Friday, November 29, 2002

Scientia est potentia

If you’re wondering what I ate on Thanksgiving--and I know you all are--I had spaghetti, commemorating the first Thanksgiving, when the Puritans were saved from starvation by the native Italians.

Ah, Thanksgiving week, when the government sneaks out the stuff it doesn’t want anyone to know about. Logging without environmental impact studies, school regulations designed to destroy schools and lead the way to vouchers, and the return of Satan himself, Henry Kissinger. Yes, Henry will get to the bottom of this! As long as it doesn’t involve foreign travel, since he’s wanted for questioning about his various war crimes in half the countries on earth.

You’d think this would be a good time to keep Kissinger under wraps. For a start, he’s a reminder to the Kurds that in 1972 the CIA supported a Kurdish uprising in Iraq at the behest of the Shah of Iran, and then pulled the plug, leaving them to be slaughtered, also at the Shah’s request. Kissinger explained to the Senate, “One must not confuse the intelligence business with missionary work.”

And Kissinger as an intelligence expert is hilarious. Here’s a paragraph from a paper I wrote some years ago:
An example of Kissinger acting on his own inaccurate interpretation of raw intelligence occurred in 1970. A U-2 flight over Cienfuegos, Cuba revealed a wharf and military barracks under construction. Behind the barracks was a recreational area with a soccer field. Kissinger, who insisted incorrectly that Cubans do not play soccer but Russians do, confronted Soviet ambassador Dobrynin with this "evidence" that the Soviets were constructing a nuclear-submarine base in defiance of the 1962 understanding. Dobrynin, while insisting that no such thing was occurring, agreed to guarantee that there would never be a Soviet submarine base in Cuba. Thus a crisis was created out of nothing.
And before the rehabilitation of Kissinger, that of John Poindexter. By the way, I’ve been meaning to point out that Poindexter’s “Total Information Awareness” program is operated by a Pentagon agency, the Information Awareness Office (IAO, no doubt appropriately pronounced Yeeeooow) whose slogan is “Knowledge is power.” And of course, total knowledge is total power. And total power corrupts, like, totally.

A primary school in Bedfordshire, England, has banned parents taking pictures of their children’s nativity play because they could wind up on the internet where pedophiles could see them.

So one of the UN weapons inspectors in Iraq has no relevant speciality but is a founding officer of Leather Conference Inc, which “produces training sessions for potential leaders of the sadomasochism/ leather/fetish community”.

Ariel Sharon says, bizarrely, that the latest terror attacks were an attempt to influence the Israeli elections.

Islamic clerics in Nigeria say that Muslims should ignore the fatwa on that fashion reporter, which was issued by a state government rather than by them.

The Germans (and the French) are wimping out on their own rules regarding the sharing of evidence with the US in death penalty cases. They will give information on Zacarias Mousssaoui, but only, they say, to prove guilt or innocence; the evidence can’t be used in the sentencing phase.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I claim this land for Italy, despite the nauseous gas

Evidently the word “homosexual” is no longer allowed. Gays, pardon me, people with “orientation towards people of the same sex” in Britain insisted the government no longer use that term, but the overly long one I just quoted.

And in Scotland, you evidently can’t call striking firefighters fascist bastards, as the deputy justice minister has discovered (and been fired for).

And Chrétien has fired his communications director after all. What a moron.

The latest Pentagon brain-storm: self-healing mine fields, that resist efforts to clear them, redistributing themselves to fill the gaps (the mines can hop, evidently).

Rehnquist death watch: the chief justice fell down and had to be hospitalized this week. He is 78. And I’ve decided that I actually want Bush to do what he’s probably going to do when Old Stripey retires or snuffs it, replace him with Scalia. Why would Scalia be good for our side? Because he’s insane, the other justices hate him, and he couldn’t hold together the right-wing coalition that currently makes court-watching so nauseating. Sure there’d still be awful 5-4 and 6-3 decisions, but I think we’d see a lot more multiple majority arguments, where 1 or 2 or 3 justices insist on writing separate explanations for why they voted as they did. This would make it hard for the decisions to turn into precedents, which is all to the good. See, I’ve finally found a silver lining!

Austria’s Freedom Party is undergoing a lovely fratricidal purge. I have heard the words iron fist and execution squad to describe the operation, which is just what you want to hear from a neo-fascist party.

That poor fashion reporter who wrote the article that set off the Miss World rioting in Nigeria? The authorities--and note, it is the government, not the mullahs like one site said--of a Nigerian state have issued a fatwah for her to be killed on sight. She has fled to the US.

Italian semi-fascist Prime Minister Berlusconi takes the Fifth in the trial of a mafia associate of his. The Italian people must be so proud.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Banana magnate

The Bush daughters turn 21 today...

Switzerland, whose referenda are often as good an argument against direct democracy as California’s, very narrowly defeated one that would have turned away nearly all refugees.

Corporations are moving their intellectual property off-shore to tax havens--trademarks, patents, logos, etc.--so that the parent company pays inflated fees to its subsidiaries that can be written off in the US.

The annoying Joseph Lieberman asks the right question: What did the Saudis know, and when did they know it.
Actually, the URL tells you what that one’s about.

Putin vetoes the bill outlawing reporting or criticizing “counter-terrorism” operations (including the whole Chechen war), so that’s one for the good guys.

Someone dies in a really stupid way, and it’s an Oxford student. Human catapult stunt (using a medieval trebuchet)(look it up). The student was named Dino Yankov, and now Dino is extinct.

The gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that) fascist (not that.. oh wait) Jörg Haider quits politics again (he’ll no doubt have changed his mind by the time you read this) after his party drops from 27% in 1999 to 10% this week, which is still way too high, but I’ll take it.

(10 minutes later): In fact he did change his mind.

And yet another “populist” military leader wins an election in Latin America shortly after leading a coup attempt. This time it’s Ecuador. Haven’t really formed an opinion on the guy yet, but this is obviously a bad trend. Of course his opponent was a banana magnate (!) and the richest man in Ecuador, which isn’t a good trend either. Still, it’s a step up from the former president known as El Loco.

The ACLU hires as a lobbyist the creepy-mustachioed Bob Barr.

And Philip Morris’s hq in Melbourne, Australia bans smoking (in 1995 the company got NYC to exempt it from its workplace smoking laws by threatening to leave the city).

The US is trying to tighten sanctions on Iraq further, banning it receiving a heart medication and the antibiotic Cipro. US ambassador to the UN Negroponte says the US does not believe these (and other) goods “have a benign, civilian, or purely humanitarian purpose.” Which is bad news for me, since I have Cipro in my medicine cabinet.

George Monbiot in the Guardian today reminds us that the next target after Afghanistan was supposed to be Somalia, but the ratings weren’t good enough. “It is plain that the US government's decision to go to war came first, its chosen target second, and its reason for attacking that country third.”

Proof that there is a God: A lightning bolt struck a group of worshippers during an open air church service in Zimbabwe on Sunday, killing 10 people, the Herald newspaper said yesterday.

A Montenegrin family thought a Second World War artillery shell which had been in their yard for 50 years was the ideal replacement for a broken table leg until it exploded, slightly injuring eight people about to eat. The family in Danilovgrad were preparing the local speciality of grilled pork fat when the old shell went off, the Yugoslav daily Vecernje Novosti said yesterday.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Coffee enemas & flaming pop tarts

I called the wiretap appeals court a fake court, but I missed one of the ways in which it is fake: there is no appeal from it. I mean there is theoretically, but the cases are secret, including the defendants. This week’s decision came in the case of US Government versus We Don’t Have to Tell You Who. So in practical terms, this means that there is nobody with standing to appeal, or if there is they don’t know it, so de facto, there is no appeal. It would be trite to invoke Catch 22 at this point, but I don’t see how I can avoid it.

Speaking of a Potemkin criminal justice system, the Sunday Wash Post says, to no one’s shock, that many of those detained and still detained after 9/11 as “material witnesses” were never questioned by grand juries, which is the only proper purpose of the material witness law. It also says that such people are owed $40 per day.

Here’s some helpful etiquette information: "There's a lot more to kissing a lady's hand than most people think. The most important thing to remember is that you should not attempt to kiss it until she has offered her hand. The lady always instigates the greeting. Once she has offered you her hand, you should remove your hat, if you are wearing one, and hold it lightly at the front of your leg. Then you step towards the lady and take her outstretched hand and turn the palm downwards gently by the fingertips. Keeping your legs straight, bend at the waist until your lips are a centimetre above her hand. Never touch her hand with your lips and avoid eye contact or speaking while bowing for the kiss. Look into her eyes afterwards and if they are sparkling, you have done it right and she will know you are a gentleman."

That’s from a class being taught at juvenile detention facilities in Vienna.

Across the border in slightly less civilized Hamburg, riot police accidentally beat up their own undercover detectives at a demonstration in support of squatters.

Friday, November 22, 2002

What a moron

Is anyone paying attention to the NATO meeting? The triumphalism is a little nauseating, but the thing to watch is the attempt to make an alliance to defend Western Europe against the Red hordes into some sort of rapid reaction force, enforcing the will of the US in parts of the world that are not North nor are they Atlantic. Meaning Iraq of course. Which is not what NATO is for.

What NATO is actually for, as we know, is a penis substitute. “Tomorrow NATO grows larger,” said Bush. “Tomorrow, the soul of Europe grows stronger.” NATO is GeeDubya’s shiny red sports car, his way of making himself feel less inadequate, a feeling which always seems to come over him when he spends too much time with Colin Powell, for some reason.

Elsewhere in his speech: “We’re tied to Europe by history. We are tied to Europe by the wars of liberty we have fought and won together.” Funny, I thought a war of liberty was why we weren’t tied to Europe anymore. “And now that the countries of Europe are united in freedom, they will no longer fight each other and bring war to the rest of the world.” No, bringing war to the rest of the world is pretty much our job now. Actually, what that sentence shows is the myth of the peace-loving naive Americans dragged into the conflicts of the evil warlike Europeans. He also uses the phrase that terrorists come from failed states, which is his excuse I guess to fight states like Afghanistan and Iraq, which is something the Pentagon knows how to do, while avoiding tracking down actual terrorists, which they haven’t got a clue how to do.

The meeting was held in the Czech Republic, which needs a better name, and which kept having to fend off invasions from the old Warsaw Pact. The dictator of Belarus didn’t get a visa, despite his threats. Nor did the defense minister of Kazakhstan, whose plane was forced down by US war-planes. And Kuchma of Ukraine, which has an ok name but which still seems funny without the definite article, showed up despite being told not to, because of arms sales to Iraq, which Bulgaria has also done, but it just joined NATO (one of the secret conditions of which is that it sell its national tobacco factory to an American company, it says in the Guardian). The big question of the conference, though, was will they or won’t they, and Bush did indeed shake the hand of German Chancellor Schröder. At least Bush probably knows his name, as opposed to that of Elton Gallegly, chairman of the House International Relations Sub-committee, one of the 4 representatives of the US Congress, as Elton Gallegly, if that is his real name, found out when Bush tried to introduce him.

