claiming yesterday. Hell, has Ari Fleischer never played Flight Simulator? I’ve personally crashed an aeroplane into the Sears Tower on more than one occasion.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

Lithuania scraps its requirement that women get gynaecological exams before being issued drivers’ licenses.

The results of the Dutch elections sucked, as predicted, and the anti-immigrant Insert Pun-Based-on-Fortuyn-Here Party will join the next government. One immediate result: the next German chancellor came out in favor of curbing immigration and preventing Turkey joining the EU. He says immigrants must start integrating. You know, eating sausage, invading Poland, that sort of thing.

The outgoing German chancellor, Gerhard “No chance in hell” Schroder, is now pissed at Stern magazine for running a faked picture of him naked but for a figleaf. Given that his other big concern is newspapers saying he dyes his hair, I presume this is because the figleaf prevented the German public seeing if the carpet matched the drapes.

I’ve just disgusted myself.

As I mentioned before, the British hailed Operation Snipe as a success despite failing to find a single enemy. It also turned out that those caves full of munitions they blew up belonged to one of the “good” warlords.

Finally, Bush’s horrible horrible screw-up (snort, giggle giggle). OK, we knew 9/11 was a horrendous intelligence failure. Right now I’m actually more pissed off at Congress, which after 9/11 completely failed to investigate that failure, and hence 9 months later didn’t know that there was advanced warning. The analogies to Pearl Harbor just keep getting more apt, don’t they? What will really hurt Bush was the cover-up. The line that they only thought there would be regular hijackings, which was all they had today, seems particularly inept, since they don’t seem to have done anything to prevent those either, and if they had, it would obviously have stopped what actually happened. The airlines deny ever having received the warning the Bushies are claiming they put out. And what makes it look worse, Bush got the warning while he was on vacation, and perhaps paying less attention than usual. I’m going to enjoy this.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The Japanese are literally preparing for an invasion. English football fans, for next month’s round of the World Cup at which England will be eliminated. They’re very scared. The government has helpfully prepared t-shirts which English football fans who are not football hooligans can wear to identify themselves. They say “Not a football hooligan.” Problem solved. A friend of mine is planning to buy a bunch, figuring they’ll become collector’s items.

In Jordan, for the first time a woman divorces a man.

The NY Times points out that when Bush was condemning Castro’s human rights record yesterday, he was standing next to the prime minister of Malaysia at the time.

One of the sillier conflicts is between Britain and Spain over control of Gibraltar. Talks are breaking down even as we speak, in part because Britain has promised not to change the Rock’s status without a referendum of the locals, who regard absorption into Spain much as Ian Paisley does the Irish Republic. Spain doesn’t want to admit to the principle of consulting people, because someone might suggest that the Basques be asked their opinion (Spain is about to ban the Basque independence party Batasuna).

Speaking of referenda, do you notice that no one but no one is demanding the referendum that was supposed to be held for the last 50 years in Kashmir? One reason I have trouble choosing up sides there is that I really have no idea what the majority of the Kashmiri people actually want.

The Democrats are shocked, shocked, to find that there is fund-raising going on (that’s a Casablanca allusion, in case you missed it). Bush is using in his fund-raising a photo of himself on Air Force One on the phone to Dick Cheney on September 11, asking “Can I come home yet?” This is said to be capitalizing on a national tragedy, although Bill Maher says that another picture, of Bush after the last election, is doing the same. I never watch his show, but I’m kind of sorry he’s been cancelled.

Every cloud of uncertainty has a coal-black lining

The Bush admin has asked a federal judge to reverse his decision suspending permits to mine for coal by ripping the tops off of mountains and tossing them in rivers. It says the decision “casts a tremendous cloud of uncertainty”. Better that than muddying the waters...

