Friday, August 30, 2002

Please don't harass the monkey god

New California fad: cardio-striptease.

Hyderabad: An Indian court has intervened to save a monkey trapped inside a temple by over-zealous devotees convinced that it is the reincarnation of a monkey god. The court ruled that visiting pilgrims cannot harass the monkey, which is to get medical help.

Winston Churchill’s grandson also says that George W. Bush is no Winston Churchill (he’s an MP and a former minister for the armed forces, so it’s not just a cheap shot, either).

Bush keeps saying he’s “a patient man” (I have doubts about the noun as well as the adjective) and hasn’t decided whether to invade Iraq, and that therefore any criticism whatsoever is “premature.” And yesterday, the State department said of a plan to set up a government in exile that since Bush hadn’t decided on invasion, any talk of a future Iraqi government is “premature.” So, what, decision first, discussion afterwards, like the Queen of Heart’s court? Premature suggests that there’s a maximum time limit for discussing major decisions. A week? Two?

Tuvalu (that’s a country) is suing the US and oil companies for global warming, which should entirely submerge the country within 50 years.

Did you know that the Bible is full of emoticons?

A US district judge rules that Mexico had sovereign immunity when it stole money taken from the wages of bracero workers in the 1940s.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Water, water, everywhere

After 6 months in an Australian detention center, a Pakistani seeking asylum is released--and handed a bill for $85 a night for a dorm without a door and a two-hour wait for the showers. Of course, his new visa doesn’t allow him to work and...wait for it...potential immigrants aren’t allowed to have debts to the government.

At the Earth Summit, the Bush admin wrecks another international agreement, this one on clean drinking water, the lack of which kills millions of children each year, but screw ‘em. Let ‘em drink Coke (except in LA schools, where it will soon be illegal--what will they wash down their Ecstacy and Ritalin with?).

The constant references by Bushies to Churchill in the drum beating for war against Iraq is pissing off all the British newspapers, one of which even interviewed, gasp, historians.

Robert Mugabe fires the last white cabinet minister.

A couple of times this month I’ve sent funny stories about the megalomanocracy running Turkmenistan. In today’s paper was the punch line: US to expand military cooperation with Turkmenistan.

If you haven’t seen the study which says that the US has quadrupled its inmate population in twenty years, and that there are now 791,600 black men in jail or prison compared to 603,032 in colleges or universities, seek it out.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Wilmington, Dele. police have been compiling a database of potential criminals. Lacking the services of precogs, they use “jump-out” squads of police who drive around, spot a group of, let’s say, black youths, hanging around a street corner, jump (I’m assuming) out of their cars, round up, search and photograph the non-criminals. The mayor insists that this is constitutional in the alternate universe he lives in.

The Spanish Parliament votes to ask that the Batasuna party of the Basques be banned, and a high court judge simultaneously does just that. This means that electricity and water are cut off to its buildings and it is not allowed to call meetings or street demonstrations, but current elected officials can serve out their terms. The vote was 295 to 10, 29 abstaining. I’m guessing the 295 all belonged to other parties, which is pretty convenient for them. Under a new law, parties which justify terrorism are deemed responsible for it (Batasuna doesn’t quite do that, but nor does it condemn it and blames it on the continuing oppression of the Basques). It ill behooves a former fascist state to proscribe some people from the democratic process, especially on the grounds of thought crime.

In Detroit, a mohel was stopped for DUI on his way to perform a circumcision.

Ronald Reagan’s son says that he now speaks nothing but gibberish. I am refraining from commenting, not on the grounds of taste, which have never stopped me in the past, but on the grounds of it presenting no challenge whatsoever.

Speaking of Alzheimer’s, I’d like to remind everyone that Iraq did not expel the UN inspectors, they withdrew themselves, no matter how many times Rummy says differently. Also, the UN “inspectors” (this came out in January 1999) really were American spies, like Hussein always said they were. They reported to the US, which only passed on to the UN what it felt like passing on. Quoting myself from 2/13/99, “after the US offered the use of its U2 spy planes to Unscom to monitor Iraq, the first thing it did was to refuse to tell when and where photos were taken and deliberately fuzzy them up to disguise the U2’s capabilities.”

Evidently, the Bush admin just did a deal with China, actually negotiated whether the Uighur Muslims should be put on our list of terrorist organizations. This is deeply, deeply cynical.