Canadian PM Chrétien also showed confusion, after his spokesmodel was overheard calling Bush a “moron.” (The exact phrase, which I could not find in the Toronto Globe & Mail, the 1st paper I looked in, was “What a moron”.) He is not a moron, said Chrétien, he is a friend. What, like he can’t be both? for the Colossal Colon tour to promote colon awareness. Personally, when I want to be aware of my colon, I take a look at the piece of it I keep in a plastic container.

Since the Supreme Court banned executing the retarded, California is going to test the IQs of all death row inmates. With a 10-minute IQ test, which they tried to implement before their lawyers got wind of it, although they failed in that.

People that go to malls to pray (and not that they’ll be able to fit into that dress).

A letter to the NY Times notes that the gov plans to keep information on every purchase we make or library book we check out, our travel, bank records, medical records, e-mail etc, but won’t track gun sales and ownership. That the program is headed by John Poindexter is yet another hilarious Bush PR misstep that won’t damage him like it should, like the thing about expanding snowmobiles in Yosemite while we’re preparing for another war to safeguard our precious, precious oil.

The Miss World pageant is taking place in Nigeria. So far the death toll is over 50.

A story in the Post about the State Dept considering taking Burma off the list of major drug traffickers (knocked down one place by our good friends the Afghans, no doubt) suggests a cozying up to the dictators that needs to be watched.


In the run-up to the Likud leadership election, Netanyahu has been taking out ads on how there were “only” 4 suicide bombings when he was in charge--and running the ads on the sides of buses.

Let us mourn the death of Earl Warrick, who invented silly putty (also the production of silicone rubber and silicon as in chips, but no one would have read the obit if they put that in the headline.

The Miss World deaths now number over 100, which I believe is about the same as the last time they tried to hold a beauty pageant in Santa Cruz.

When someone threw meat up on the stage. Of course these days the feminist protesters would be protested by PETA.

The French rather cleverly fucked over the Americans by giving the NATO statement on Iraq its own translation. Rather than saying Iraq will face serious consequences *as a result* of its continued violations, it says, in a translation that has equal force and validity to the English-language version, that Iraq will face serious consequences *if* it continues violations.

One thing that could damage the war effort is the firefighters’ strike in Britain, since something like 1/5 of the British military is now being used as scabs (blacklegs, to use the proper British term). Tony Blair’s office, in a lovely use of metaphor, accused the Fire Brigades Union of demanding “half-baked proposals.”

Speaking of badly thought out responses, here’s another, from the Wash Post:
DANA POINT, Calif., Nov. 22 -- Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge today rebutted charges from Al Gore that President Bush has lost focus on the war against terrorism and has left the country more vulnerable to future attacks, saying, "I don't know what the vice president's talking about." Yes, let’s respond to an accusation of lack of focus by admitting complete lack of knowledge.

Nice to see that PM Chrétien did not accept the resignation of the communications director who called Bush a moron. He told the press that she often uses the word, and has called him and indeed most of them morons too.

The Wash Post notes that Bush has continued the employment of Eugene Scalia (Fat Tony’s son) at Labor & Otto Reich at State. These were recess appointments originally, because they are both awful choices who couldn’t get confirmed, so they should have been there temporarily. Bush has decided essentially to give them new titles and do exactly the same jobs. In other words, he has decided unilaterally that positions which are supposed to be subject to Senate confirmation are now in his hands alone.

The justices of Louisiana’s Supreme Court stop fucking their sisters long enough to uphold the state’s ban on oral and anal sex, saying the law is not a violation of privacy.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Today’s mail brought notices that I was due for my rabies shots and that the cat had jury duty, or something like that. We’re both so pleased you have no idea. This will be my 4th, and I have yet to set foot in an actual courtroom, although if I did I’d quickly be disqualified by virtue of having too much book larnin’. The proper response to being empaneled on a jury is an indignant “How stupid do you think I am?” As I recall, the way this works is that I’m supposed to arrive in Martinez, 16 miles away, at 8:00 in the forgodsake morning and then wait around for several hours (judges don’t even get out of bed before 9:30), so I can wait around for several hours doing nothing. You bring books, but there’s always a tv loudly blaring Regis Philbin, and uncomfortable chairs and evidently breastfeeding mothers don’t have to do jury duty, so there’s not even that to look at. If I had a laptop, I could play one of those really violent games and cackle Die motherfucker! every time I shot an old lady or zombie or better yet cop. At some point a civil servant who is actually paid for being there will give a pep talk about civic duty, while the county is dipping its hands into our pockets, not even paying us gas money on the day I have to show up and not get picked for a jury, and the form they want me to return, which I won’t, is not postage-paid.

The Israeli Labor Party (it feels weird spelling that without a u in Labor) signs its own death warrant by electing as its new head a guy who counts as a peacenik in Israeli terms (which means that as a military commander, he only had his men break the arms of stone-throwers, not shoot them dead and burn down their village).

As if further proof is needed that constitutionally speaking the US government is a hollow shell, a fake court met this week for the first time. This is the secretive appeals court for the secretive wiretap court. The appeals court is named entirely by William Rehnquist, who selected its three members from the entire range of federal judges, from a Reagan appointee on the right, to a Reagan appointee on the left (no prizes for guessing who appointed the middle member). This court rules that there is no wall between wiretapping for criminal and wiretapping for intelligence purposes. So prosecutors can now get wiretaps and use them for criminal trials, based on the almost non-existent standard of proof required for wiretaps for intelligence purposes. The 4th Amendment be damned.