Since 1967 Israel has stolen 42% of the West Bank (actually, the report doesn’t say, but I’m assuming this doesn’t include the 25% or more of the West Bank that’s been annexed to “Jerusalem”). The settlements themselves don’t take up that much territory, but their municipal boundaries are to say the least generous. Add to that land allotted to the settlers’ regional councils, seized for military purposes, declared abandoned, declared “state land” under old Ottoman laws.....

On further reading of the details of Bush’s nuclear missile treaty, if “details” is not too grandiose a word for a 3-page document (compared to Start I’s 700 pages), I find it to be totally pointless. It requires literally nothing for the next ten years, and then when it’s about to require something, it expires. That Putin agreed to this amounts to a complete surrender. Will encourage Russia to store nukes, which leaves them open to theft, and does nothing about tactical nukes. It has no monitoring provisions.

Crown Prince whatsisface has been explaining that he spent a full five hours with Bush because Bush was such a complete ignoramus that he needed everything explained to him very slowly. The Guardian used a headline evoking comedian Harry Enfield’s upper-class twit character, Tim Nice But Dim.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

5.2, big deal

Yes there was an earthquake, yes I felt it, end of story.

Article in Tuesday Washington Post on the Carlyle Group and the Crusader, detailing how they made out like bandits off a failed military project, and just who they paid off, how much.

Daily Variety’s site lists under theater reviews: Sweeney Todd, A Class Act. Turns out that’s two different plays.

A tv show actually under consideration involves a makeover of a “crude and uncultured” straight guy into a “hip and happening Renaissance man a the hands of five fabulously trendy gay men.” It sounds, um, fabulous.

Monday, May 13, 2002

A nuclear arms agreement is reached between the US and Russia, and the cold war is finally over. Except that we’re not actually destroying any weapons, unless we feel like it of course, just putting them in storage. No one’s said who long it would take to get them ready to launch again, but I’m guessing not very long. So this agreement actually restricts us in no way whatsoever, but is entirely voluntary in its effects, just like Bush’s idea of how to regulate polluters.

The real nuclear war is more likely to show up over Kashmir. As I understand it, the US is pissed at Pakistan for not doing anything about all those Al Qa’eda militants hanging out there, which Pakistan says is because it has to defend its border against India, which is only pissed because Pakistan isn’t doing anything about all those Kashmiri militants sneaking into India. India is threatening to close the mountain passes and launch rocket attacks on training camps that Musharraf had promised to close and didn’t.

The British have finished up their sweep in Afghanistan, hilariously named Operation Snipe, and pronounced it a complete success, despite not having caught a single enemy.

As if France having the sole choice between Chirac and Le Pen wasn’t bad enough, now Israel has Sharon v. Netanyahu. Next up, Darth Vader or Ming the Merciless? Ebola or bubonic plague? Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey?

Speaking of crappy elections, people with no arms are being trained how to vote in the forthcoming Sierra Leonean elections, where they can mark their ballots with their big toe. Why do they have no arms? They were hacked off in reprisal for voting in the last elections.

A forthcoming book called The Science of Superheroes informs us that Spider-Man is not scientifically accurate. And Krypton’s gravity would have to be 8X that of earth for Superman to be able to leap a 30-story building. On this subject, I would recommend Larry Niven’s essay on the mechanics of sex between Superman and an all-too human Lois Lane, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.”

Trying to ruin Carter’s trip to Cuba, the Bushies last week claimed Cuba was developing bio weapons. Their proof is that it has “dual-use” facilities--this is all Condi Rice could drag out on McNeil-Lehrer, and all Carter himself was shown in his briefings--which means nothing more than that it produces its own medicine.

Congress is working on a measure to deny arms sales to any country that signs up to the War Crimes Tribunal, and to permit operations to rescue any Americans caught in its evil clutches. One Democrat, I’m sorry I forget whom, had a little fun questioning his colleagues to find out that they didn’t know where the court would be, i.e., that they were forget whom, had a little fun questioning his colleagues to find out that they didn’t know where the court would be, i.e., that they were authorizing war against the Netherlands.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

Saddam Hussein offers Arafat a safe haven if he gets expelled from Israel. Right, cause in Baghdad he could get away from having rockets dropping all around him.