William Saletan has an interesting piece analyzing Cheney’s pro-war speech. He says that there is a new line of argument based on Iraq’s supposedly being about to acquire nukes, for which Cheney offers no evidence whatsoever, and these nukes would prevent US acting against Iraq if it did something unpleasant in the future. Thus, Saletan says, the forthcoming war is no longer an extension of the war on terrorism, but of the 1st Persian Gulf War. Cheney said that inspections would no longer be of any use, because Iraq is so good at hiding stuff. The Bushies, lacking any evidence, are now playing on the difficulty of proving a negative--it doesn’t even matter whether there’s proof of the assertion of near-nuclear capability, let’s bomb now preemptively. Actually, the existing war on Iraq (7 bombing raids in the last week--it may not be Dresden, but that’s certainly war in my book) in aid of the “no fly” zone follows similar logic: it has nothing to do with protecting Kurds or Iraqis but solely with preserving our right to do whatever we want. In this sense, it is actually an extension of Bush’s Star Wars policy--destroying or neutralizing everybody else’s military capabilities while ours remains intact.

At least the Bushies have finally realized the unattractiveness of “regime change” as a slogan.

From the Village Voice:
The actual price of killing civilians in a place like Afghanistan was cheap. Marc Herold, a New Hampshire professor who tracks civilian casualties, compared U.S. compensation to Italian victims of the tramway accident with Chinese victims in the NATO bombing of its Belgrade embassy, and with Afghan civilian deaths. It comes down to this:

• Italian: $2 million per victim

• Chinese: $150,000 per victim

• Afghan: $100 per victim

One might add $50,000, the amount asked for in a Japanese court by Chinese victims of Japanese germ warfare in the 1940s. For the first time, the court admitted the action, but denied that any compensation was owed.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Sacrifice the chocolate rabbit

Remember those American soldiers imprisoned in Japan, eventually, for raping children in Okinawa? It seems that under an agreement written during the occupation, the US military provides their food, and they are eating extremely well, pissing off the Japanese yet again.

A website devoted to a campaign to get men to pee sitting down. There are greeting cards...

The new, possibly insane, president of Colombia, wishes to arm peasants to kill guerillas.

The UN World Food Program tells Zambia to suck it up and take GM foods or starve to death. This really does look like some sort of sick campaign to use African starvation to push agri-business’s agenda re Frankenstein Foods.

Speaking of monstrous foods, Britain’s food safety people are threatening to ban haggis (there may be a BSE risk in using sheep intestines).

Bush dismisses Musharaf’s strengthening of military control by saying that he is “tight” with us. WordPerfect’s dictionary defines tight as 3) well sealed against something such as air, 4) stretched so as to leave no slack, 5) allowing little room for maneuver, 11) miserly, 12) drunk. Probably of Germanic origin. Yup.

Speaking of dictators, 97% of Azerbaijan voters voted (sure they did) for various constitutional changes, including letting Aliyev essentially name his successor, his son. This will be the first hereditary ruling family in the former Soviet Union.

Speaking of hereditary ruling families, Bush the Younger’s lawyers insist that he doesn’t need to bother Congress’s pretty little heads before launching an attack on Iraq (a big one, not like the daily bombing raids, presumably), because the 1991 authorization of force is still in effect. By those standards, he could also go to war with North Korea, and god knows what other countries.

Friday, August 23, 2002

A diamond is (creepy) forever

Rummy Rumsfeld said that Russia’s trade deal with Iraq branded it an ally of terrorist states. Also today, the US said that Musharaf is still an ally, despite his 29 constitutional amendments yesterday. Also, Henry Kissinger was on McNeil-Lehrer today, talking about Iraq, where he has a rather sordid history of his own, which he wasn’t asked about--nor was he asked about the State Dept documents released this week showing that the Argentinian junta was considered an ally and that the US gov didn’t care about human rights abuses in the 1970s (the NY Times today said that Kissinger couldn’t be reached for comment, but there he was on tv as I was reading the paper, not being asked for comment).

The Australian tax authorities went after a convicted drug dealer for income tax on his dealings. So he insisted he had a right to deduct A£80,000 stolen from him during a failed deal. The courts agreed.

China has ended a plan for personalized number plates because the choices were too Western: FBI, 007, etc.

Bush proposed a new policy to prevent forest fires: remove all the trees. Problem solved.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Just goober

I guess Bob Barr wasn’t “just gooder” after all.

Evidently Bush likes to make his staff go jogging in Crawford when it’s 100°. If he didn't do it himself, you'd think
it was a fraternity pledge thing. Bush says running helps him clear his mind. Of what?

Rumsfeld says Al Qaida operating inside Iraq, although refuses to offer any proof. “I just know,” he said. Magic 8-Ball, I’m guessing. Iraq confirms presence of Al Qaida, in the part of the country controlled by Rumsfeld’s allies. Admittedly they also claim that Abu Nidal killed himself by shooting himself twenty or thirty times. Well, he was a fanatic you know, they do things like that.