In another example of corporate socialism (socialized costs, privatized profits), the Senate votes that insurance companies don’t have to pay off on terrorism insurance policies, the US government will do that for any attack over $10 billion. So why do the insurance companies get to collect the premiums?

From the Telegraph: Muslims angry at Nigeria's staging of the Miss World contest burned down a newspaper office in the northern city of Kaduna after an article hinted that the Prophet Mohammed would have married one of the contestants.

Ditto: Singapore is to relax its 10-year ban on chewing gum, but only if it is given on prescription. Doctors and dentists will be able to administer sugar-free gum to patients for "medicinal benefits". The ban was imposed because the gum stained pavements. The relaxation follows pressure from America during trade talks.

Ditto: Greece has banned the sale of "Living Dead Dolls", American toys featuring fiery eyes, scarred faces and bloodied mouths which come in their own coffins and death certificates. The dolls cost about £32.

From the Times: George Bush was elected President with a promise to restore dignity to the White House. Yet in the book George and Laura: Portrait of an American Marriage, the US President's party trick is revealed - he likes to stick chopsticks up his nose.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

A real mind-blower

In today’s NY Times arts section, it says that an Eli Lilly heir (aged 87) is planning to leave $100 million to Poetry magazine. Far be it for me to denigrate poetry, except for the modern stuff that makes me want to bang my head repeatedly against a wall, but speaking of people who actually do that, wasn’t Eli Lilly the company that got Trent Lott to sneak a provision into the Heimat Security Bill letting it off the hook for a drug that may cause autism? (OK, the banging against the wall thing wasn’t the greatest segue, but it’s the best I can do at 4:30 in the morning. Still, that sentence had a sort of poetically complex structure to it, huh?) I’m just wondering if there isn’t a better use for Eli Lilly money, is all I’m saying, unpoetic justice if you will. The highly literate response of the poet laureate of the United States to this news: “It’s a real mind-blower.” The magazine pays $2 a line, which makes $100 million a shitload of poetry (actually I think the correct plural is “an iambic of poetry” or possibly “a pretentiousness of poetry”). Of course they may just blow it all on a crash project to find a word that rhymes with orange.

Further on what I said 2 days ago about the almost-third-person way GeeDubya now uses to refer to himself: from a Bob Woodward interview: "I'm the kind of person that wants to make sure that all risk is assessed."

From the same interview, on spreading light and love and reason throughout the world using genocidal force if necessary: "And if the values are good enough for our people, they ought to be good enough for others, not in a way to impose because these are God-given values. These aren't United States-created values. These are values of freedom and the human condition and mothers loving their children."

Bush’s attempt to include as a tripwire in the UN resolution a clause that the US has decided to interpret to mean that Iraq can’t shoot at our planes in the no-fly zone anymore, was laughed into oblivion by the entire rest of the world including Kofi Annan and astonishingly even Britain.

Bush keeps talking about war crimes trials for Iraqi leaders, but presumably not for those he intends to put in charge of a puppet government, like General Nizar Khazraji, just arrested for war crimes by Denmark.

Iran just released 20 Iraqi prisoners from the 1980-8 war, isn’t that sweet?

Monday, November 18, 2002

Poo allowance

Unnecessary remake no. 387: The Manchurian Candidate, starring Denzel Washington.

Zimbabwe makes it a crime to yell or make obscene gestures at President Mugabe’s motorcade, which screws up traffic whenever it appears.

In a radio interview last week that really didn’t get reported, Rumsfeld said that if UN inspectors found no weapons, "What it would prove would be that the inspection process had been successfully defeated by the Iraqis." Heads I win, tails you lose.

Good article on genetically modified foods and the attempt by biotech companies to “put a padlock on the food chain.” Also, that this is a deliberate strategy of American aid. One of USAID’s objectives is to "integrate GM into local food systems".

The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court has been ordered by a federal court, finally, to take down the 10 Commandments monument. By the way, it doesn’t make it into the papers when this clown is discussed, but he also used to have prayer sessions with jury pools.

One of the things China uses to establish its ancient right to oppress Tibet is that its surveyors mapped Mount Qomolangma in 1717. They have just launched a propaganda campaign against the evil British colonialists and the rest of the world who call it after the surveyor-general of the British Indian government, Sir George Everest, who mapped it in 1852. Tibetans and Nepalese have their own names for it.

By the way, that Bin Laden tape in which he congratulates the alliterative Bali bombers? The reason he’s pissed at Australia and Indonesia is because East Timor was allowed to become independent of Muslim Indonesia.

IBM is working on a computer that will match the human brain. Of course Commodore did that a long time ago, if the brain is that of GeeDubya Bush.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Exploiting the opportunity

Something else Prince Charles doesn’t have to squeeze out of a tube himself, because he has one of his valets do it: toothpaste (from a crested silver dispenser). Actually, Chuck has recently economized, cutting down to four valets, but the Guardian still asks “why exactly does one man need so many people to help him get dressed?”

In analyzing GeeDubya, here are a couple of quotes from him, from the Post’s piece on Bob Woodward’s new book on the Afghan war:
“I can be an impatient person." He spoke about his "instincts" or his "instinctive" reactions a dozen times during the ranch interview. "I'm not a textbook player; I'm a gut player," he said.
Ignoring the content, which just proves again what I’ve said about him in the past, that he thinks “instincts” are an adequate replacement, indeed superior than, intelligence or knowledge, look at the sentence structure. Maybe he’s been doing this all along and I just noticed it, but I’ll be on the lookout in the future. He’s thinking of himself in the third person; he’s using nouns where normal people would use adjectives or verbs. Most people would say “I can be impatient,” how many people that you know would say “I can be an impatient person”?