Ben-Gurion: “whoever approaches the Zionist problem from a moral aspect is not a Zionist.”

The first sentence of a wire story: “A Japanese faith healer was sentenced to death for beating 6 people to death with a drumstick during a 1995 exorcism ritual.” So is that a stick used to beat a drum or a chicken part? Enquiring minds want to know.

This week may have seen the last use of Old Sparky.

In 1999 the Pakistani army “mobilized” its nuclear weapons (whatever exactly that means) against India, and the prime minister wasn’t told, although he was informed by Clinton. Before Sharif, Benazir Bhutto had to ask for US intelligence briefings about her country’s nuclear capability, because the army wouldn’t tell her. And we’re continuing to support military rule for what reason now? Well, one reason is that it’s so much better on women’s issues than some other Muslim countries, although when informed about a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery because she reported being raped, he seemed a little surprised and said that he’d never given much deep thought to changing the country’s ridiculous adultery laws.
Saddam Hussein offers Arafat a safe haven if he gets expelled from Israel. Right, cause in Baghdad he could get away from having rockets dropping all around him.

Ben-Gurion: “whoever approaches the Zionist problem from a moral aspect is not a Zionist.”

The first sentence of a wire story: “A Japanese faith healer was sentenced to death for beating 6 people to death with a drumstick during a 1995 exorcism ritual.” So is that a stick used to beat a drum or a chicken part? Enquiring minds want to know.

This week may have seen the last use of Old Sparky.

In 1999 the Pakistani army “mobilized” its nuclear weapons (whatever exactly that means) against India, and the prime minister wasn’t told, although he was informed by Clinton. Before Sharif, Benazir Bhutto had to ask for US intelligence briefings about her country’s nuclear capability, because the army wouldn’t tell her. And we’re continuing to support military rule for what reason now? Well, one reason is that it’s so much better on women’s issues than some other Muslim countries, although when informed about a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery because she reported being raped, he seemed a little surprised and said that he’d never given much deep thought to changing the country’s ridiculous adultery laws.

Friday, May 10, 2002

Enough with the Amish already. Put the fucking orange triangle on the fucking carts already. Call it the new black. If you want to stay away from modernity so much, keep the carts off the asphalt, which you won’t find in the bible either. Do you believe they’re actually talking about leaving Pennsylvania for Ohio to escape the oppressors?

A couple of days ago, the CIA tried to assassinate an Afghan warlord (that’s what the news stories called him--you might never have known he used to be prime minister). He had no connections with the Taliban or with Al Qa’eda. To show how little critical attention is paid to American foreign policy, you’ll note that there has been no mention of this in today’s newspapers, or any hint as to the justification, or who ordered this.

The Bush administration is planning to interpret the laws against discrimination to allow public schools to set up separate, but no doubt equal, schools for each sex. Add to this the growth in compulsory school uniforms, and abstinence-only sex ed., well, all you have to do is add nuns with rulers...

Speaking of the dark ages, Bahrain just had its first election in which women could vote. Bahrain never made it on to the list of countries in which women couldn’t vote--like Kuwait--because no one else has voted since 1973. Women ran for office, too, but none were elected or made it run-offs.

Maryland suspends the death penalty while it investigates why most people on its death row are black and why all their victims, but one, were white.

The House Appropriations Committee adds another unasked for $200 million on for aid to Israel. No wonder Sharon looks like the cat who’s swallowed a 350-pound canary.

Actually, the happiest-looking person I’ve seen on tv lately has been that kid who put all the bombs in the mailboxes. A smiley face? A SMILEY FACE?

Thursday, May 09, 2002

The Bush administration does not, contrary to what I said in my last, support the right to own machine-guns. Sorry: badly written wire service report.