6 weeks before Pakistani elections, Gen./President/Dictator Musharaf declares there will be “a transition from a democratic dictatorship to an elected essence of democracy." Something like that new-car smell that comes out of an aerosol spray can, no doubt. Oh, and he also gives himself the power to dissolve the elected Parliament, and a military-dominated National Security Council the right to overrule it. Oh, and he gave himself another 5 years in office to oversee the transition to democracy.

Speaking of the essence of democracy, Thomas Friedman in the Wed. NY Times comments that the Bushies advocate democracy only in regimes that oppose America, that policy is “to punish its enemies with the threat of democracy and reward its friends with silence on democratization.” This is an old Republican policy, as Friedman does not acknowledge, dating back to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which applied only to slaves in the South, where Lincoln’s writ did not run, and not to those held throughout the Civil War in the North.

The US adds another nation to the list of nations whose leader we’re trying to overthrow: Zimbabwe. Yes, Mugabe is a bastard, but before we start renaming his country after Cecil Rhodes (don’t tell our gov that imperial powers used to be able to just do that, or Kabul will be called Rummy), we might ask how big this sort of thing will go over in Africa.

For a start, they might start asking why the scientist who almost certainly was responsible for the anthrax outbreak was employed by the Pentagon when he used to do bio warfare with the Rhodesian and South African regimes, and was involved in a little anthrax outbreak in Zimbabwe, and whether that might have anything to do with why he hasn’t been arrested yet.

Something I hadn’t heard before: Arizona makes sex offenders on probation take polygraphs.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Where they're coming from

Quote in Washington Post from a University of NC student:
"I never really knew what the Koran was or what it said before this," said Chip Cook, 18. "Now I feel like I have a better understanding of where my Muslim friends are coming from."
Oh, come on. In the history of the universe no one named Chip ever had a Muslim friend. Indeed, if you wanted to keep a UNC student named Chip (or indeed George W. Bush) out of your hair for a while, you’d ask him to find Muslimia on a map.

Chip Cook, indeed. This is why you should never name babies while smoking pot, as Chip’s brother Cheetos and sister Pringles can attest.

Newsweek story on war crimes in Afghanistan by our illustrious allies, including the suffocation to death of 1,000 POWs. This was to be expected, it’s not like they hadn’t done it before (as I said here on 11/11/01, and the article makes clear). No proof that American forces participated or knew about it, yet, but they were certainly in the area. The Pentagon has been covering this up for 6 months.

New Yorker cartoon: 3 scientists in lab coats. One says, “We’ve just made a big cancer research breakthrough. Have a cigar.”

The US military just completed its largest-ever military exercises, costing $250m. It was rigged to make sure the American side won--so rigged that the retired Marine Lt-Gen who commanded the opposition forces resigned halfway through. The games were supposed to test current Pentagon war-fighting strategies.

The Israel-Palestine security deal has begun; it didn’t explicitly ban Israel assassinating people, so two days in, guess what...

Shoot first, ask questions later: Donald Rumsfeld says we shouldn’t wait for any evidence that Saddam Hussein is up to anything before going to war. "The people who argued have to ask themselves how they are going to feel at that point where another event occurs and it's not a conventional event but an unconventional event, and ask themselves the question, 'Was it right to have wanted additional evidence or additional time, or another U.N. resolution?'" And then he goes on to compare him to Hitler. Of course if we think of the Iran-Iraq war as Germany and Czechoslovakia, that would make Rumsfeld Neville Chamberlain.

Monday, August 19, 2002

A carpet is his soul

Here’s a sentence you don’t see every day, from the Daily Telegraph: “Scientists from Cambridge University who played loud dance music to drugged mice have received an official reprimand from the Home Office.”

The Pope in Poland warns against playing God. Usually, of course, Catholic priests like to play The Strict Headmaster and the Naughty Boy Who Needs to Be Punished.

The 4th Circuit has refused to ban the University of North Carolina holding voluntary classes to discuss the Koran. Had this been successful, UNC students would have tried similar court cases to ban the assignment of all other books, on the grounds that reading just eats into their heavy drinking schedule.

George Bush, enthusiastic: “I came off my ranch today in Crawford. There are not many places that would kind of lure me away, but Iowa State Fair is one. God has blessed Iowa and the citizens of this great state.” Really doesn’t get out much, does he?

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Let the voters decide

Nigeria has to delay its next elections because termites ate the electoral register. Well, it’s original anyway.