This isn’t scary at all: Britain is considering replacing electronic tags for paedophiles with surgically implanted ones, that can be used to track them at all times via GPS and monitor their heart rate and blood pressure, sending out the police if they think he’s getting too excited.

Fans of urine-related sports should click here.

Sharon plans to expand settlements in the West Bank. Yeah, we know he does that anyway, but usually he lies about it. He says on radio that Israel must “exploit the opportunity to create new facts in the field and create contiguity” (that means ethnic cleansing). I assume the opportunity he’s so eager to exploit is the latest attack on Israelis. Think he’ll get into trouble for the word “exploit”? Me neither.

Former Italian Prime Minister Andreotti is sentenced to 24 years in prison for getting the Mafia to assassinate, in 1979, a journalist who was close to the story of Andreotti’s complicity in the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro. No one thinks he’ll actually have to go to jail, though. I don’t think anyone ever does in Italy.

For the first time North Korea says that it has nukes. Not that this means they do, of course.

The new Pakistani Parliament has finally been allowed to convene. It has a record number of 1) mullahs, 2) women (many of whom are standing in for male politicians Musharaf barred from running). Should be fun.

Friday, November 15, 2002

Not the camel fair! Is nothing sacred?

Doug Ireland talks about Nancy Pelosi’s record, suggesting that she’s not much of a leftie after all, and that her reputation for it rests on only a small portion of her voting record--her advocacy of homosexuals and AIDS sufferers and support for civil rights in China--which was basically forced on her by the demographics of her SF district. Also she’s been bad recently on Israel, Iraq, and she’s an airhead. So as usual we get all the right-wing rhetoric about lefties taking over the Democratic Party, without the benefit of any of the left-wing policies we’d get if that ever really happened.

Speaking of heiresses to the political elite, it’s getting curiously little attention, but Chief “Justice” Rehnquist’s daughter, the inspector general at Health & Human Services, liked to keep a gun in her office, which is generally not good either for health or for human services, to say nothing of being illegal. At least she’s not wearing a robe with stripes on the sleeves. She’s also accused of politicizing the office and forcing non-partisans out (at least she didn’t shoot them, although she did try to force them to take loyalty oaths).
(yes it’s the Wall Street Journal, but you can access it)(also Molly Ivins’s current column, quoting the Journal).
Janet Rehnquist prefers that health care companies that have previously defrauded the government be dealt with on a voluntary basis, because forcing them to use strict reporting would have a financial impact on the poor babies. She also halted an audit of Florida’s pension fund until after the election.

In Macedonia, NATO soldiers attack some terrorists and hold them at gunpoint. Well, not actually terrorists, but actors in a movie being filmed.

Labour MP Alan Simpson: “I think Bush will hit Iraq in the same way that a drunk will hit the bottle.”

The State Dept warns Americans to stay away from the annual camel fair in Rajasthan, India, as there is a risk of terrorist attack. Plan your vacations accordingly. I’m beginning to think that The Onion is writing State’s press releases.

The Russian Duma rejects investigating the mishandling of the Moscow theater siege, giving in to authoritarian President Vlad the Impaler Putin.

The US House rejects investigating the mishandling of intelligence before 9/11, giving, you get the idea. And by a party-line vote. You might think that means that there really is a difference after all between the parties on foreign policy, but actually they were both alike in thinking of an inquiry in terms of partisan advantage.

The R’s also snuck some other stuff through in the Homeland Security Bill, like letting companies which use offshore tax havens contract with the department, and anyone else it contracts to, like airport screening companies and makers of smallpox vaccines, are completely immune from lawsuits. Oh, and Eli Lilly is protected from liability for a previous drug which may cause autism; this has nothing to do with the Homeland Security Agency in any way, but it got inserted into the bill anyway. You’ll remember the R’s ran ads accusing the D’s of being worried about extraneous things like government workers being ordered to leave their unions instead of the national security.

Judging from the tone of Iraq’s acceptance of the UN Security Council ultimatum, which is described by newspapers with hilarious understatement as “grudging,” if I were the UN inspectors before handling any list of weapons programs handed over by the Iraqis that they hadn’t used it as toilet paper first. “No no, my infidel friend, that is only coffee stain.” As Jon Stewart said after reading bits of it out, imagine what the draft of a rejection was like.

I mentioned the proposed (or has it been passed?) Hong Kong treason statute dictated to them by the evil overlords in Beijing. The Chinese vice-premier has a good explanation for the (weak) opposition to it: they must have done something wrong.

The Mother Jones website has an ad for Viagra on it. Well sure, have you seen the picture of the actual Mother Jones at the top of the page?

Thursday, November 14, 2002

What would Jesus drive?

There was a UN conference last week which for the first time ever decided that the way to solve overpopulation and poverty is to give women control over their own fertility. Oh, except for the US, which is now threatening to cut all funding to the UN family planning thingy, having decided that there is something horribly wrong about the phrases “reproductive rights” and “reproductive health services.” Evidently they might lead to dancing. Sorry, I mean abortion.

Speaking of conferences, NATO is holding one in Prague next week. Belarus is not invited. So President Lukashenko has threatened that if he is not given a visa, Belarus will cease guarding its borders and flood the Czech Republic (and through it, all Western Europe) with immigrants and drug smugglers.