Bush calls the latest suicide bombing (or perhaps the one before that) a “wanton taking of innocent life”. Presumably, the wanton taking of guilty life, say in 152 executions, is just tickety boo. No one ever applies the term wanton to sex any more, I kind of miss it.

Sharon has been saying that he got permission from the US to bypass Arafat. The White House denies it, but you gotta wonder. Sharon has been talking about reforming the Palestinian administration, as have some unnamed Bushies, and the minute they all move to Palestine and take out citizenship I’m sure their opinions will be taken with all the seriousness they deserve. Clearly the plan is to “reform” Arafat into a figure-head role like the president of Israel. Or the Queen of England, but without the dress sense.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

The comedian Reno is quoted as describing Dubya’s ad lib speaking as like a drunk trying to look sober. Today you could see him desperately trying to remember what you call the place where the Palestinians live, finally settling on “the Palestinian world.”

I assumed that Israel had forged the documents it claims link Arafat to terrorism. Instead, it seems that they just lied about the content of those document. Speaking as an academic, there’s nothing as annoying as shoddy scholarship.

Sharon pissed off the Bush admin by hinting to the ADL while in the US that the Bushies had helped him in preventing the Jenin inquiry.

We got trouble: and while Sharon is in the US a suicide bomber blows up a snooker hall. Which I wouldn’t have mentioned, but I wanted to make the We got trouble joke.

Hilariously, the Israelis and Palestinians were proposing to exile people from the Church of the Nativity to Italy without asking Italy first. Italy says no, meaning it wants a present. Like being the location of the proposed Middle East conference.

Sharon is now making demands about restructuring the Palestinian authority. I thought the Israeli army already did that. And where Powell proposes a conference in which neither Sharon nor Arafat go so they don’t have to meet, Sharon proposes that he go and Arafat not.

I’d been wondering why the US was planning to un-sign the treaty setting up the war crimes court, which seemed like an unnecessary symbolic gesture. But actually, under the Vienna Convention of 1969, if a country has signed a treaty, even if it hasn’t ratified it, it’s not supposed to actively undermine that treaty. So now we can.

The London Times claimed yesterday that Pim Fortuyn’s assassination robbed European politics of its innocence (that was an op-ed headline). Yes, innocence, that was exactly the word I was looking for to describe European politics. A Dutch paper applied the same phrase to the Netherlands, which at least makes more sense. Although if your assassinated politician is a racist, you might wish to rethink the whole innocence angle there too. He was killed by an animal rights activist, which makes it that little bit sillier.

If the NY Times seemed completely unsure what position Fortuyn actually held in the Rotterdam government, it also failed to explain how Chirac was able to just pick a new prime minister in what is supposed to be a parliamentary system (I don’t know the answer to this one myself). He will serve only 6 weeks, but plans to pretend to crack down on crime in a big way to secure the Le Pen voters, acting by decree rather than legislation. Explain to me again how this was a victory for democracy?

The Bushies have now *officially* taken the position that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of individuals, not in a militia, to own guns, evidently including machine guns.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

If you’ve been paying attention to the Bush admin’s Middle East rhetoric the last few days, you’ll have noticed that they have found something new with which to beat up Yasir Arafat: corruption, a word that now makes its way into every speech. I’m not sure what the point of this is.

I read a story told by one of those Israeli reservists who refused to serve in the Re-Occupied Territories (of whom there have been almost none in the last month and a half, if you were wondering). When he was previously serving on roadblock duty, the army asked if the platoon needed anything. Washing water, they said, so a digger fractured a pipe, giving 10 Israelis the ability to wash on duty, while a village of 5,000 had no water for 5 days.

The World Cup is being held in Seoul this year and there is a major push on to promote the eating of dog, with lots of free samples for the tourists, including some sort of liquid dog that is expected to make them forget about Pepsi forever.