Bush has finally responded to criticism of his Iraq obsession by saying that he’ll listen and calling it a “healthy debate” (unless it’s by a foreigner like the German chancellor, in which case they’ll send the ambassador to chew him out, in what some people might consider an attempt to influence the forthcoming German elections) (I mean, entire countries, many of them, have expressed opposition, but it wasn’t until Brent Scowcroft did so that Bush felt he had to respond publicly, which is an interesting set of priorities), and said “But America needs to know, I’ll be making up my mind based upon the latest intelligence and how best to protect our own country plus our friends and allies.” Try to diagram that sentence. So the real underlying message is that Bush might listen, but Bush, alone, will decide (to do exactly what he was going to do all along). Frank Rich, in a good column in the Saturday NY Times that y’all should read--
about Bush’s tendency to put on shows like the Waco summit (which someone on Washington Week said was an insult to dogs and ponies) to give the illusion of activity, says that Richard Perle gave the game away when he said that after all Bush’s bluster (not Perle’s term) on Iraq, their would be a collapse of confidence if he didn’t go ahead. Wasn’t that what Johnson and Nixon kept saying about Vietnam?

And the Sunday New York Times says that the US was providing Iraq battle-field satellite intelligence during the Reagan administration, when they knew it was using chemical weapons. The article makes clear that no one expressed any concern about this whatsoever.

A judge in a poor Ohio county tells prosecutors they can’t go after a death penalty because the cost to the county of paying for everything, including defense lawyers, would be too high.

Gee, and I thought there was no price too high to get in the way of our executing people, like the Mexican citizen just fried in Texas despite having been denied consular access (indeed, the US kept lying to Mexico that he wasn’t a citizen), seriously damaging President Vicente Fox, whose only selling point was that he was supposed to be close to the American government. But hey, if we wouldn’t not execute someone for the pope...

Katherine Harris has a sense of humor after all. Her Republican challenger is suing to have her thrown off the ballot, after she failed to resign as Florida’s secretary of state as required. Her response: “I say, let the voters decide." Now that’s funny!

Saturday, August 17, 2002

When it’s bad

Israel finally got one of its human shields (I believe they call it the “neighbor policy”) killed.

Stephen Bochco’s next series will be another series involving NY cops--set in the year 2069. The mind boggles.

www.Vicefund.com. I think this one is serious, a mutual fund that invests in alcohol, tobacco, gambling and firearms. Motto: “When it’s good, it’s very, very good...and when it’s bad, it’s better.”

The California Supreme Court rules that an illegally obtained confession doesn’t invalidate a later one. I.e., the cops can break Miranda and then use the illegal confession as pressure to extract one they can use in court. 5 justices (of 7 voting) saw no problem with that.

You gotta love Jeb Bush. After finally firing the head of child welfare services for, ya know, losing a bunch of kids, he picks a replacement whose name is associated with a Christian loon group report saying, among other things, that married women shouldn’t work, that beating your child to the point of raising welts is the Christian way, and evidently that masturbation should be illegal. Still, as long as they aren’t using them for human shields.

Given the scenario that a US attack on Iraq would result in Iraq launching missiles at Israel and Israel responding, possibly with nukes, who do you think is most strongly behind the US attacking Iraq? Ariel Sharon.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Shocked, shocked I say

Noticed gray chest hairs, two of them, for the first time today. So old, so very old, so tired, take nap now.

In 1998, the Pentagon decided to privatize its travel expenses. Personnel would be ordered to take a personal, repeat personal, interest-free credit card with Bank of America--that is, involuntarily forced into a private contract with a corporation-- charge their expenses, and then hope the Pentagon would reimburse them before their credit tanked. Results are exactly what you’d expect. Story in the Village Voice.

sizehimup.co.uk allows you to estimate the size of a man’s penis using a formula based on the size of feet, nose, and hands.

A drug addict who broke into a doctor's surgery near Hanover in Germany was discovered fast asleep the following morning, Expatica.com reports. He had injected himself with a tranquillizer instead of the narcotic he was seeking. A doctor revived him and he was promptly arrested.

The inventor of the modern frisbee has died. In Santa Cruz. He wants his ashes inserted into a number of frisbees, some going to family and friends, others to be sold to benefit a planned frisbee museum.

The Guardian headline says that scientists are “shocked” that weeds have bred with genetically-modified crops, creating, wait for it, super-weeds.

New Yorker cartoon: man and woman in restaurant. He to her: ‘I never said “I love you,” I said “Love ya.” Big difference.’