A new series of commercials by a Christian group in the Mid-West asks the burning question: What Would Jesus Drive? Evidently not an SUV. Funny, because most SUV owners drive as if they think they’re the flipping son of God. Actually, I believe traditionally Jesus drives in a side-car. Somebody help me out here, because “What would Jesus drive” is a fantastic straight line but I can’t seem to think of anything funny. Usually they just pop into my head fully formed, but here I’ve just got the elements of a joke. See what you can do with these: a pogo stick, “my other car is a...”, when the van’s a-rocking..., a Yugo.

Evidently there’s another tripwire in the UN resolution on Iraq: it requires Iraq not to shoot at anyone enforcing a UN resolution. According to the US, they’ve been doing just that for years, shooting at US planes enforcing the no-fly zone, which was not of course declared by the UN but by the US, which claims it was necessary to enforce UN resolutions. Asked about this, Rummy Rumsfeld waffled, "That's for the United Nations and the president of the United States to make judgments like that. At what point does Saddam Hussein's behavior reflect compliance and cooperation, and at what point does it reflect something other than that?"

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Pure theater

Two months ago, The Onion ran a piece about commemorating the one-week anniversary of the 1-year anniversary of 9/11 (I think I was funnier last year when I wrote about July 4th as the 25th anniversary of the Bicentennial). That was satire. This week we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Vietnam War memorial in Washington D.C. Judging from the grim expressions, this wasn’t satire.

Bush dismissed the Iraqi parliament, which voted to reject the UN Security Council’s terms, as "nothing but a rubber stamp for Saddam Hussein." He probably meant because the vote was unanimous, you know, like the vote of the UN Security Council. The White House says the vote was “pure theater.” Of course the Security Council vote was a puppet show, and the US Congress, well, each day’s session opens with a tiny car pulling onto the House floor and dozens of Congressmen pouring out, if you catch my drift.

More on the Japanese kidnapped by N. Korea: when it claimed that most of them had mysteriously died in car crashes and whatnot and the graves of all but one were mysteriously washed away by floods, it returned bones purportedly of that one--which tests show were actually the bones of someone 20 years older, and a woman.

Herat, a city in Afghanistan, has reimposed the Taliban ban on wedding celebrations in restaurants, because it might lead, shudder, to dancing.

Iraq was “caught” trying to buy antidotes to nerve gas, which the US says (while trying to get Turkey not to sell the stuff to Iraq; Turkey says it will investigate the issue for long enough for the sale to go through) proves Iraq intends to use chemical weapons against the US. 1) If you don’t want people trying to kill you, don’t invade their country; 2) Is the US complying with the chemical weapons treaty? If not, shut up (an article in this week’s Village Voice suggests that one of the reasons the outrage over Russia’s use of fentanyl in the theatre died down so fast was that the Pentagon is testing that drug for its own use. The article also mentions that in 1997 Mossad tried to use fentanyl to assassinate a Hamas leader by spraying it in his ear); 3) I strongly suspect Iraq just did this as a cheap way of throwing a scare into US troops and making it that much harder for them to fight, constrained by all that heavy decon equipment.

China’s party congress doesn’t just usher in the era of the communist plutocrats, but also of nepotism on a grand scale. The sons of Jiang & Li Peng are to be elevated to the party central committee, along with a bunch of other sons of current leaders.

The Wash Post has a story on all of Tom DeLay’s lackies taking over the R leadership in the House. According to him, "It's the cream rising to the top." Tommy, the only things we see rising to the top when we look at you are 1) our lunches, 2) a really cheap toupée.

1.49 million tv ads during this year’s elections.

Monday, November 11, 2002

I think we need a larger can of Raid.

There’s a piece by a former UNSCOM spokesman in the Guardian saying that there can be no real proof found by inspectors one way or another, esp as you can’t prove a negative. Consequently, Hans Blix will at some point have to make a decision that is more properly a political one. This is in part why the Bushies are not talking about inspections, but about disarmament: it makes Iraq have to prove that it is innocent, which is pretty much impossible. Incidentally, the inspectors are supposed to issue a report in February, but Colin Powell says that the US won’t wait that long.

I’m told that Oklahoma and South Carolina (which the Daily Show described as being known as the South Dakota of the Carolinas) ban tattooing.

Evidently I fell asleep for a really long time and it’s now Christmas. Did I mention that when I had to go to the supermarket twice in one day to buy an apple that I had to go past a Salvation Army bell-ringer each time? And me without my chainsaw.

On the bright side, I’ve just received my first ever Nigerian scam email (actually claiming to be from Burkina Faso, but close enough). I feel like I have finally joined the cyber community.

Seen the pictures of US-held POWs yet?

I guess every vote count must have gone ok, because I didn’t see a single story on whether the new voting machines in various places were actually working. Unless of course you count the state that realized a couple of days later it had misplaced 100,000 ballots. No prizes for guessing which state.

Under the subject heading But is it art? I sometimes have stories of weird art. For example, the Belgian artist Jan Fabre, who has dabbled in the media of blood (his own and his girlfriend’s menstrual), sperm and steak (uncooked, naturally). So naturally they gave him the job of renovating the royal palace in Brussels. On the ceiling: 5-foot long iridescent green beetles.

Speaking of art, a follow-up: the artist who kept the embalmed body of a dead tramp, that was found only after the former died? The coroner has decided that the body can go on display as a work of art.

The doctor who performed the first successful re-attachment of a limb died this week. That operation was in 1962.