Hurrah, hurrah, Jacques Chirac is reelected. Bush has not used the word corruption about him, but surely a “victory for democracy” would have meant that this corrupt embezzler would have been hounded out of public life and into a jail cell.

Friday, May 03, 2002

For a good time, call...

212-479-7990. (This is a number intended to be given to people in bars in NY). Oh, just call it.

The Israelis let Yasir Arafat out. He immediately saw his shadow, meaning six more millennia of intractable turbulence. [Daily Show joke]

God created war to teach Americans geography. [European joke]

The golf ball martyr is out of prison pending an appeal.

However South Carolina just executed someone who probably didn’t do it. He’s supposed to have killed a state trooper, and was convicted on the evidence of his hitch-hiker, who is a loon and has since confessed. The state Sup Court had a judge check it out and he said that she told so many stories, her confession can’t be believed. As opposed to her original testimony.

Dick Armey says that it’s ok if Israel grabs the entire West Bank and expels all the Palestinians. And the Senate and House both pass resolutions taking Israel’s side, the House saying that Arafat is not “a viable partner for peace.” Unless you use Bush’s dictionary, in which Sharon is a man of peace.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Just a few days after Linda Lovelace dies, we find out that Woodward and Bernstein’s Deep Throat was one Mark Felt. So now we know. Maybe.

A new site, is worth checking out, for articles on subjects and perspectives ill-treated by the media. Check out, for example, the Noam Chomsky piece on the Middle East.

Follow-ups: the US was force-feeding prisoners in Guantanamo last week, but isn’t now, although it will go back to it since they still aren’t eating. Prisoners are being tortured in our name, but no one cares. It’s nice to know that American justice is better than that of Saudi Arabia, where they just extracted two teeth from a man who knocked out two teeth from another man in a fight (they also fined, flogged and imprisoned him).

And the guy with the missing leg in Texas was finally executed yesterday, and they still wouldn’t give him an artificial leg. So he was wheeled in. A proud day.

It’s always fun when Republicans’ worst instincts conflict with their other worst instincts. In this case, a bankruptcy bill written by the credit card companies to screw consumers is being held up because it may harm the ability of anti-abortion protestors to declare bankruptcy in order to avoid paying fines and damages.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

5 years of Tony Blair, as of today, and 50 years of QE2. To show that British politics are no less dysfunctional than Lizzie’s family, there were endless difficulties in working up a seating chart that accommodated the 4 living former prime ministers (primes minister?), who all hate each other.

A Sunday Times poll suggested that if Britain had a party like the French Front Nationale, anti-immigrant and anti-Europe, 22% would vote for it. The suggestion is that if fascist parties weren’t unrespectable, there would be a major constituency for them. I picture it like a junior high dance, with all the guys hanging out at one end of the gym, waiting for one or two of them to cross over and make it ok. And this is everywhere. The support for the old parties and support for representative democracy, is growing thinner and thinner. Where it was never that strong, Zimbabwe and Pakistan, say, we’ve seen unsubtle parodies of the democratic process (the US says of Pakistan’s referendum today, in which anyone could vote anywhere as many times as they wished and counting was done centrally with no oversight, that it was Pakistan’s internal affair.) Hugo Chavez led a failed coup and then was actually elected, which means no one could expect that he’d necessarily leave when his term was up. But in the last decade, we’ve seen support for old ruling parties literally evaporate in Italy, Canada. Italy’s ruling party is named after a football team. 1/3 of electors in France’s presidential election voted for fascist or trotskyite candidates. A wrestler is governor of Minnesota, and the cuteness of that has rather worn off. I’m telling you, if a fascist party could get itself that first 20% of the vote in most countries of the world including this one, the next 20% would just roll in. The continuing debate on how to handle Le Pen in today’s Guardian ( is instructive: do you debate him, do you go out in the streets yelling No passaran, do you ignore him? There is no consensus on how to make it clear that fascism is unacceptable to an electorate that doesn’t understand that already.