Bizarrely, the US has accused the EU of “inappropriate” behaviour in trying to get other countries not to do private deals with the US not to send its soldiers to the International Criminal Court. As opposed to the US threats to cut off military aid to any country that doesn’t comply.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

The correctness of my views

Last Feb. 22, I dissected Bush’s comments on North Korea, “No wonder I think they’re evil,” saying that for Bush the belief came first and the evidence, if any, second. I said, “I think he’s actually a little contemptuous of people who have to have evidence and logic to support their beliefs; for real men, beliefs derive from their ‘character.’” Well, here’s Ian Kershaw, in his biography of Adolf Hitler, on Hitler’s reading while in prison after the Beerhall Putsch: “He read not for knowledge or enlightenment, but for confirmation of his own preconceptions. He found what he was looking for.” He told a friend, “I recognized the correctness of my views.”

In a statement of astonishing arrogance even for Rummy Rumsfeld, today he said of Iran, “it may well be that they, for whatever reason, have turned over some people to other countries, but they’ve not turned any to us.” Why on earth would Iran consider itself under any obligation to turn over anyone to the United States? Don’t notice any reporters asking him about yesterday’s plan to send assassination squads into foreign countries.

Today, uninterestingly enough, is lefthanders’ day. Did you know that almost no one in Japan admits to being left handed? Did you know that the longest word you can type using only the left hand is “stewardesses”? Now you know. And by tomorrow, you won’t know it again.

Bush’s economic forum (a word my dictionary defines as “a meeting or medium for an exchange of views,” which is impossible when the views of everyone invited were interchangeable) was described by one participant as the biggest thing ever to happen in Waco. Man, where’s the FBI when you really need them? Several CEOs referred to themselves as “regular folks.” Dick Cheney said “It is easy to sit in Washington and get a disoriented picture of what goes on as opposed to getting out here periodically and ... talk to folks who are day in and day out where the rubber meets the road.” I think he may already be a tad disoriented. Bush himself pushed his Texas accent into overdrive, in the mistaken belief that it was reassuring. The only thing I was reassured by was that this stage-managed piece of propaganda was so incompetent that you could see the possibility for Bush losing in 2004.

Christopher Hitchens writes of Bush Iraqi policy: “A dirty secret is involved here. From the US point of view, the present regime in Iraq is nearly ideal. It consists of a strong Sunni Muslim but approximately secular military regime. All it needs is a new head.”

Monday, August 12, 2002

Political abnormality illness. Do you think Blue Cross covers that?

Evidently homicide rates are down not because homicidal violence is down, but because emergency medicine has gotten better.

Tom Tomorrow points out that conservatives now refer to the invasion of Afghanistan as the War for the Liberation of Afghanistan. Presumably because the whole capturing-bin-Laden thing failed so miserably.

The Chinese now keep as many of their political prisoners in psychiatric asylums as the Soviets used to. “Political abnormality illness.”

Speaking of political abnormality illness, some younger members of the British Tory party are considering splitting off to form their own libertarian party. Tentative name: the Start Again Party. What a bunch of saps! Doesn’t really bode well for their future, does it?

Rumsfeld wants military special forces (assassination squads, as the Guardian puts it) to perform covert operations in countries with which the US is not at war, without telling the locals. Didn’t that sort of thing used to be considered an act of war?

Would American foreign policy have been more competent in the past year if anyone in government actually knew Arabic? Well, there’s one group trying to break down the barriers between Americans and Arabs by translating key newspaper pieces and documents. Unfortunately, it seems to be a front for Israeli intelligence, and its translations are a bit lop-sided, as are its selections. But through the use of email, it’s become influential in influencing the media as well as politicians.

Guardian on how Mugabe’s seizure of white farms is nothing like as harmful as the land policies foisted on Africa by the IMF. Yeah, yeah, land reform, I can see your eyes glazing over. Read it anyway, it’s an important article.

Saturday, August 10, 2002

This does not conform to the task of civilisation

A major sponsor of the evil bankruptcy bill, Rep James Moran (D-VA), had credit card debt trouble himself. Until, of course, he sponsored a certain evil bankruptcy bill. He is the recipient of loans not only from one of those companies, but also a pharmaceutical company whose patent he tried to get extended, and from AOL (You’ve got corruption). For the more ordinary, overly optimistic type, there’s always something like this.

So in contrast to Mr. Moran, I present a story of politicians who do live by their own rules, the Milton Friedman-loving British Tory party, which is selling tickets to a gala dinner at this year’s party conference for less than half what the more successful Labour Party are able to charge in the open market.

Next month Ariel Sharon will go to Florida to stump for Jeb Bush.

Website of the day: http://polygamypoetry.tripod.com/songs.html

Yes, that’s songs celebrating the magic that is polygamy. And as if "The Poly Man Can" isn’t icky enough, there’s some accidental humor from the ads provided by the host site.