Vladimir Putin warns of a worldwide Islamic radical plot to kill all non-Muslims and establish a world-wide caliphate. Chechen rebels are a part of this, and are certainly not just trying to establish their independence from a state that periodically tries to exterminate all Chechens.

Here’s a good Veterinarians’ Day story: so this guy lends his car out and his ancestors are still trying to get it back 88 years later. The vehicle in question is a lovely 1910 open-topped limousine in which the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, now residing in the Vienna military museum.

From the Daily Telegraph: A girl aged 10 was married off to a 40-year-old man in southern Pakistan to compensate him for a borrowed buffalo that died in her father's care. The village council, or jirga, decreed that the father could use his daughter as compensation for the loss of the animal, said Shahnaz Bukhari, of the Progressive Women's Association. The girl recently fled her husband after five months of marriage and returned to her family in the remote village of Dadu, Ms Bukhari said.

A George Monbiot column.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

What the butler held

Something I missed: GeeDubya repeated the charge that D’s in the Senate don’t care about national security, for the third time, the day before the election.

An op-ed piece in the Post says that the D’s lost the battle of ideas. Of course R ideas are pretty much “Iraq bad, fire good.” A bit like losing an arm wrestling contest with Stephen Hawking.

The site includes some stuff purged by the Bushies from the NIH website: evidence countering the urban myth that abortion increases the likelihood of breast cancer, on the effectiveness of condoms, on sex education programs....

2 items today in the I Told You So department: the UN resolution on Iraq was indeed written so that France & Russia can say it requires a second vote before war begins but the US & Britain will say it does not.

And on the DC snipers, Ashcroft not only chose the state, but even the counties, in which to prosecute, solely on the basis of the likelihood of execution. Evidently he had the power to do this not because of any law, god forbid, but for no other reason than that the prisoners were in federal custody. This is how a legal lynching begins. Sentence first, verdict second, trial we might as well skip.

On Iraq, the US ambassador to the UN, the war criminal John Negroponte says “noncompliance is no longer an option.” Bush admin people are using that “not an option” construction way way too often.

Princess Di’s butler is spilling the beans to the tabloids. What’s with all the homosexual rapes among the palace staff? I know royal gossip is the reason you all read these emails, so here’s a paragraph from the Guardian:
Among Burrell's revelations we learned that when Charles was in hospital and needed a wee, he got his valet to hold the bottle. I suppose it's better than Charles holding the bottle and the valet doing the other bit. "Shall I give it a little shake now, Your Majesty?" We also learned that Diana had a crush on Dr Hasnat Khan, and turned up at his house wearing a sumptuous fur coat under which she was completely naked. The great British public were appalled by this. They don't mind their future queen having it off with all and sundry and jeopardising the future of the monarchy; but wearing fur, well, that's just beyond the pale. Diana also had lovers smuggled into Kensington Palace in the boot of her car. Except on the nights when no one was available, when she went to bed with a spare wheel and a load of newspapers that they'd been meaning to take for recycling.
Also, Burrell would keep the queen company while she watched tv, only he wasn’t allowed to sit down. Queen Victoria used to do this to Gladstone, without the tv obviously.

Guardian headline: “Powell Says US Sensitive to Arabs.” Is that like being allergic to them, like shellfish?

Capitalist entrepreneurs are now allowed to join the Chinese Communist Party. Evidently they’re “workers” too.

A Nevada referendum banned gay marriages. Must...avoid... Sigfried and Roy...joke...

I don’t know how many of you are interested in this, but here’s a rather good piece on homophobia in British politics, and how the Tory party, bizarrely enough, is being shattered by the homosexuals.

The British government is planning to force people in motorized wheel chairs to take out collision insurance.

WaPo on redistricting and why almost all the Congressional incumbents managed to be re-elected.

Nord-Est, the Russian musical interrupted so rudely by the Chechen hostage-takers, is performed again, as a requiem. That must be a weird experience, given that it’s a musical comedy.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

People want something to get done

Or the Terrorists Win: the government argues in court that refugees from poverty-ridden Haiti are an ominous threat to national security. Says the Post: INS officials told the judge that if the Haitians are released, they will spark a mass migration from Haiti to South Florida, endangering lives and causing the U.S. government to deploy too many resources in patrolling the seas. "We're concerned that very important resources of the Coast Guard and the Department of Defense would be diverted from their primary mission of protecting the homeland and fighting the war on terrorism," said Mario Ortiz, an immigration officer. "It sends the wrong signal of mass migration. The primary focus of this country should be in fighting terrorism."

Evidently GeeDubya Bush’s [that one’s from Molly Ivins] little education act passed earlier this year included a provision that high schools must give military recruiters names and addresses for every student, or have all federal money revoked.

If you’re looking for a fresh face to hate, given the retirement of Thurmond, Gramm and Helms, I recommend you start with Thurmond’s replacement, Lindsey Graham. And with Orrin Hatch back as chair of the judiciary committee, you might resume thinking about him, which will inevitably lead to despising him.

On the bright side, I guess, Loretta Sanchez, who displaced the amusing but psychopathic Bob Dornan, is joined in the House by her sister, which hasn’t happened here before, although the British Parliament beats them all to hell with the Eagle sisters, Labour MPs who are twins, and one of whom is a lesbian.

Another story on Israeli settlers attacking Palestinian olive-pickers. It does mention Israeli peace activists who help, but gives no sense of the scale, probably not many.

Shrub sheds his brilliance on the elections: “If there is a mandate in any election, at least in this one, it’s that people want something to get done.”