Speaking of which, two Japanese teenagers in a student exchange program were placed in a polygamist home in Salt Lake City.

Christian pickup lines, each one creepier than the last. Be sure to shower afterwards. So unclean, so very unclean.

If you were unaware that John Lennon was actually shot by Stephen King on the orders of Richard Nixon, you didn’t spend any time in Sproul Plaza in the early 1990s, when Steve Lightfoot was plying his trade there (and you didn’t read every third word of Newsweek, which is roughly how Lightfoot was able to detect the conspiracy). Steve didn’t get the help he so desperately needed, but he did get online. Did you know that if you fold the $20 bill lengthwise, you can see the Twin Towers on fire? After all 9+11=20.

Thanks to an especially brilliant change in the tax laws making non-physical-injury awards taxable, a Chicago policewoman who won her case for sex discrimination will owe the IRS $100,000 more than she was awarded by the jury.

Silly season British stories:

The Queen will be asked if she wants to meet two teenagers to explain how she felt after they hurled eggs at her car during her Golden Jubilee visit to Nottingham. The request is part of a new scheme in England and Wales under which victims of youth crime are offered the chance to come face to face with their tormentors.

3-year old nursery schoolers will be asked to rate their teachers by government inspectors, using a system of smiling, frowning, or unemotional (i.e., British) faces.

Also, a dolphin caught some jewel thieves off Dorset, and UFOs are destroying crops in Greece.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Gurbansoltan-edzhe is the cruelest month

I grow old... I grow old... I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Here’s some advice (from “The Producers”): “When you’re down and out, and everybody thinks you’re finished, that’s the time to stand up on your two feet and shout ‘Who do you have to fuck to get a break in this town?’”

According to Saddam, "Darkness shall be defeated," he vowed in a 20-minute address. "The forces of evil will carry their coffins on their backs to die in disgraceful failure." Well, that’s be convenient, because they’ll already be carrying their coffins on their... no, no, I guess it really doesn’t make much sense.

Tonight is the deadline for Zimbabwean white farmers to leave their farms, which will then be turned over to Moammar Qaddafi, who’s been loaning them a lot of oil lately. It was supposed to go to poor black people, but shit happens.

If you’re wondering what sort of government we imposed on Nicaragua, well, the former president Arnoldo Alem├ín is being charged with theft of $100 million. The system works.

Niyazov was named president for life of Turkmenistan. He celebrated by renaming all the months. April is named after his mother (Gurbansoltan-edzhe), isn’t that sweet? And January for himself. He’s also renaming the days. The Times says “Mr Niyazov is not a man renowned for his modesty”.

Sharon calls the Palestinian leadership a “terror posse,” which I thought was very “street” of him.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Just Gooder

I wish to point out a new genre of telephone advertising, the sincere answering machine message. This is the message that you’re reasonably sure was recorded (today’s is from a satellite tv installer) but is intended to sound spontaneous and un-salesmanlike. The keynote of the form is the Columbo-like, “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you...” towards the end.

New Israeli tactic: stripping Palestinians it doesn’t like of citizenship.

I’m enjoying the vicious Republican primary race in Georgia. Bob Barr (who I can never mention without pointing out his possession of the world’s creepiest mustache) actually managed to condescend to Georgians, something hitherto believed impossible. His commercial (available on Babar, I mean Bob Barr’s website, but it’s a long download for not much) features a hayseed farmer saying “Linder’s good, Barr’s just gooder.”

From the This Life from the 7/21 London Sunday Times, which I had to type myself, because Rupert Murdoch got greedy:

A man in India beats the world record for having the most cement blocks smashed on his groin at once.

A CD by an Amazon parrot who impersonates Ethel Merman. Did the whole session in two takes.

Priests in Milan discovered that a couple who regularly prayed in front of a statue of the Madonna were actually recharging their mobile phone from the socket behind the statue.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Happy Hiroshima Day!

Kofi Annan rejects Iraq’s offer to talk about arms inspections, saying he was waiting for a formal invitation. So the answer to “What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation,” would in fact be yes. Fine, it’s most likely a ploy, but so what? Inspections either happen or they don’t, and it’s not like seeing which would interfere with anyone’s precious bombing schedule, since we’re not invading a desert country in August.

Although I am suddenly reminded of some invasion, I can’t remember which, that I figured out was about to start precisely because the president, Bush or Clinton, went on vacation. La la, nothing to see here. But Bush actually vacations more than he invades, which is saying something.

Furthermore, on this balmy Hiroshima Day, comes a report that the US can’t possibly take out all of Iraq’s missiles in the first days, so if Iraq goes after Israel, the war will go nuclear, because restraint, you may have noticed, is not big on the Israeli agenda lately.

Speaking of Israeli restraint, Sharon wants to try peace activists for treason, for telling military personnel that they could be prosecuted for war crimes. And the High Court rules that it’s ok to demolish homes without any right of judicial appeal. Which is a war crime.

Kevin points out that the Indonesia-ExxonMobil story has run in the Wall Street Journal. But not on McNeil-Lehrer, the NY Times, or the Washington Post. And I’ll bet this is nothing that will ever be a Nightline or the subject of angry speeches on the floor of Congress. Just another non-story about American complicity with repression of dark-skinned foreigners in an oil-producing country. Colin Powell will never be asked a penetrating question about this, or any question.

Thanks to stepped-up border patrols, the number of Mexicans dying in the deserts of California and Arizona trying to cross the border have reached record numbers. That’ll teach ‘em.

The "spirit of America": trapped in a coal mine with the water rising. That's about right

Congress rejected Iraq’s offer to let them and any experts they wanted investigate any site they wanted in Iraq. Evidently that wasn’t acceptable because it wouldn’t be humiliating enough. Sure, Iraq is being threatened with war, but given that Iraq is already being bombed twice a week (including yesterday), they could be forgiven for thinking that the last war never actually ended. A Guardian piece on this is appended below.

The Guardian also has a story about Palestinian children who hire themselves out as human shields. Specifically, they get paid to get into cars with strangers (where are these kids’ parents?), who drive to Israeli checkpoints, to prove that these cars are not suicide bombs. Israelis shoot at cars with only one occupant--something that would really speed up the Bay Bridge, if you ask me.

WaPo on how the Republican control of the House since 1994 shifted federal funding from D to R districts.

The Financial Times ran a piece, that no one else has picked up, that the State Dept is trying to kill a lawsuit on behalf of Indonesian villagers against Exxon Mobil, which paid the Indonesian security forces to run a campaign of terror on its behalf. State says it would hurt national security in the war on terrorism. You know, the bad kind of terrorism, not the good kind.

NY Times columnist Paul Krugman notes that when he originally run a quote from Bush in which Bush said that he had earlier said that the promise not to run deficits would only be broken if there was war, recession, or national emergency and “Lucky me, I hit the trifecta,” Krugman was accused of making the quote up. The trifecta quote was real, but the thing about war, recession or nat. emergency, no one can find Bush ever having said that during the election campaign. His promise not to run deficits was never qualified. He lied.

Signing an abortion restriction bill, Bush said, "Today, through sonograms and other technology, we can see clearly that unborn children are members of the human family. They reflect our image, and they are created in God's own image." He also signed a bill banning children from tearing the heads off of Barbie and GI Joe dolls, which also reflect our image.

The pope excommunicates several women who were ordained priests. Evidently that’s a bigger sin than male priests who fuck choir boys. Or did I miss those guys being excommunicated?

Bush meets those coal miners and says that they represent the “spirit of America”, a phrase he used 11 times. The Washington Post notes that he spoke 13 minutes to them, and 30 at a fundraiser.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Not drowning, but waving

Someone at the NY Times wasn’t paying attention to its front page today. 2 of the 3 headlines above the fold are: “Wave of Attacks by Palestinians Kills at Least 14” and “Wave of Pupils Lacking English Strains Schools”. Maybe their headline writer went to the beach this weekend.

While the Bushies are complaining about Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons, Donald Rumsfeld used to be Reagan’s middle east envoy, and was literally in Iraq while it was using poison gas in its war with Iran. And helped broker the deals by which Iraq was sold the helicopters it later used to drop poison gas on the Kurds. Rumsfeld never publicly expressed any concern whatsoever about chemical weapons until the Gulf War.

By the way, did you know that Rumsfeld thought about running for president in 1988?

Israel is preparing for a smallpox attack by Iraq in event of war. They are stockpiling vaccine, but not actually vaccinating. Do you think Sharon is capable of withholding vaccine from the Palestinians? I’m not sure, although I tend to think he is, enough that I hope someone is going to put the pressure on him. During the last Gulf War, gas masks filtered down to the Palestinians very slowly, and...let’s see if I can remember this exactly...certain Orthodox males, unwilling to shave their beards, commandeered some of the masks intended for children.

As Israel bans any travel in the northern West Bank, a report comes out that 1/4 of Palestinian children are experiencing malnutrition. The Israeli “Health Minister” says they brought it on themselves.

A new bizarre law in France allows students as young as 13 to be jailed for dissing their teachers.

Seems I gave Bush too much credit. He did not in fact put down his golf club while deprecating Middle East violence.

Bolivia obeyed the US’s orders and elected our candidate (a millionaire, natch) president. Evidently this is not news.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Ah, France. Where else would vineyard owners sue the Transport Ministry for its campaign against drunken driving.

Bush comments on the latest attack in Israel: "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killings." To show his sincerity, he put down his golf club before saying that.

Quickies: Turkey abolishes the death penalty. Taiwan’s president supports a referendum to declare Taiwan independent. The US resumes training Indonesian death squads, I mean the military. Gerhard Schroder says a vote for him is a vote against war in Iraq (unfortunately, he has no chance in hell).

Saturday, August 03, 2002

A very attractive idea

A federal district judge rules that the gov must say how many people it has detained without trial since 9/11 and name them. Ashcroft continues to claim that he is only protecting their privacy rights. Which is especially amusing in the week of the executive perp walks.

Heard Dubya yesterday, talking about how evil Saddam Hussein was, and how he poisoned his own people. With arsenic in the drinking water, no doubt.

The rescued coal miners have sold their story to Disney: hi ho hi ho...

OK, I know I shouldn’t be laughing at this, but... a 12-year old in a wheelchair goes to Lourdes hoping for a cure. Instead, a bus belonging to the Catholic group (I won’t use the word “charity” from the newspaper story, if all it does for people is send them to Lourdes) Handicapped Children’s Pilgrimage Trust, ran him over. The mother is suing.

Joseph Biden’s daughter was arrested outside a bar. Man, that Biden family: even the daughter is plagiarizing from the Bush twins. (Or am I hoping for too long a memory with that joke?)

Friday, August 02, 2002

Percy wouldn't have made that mistake

So Katherine Harris, running for Congress against Percy the dog, again demonstrates her ignorance of Florida election law by not resigning as secretary of state when she started running. And she’s gonna win the election anyway.

The FBI, investigating leaks of its intelligence failures, tried to get the 37 Congresscritters and Senators on the two houses’ intelligence committees to take polygraphs. The Post says that most refused, citing separation of powers, but doesn’t say who gave in. I want names.

They are, however, less protective of their powers to consider treaties, voting unfettered fast-track trade negotiating powers to the president for five years. This is clearly unconstitutional, and not just because it is removing power from Congress and putting it into the hands of trade representatives, who are usually wholly owned subsidiaries of big business. No, the major problem is that the current Congress is voting away the power to amend any treaty which is inherent in the Congresses elected in 2002, 2004 and 2006, as if greater sovereignty inheres in this Congress than in those. No Congress may bind its successors, no temporary congressional majority may partially annul the results of the next 3 elections. This is a constitutional issue of the highest order. And yes, I am the only person in America who cares about this.

Iraq has offered to restart negotiations with the UN on inspection. The US says there is nothing to negotiate with except complete surrender. So now the US is also writing the UN’s press releases.

The US is evidently now pressuring other countries to promise not to turn US citizens over to the International Criminal Court. Romania is the first to give in.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

If tyranny is to prevail, you must first kill all the lawyers

A federal judge rules that US courts have no jurisdiction over prisoners in Guantanamo. This is fascinating. That means that there are places in the world that are literally beyond any law, in which no courts and no legal code operate. Imagine, a society that has no lawyers: Guantanamo must be heaven itself.

Not only were no non-alarmists called to testify to the Senate on Iraq, but the Bush admin didn’t send anyone either. Evidently it’s “too early.” The one good thing about this Bush is that he doesn’t call Saddam Hussein “Sad-dammm” in that obnoxious sneering way his father had.

Speaking of one-sided, even though Israel barred UN representatives investigating the Jenin Massacre, a report was somehow still issued, derived entirely from secondary sources. In other words, they issued a report under the name of the UN with no better evidence than you or I could get from the internet. This is unconscionable given that the news reports have, predictably, mostly said that “The UN clears Israel of massacre.” (Actually I’m told it never uses the word massacre, but the UN web server is currently not working, like the UN itself). Moreover, it seems to give equal blame to the Palestinian militants, who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Where they should have been--and not get slaughtered instantly, I mean--the report fails to say. It’s not quite a whitewash, but enough so that it rewards Israel’s refusal to cooperate.

I feel a little sheepish about quoting another UN report after trashing that one, but what the hell: human beings now use up 40% of all plant and marine growth.

Bush says “We must collectively get after those who kill in the name of some kind of false religion." Ari Fleischer says he didn’t mean all Muslims, just the ones who “distort” Islam, which Georgie considers “a religion of peace.” Given that Bush also considers Ariel Sharon a man of peace, you have to wonder how all those people keep getting killed. Well, as another George once wrote, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is George W. Bush.