This was the year of the po’ white ignorant Southern voter. According to the NY Times, the Dem. governor of Georgia was ousted because he sponsored changing the flag to remove the image of the burning cross, or whatever. Blacks to a great extent failed to vote at all. One of the things the D’s have failed to realize over the decades is how much they depended on hereditary Democratic voters: blacks, Irish, unionists, Hispanics, Hawaiians, etc., who have now largely stopped voting the way their ancestors did. D’s now actually have to fight for votes and plainly most of them don’t know how. None of this bodes well for the future.

It could have been worse. Consider that one result of the election was that D’s are now a minority of state legislators for the first time in 50 years, meaning that D’s had a large hand in the reapportionment that went into effect this year.

Slate analyses a US sting operation in Colombia and notes that the headlines in the Times and Post saying that an arms-for-drugs deal (and something similar in Pakistan) had been “foiled” was inaccurate and might as well have been written by John Ashcroft; since one side of the deal consisted only of American undercover agents, no actual deal existed that could have been “foiled.”

A must-read on the Pentagon’s budgeting for Star Wars, which is essentially $7.4 billion for whatever they feel like spending it on, and the 39¢ for defense against biological or radiological threats that might actually be real.

I’ve just read the 50th analysis of the elections that says the D’s lost because they were seen to have no plans of their own, and the R’s did (otherwise not a bad election analysis). I said something like this myself, but I didn’t say what they all seem to be implying, that any plan no matter how crazy, slanted towards business and the rich, unilateralist etc etc is considered ok, as long as they, you know, have a plan. And this is a must-read indictment of the D’s.

My own analysis is all over the map, I know. I’ve said that the D’s as opposition party didn’t oppose, and I’ve said that partisanship á la Britain would be a bad thing. What I’d really like to do is get rid of any recognition of parties as institutions in the Congressional rules. Parties are not in the constitution, which is the only document that should give institutionalized power. The decision of a Jim Jeffords, a single senator, to change parties shouldn’t have a dramatic effect. The replacement of might-as-well-be-Republican Democrats like Max Cleland and Zell Miller by actual Republicans with similar positions but more arms and legs should not be made artificially significant by the party names they chose.

NATO has a new policy, or will later this month: sending troops anywhere in the world to help countries defeat “terrorist groups” on their territory. I don’t see how that could possibly go spectacularly wrong.

What does it say about Dick Cheney that Bush was only able to promise to keep him on as VP after the 2002 elections were over?

The Commerce Dept is fining and threatening any companies that participate in unofficial boycotts, like say that of Israel.

The EU finally comes to agreement to ban animal testing for cosmetics, phased in over a number of years, overcoming fierce objections from France, which may cave in to any dictator that comes along but evidently isn’t afraid to take on bunnies.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

More depressed ramblings

The Bushies are doing something rather ungracious, which is insisting that Bush is responsible for all the R’s being elected. Possibly this was just to convince them that they now owed him. I happen to think that a president thinking of members of another branch of government as his personal cannon-fodder is not good for the republic, but that’s me. It also emphasizes the growing trend towards partisanship, which everyone thinks they’re talking about when the talk about the “atmosphere” in Washington, but I mean true partisanship, which is the increasing trend over the last years for the party of a congresscritter being predictive of their vote on any given issue. This is also not good for the republic, and if you want to see why, well I mentioned yesterday that the British Tory party insisted on telling its MPs how they were to vote on adoption by unmarried people, and IDS getting all hysterical about the party not uniting behind him when members didn’t march in lock-step. Trust me, we don’t want the political parties to have that much power; people may like individual D’s or R’s, but they all know that the parties themselves are evil.

I knew there was something wrong when the Democratic Party said, We need a savior, I know, let’s get Walter Mondale.

Has any other user of the Opera browser found that those annoying banner ads are suddenly all in German?

Paul Burrell, Princess Di’s butler who blackmailed the palace into keeping him out of prison, is to host a quiz show featuring questions on the royal family and scandals. Title: What the Butler Saw.

Angelika, Dowager Countess of Cawdor, is trying to have her stepson, the 7th Earl of Cawdor, removed from the family castle. These are the descendants of The Scottish Play, I mean Macbeth, so this may not end well.

Morocco’s king rejects the UN referendum in occupied Western Sahara, stalled by Morocco for lo these many years.

Egypt has broadcast the tv show based on a Protocol of Zion type conspiracy theory. OK, the show is obviously bad and stupid, but the US tried to get the Egyptian government to censor it, which is also bad.

US also complains that the Swedish foreign minister quite rightly describes the assassination in Yemen (which we now learn wasn’t even authorized directly by Bush, but delegated to people lower down) as a “summary execution that violates human rights.” The US trade rep castigated Sweden, asking when it had last been in a major war (answers on a postcard please), as if that was a bad thing.

Oklahoma banned cockfights.

Oddly, Oregon rejected a measure to label genetically modified food. Of course the opposition was very very heavily funded.

One unilateralist Bush foreign policy idea I’d favor: delivering food to opposition-controlled areas in Zimbabwe that Mugabe is trying to starve. Although whether or not this would include GM food is another question. And there are implications for the future that aren’t especially good (undermining governments, sending people in to be taken hostage in order to spark military interventions, all that good CIA shit).

Musharaf prevents the newly elected National Assembly from convening. If this is the beginning of another coup, it will certainly have the US’s backing.

Depressed ramblings about the election

Gosh, I can’t wait to see Shrub looking even smugger than he already looked. Well, the D’s really did have nothing going for them this year except that they weren’t R’s. The election was a pudding without a theme, in that it’s impossible to say what the results mean because no one stood for anything. A billion dollars in ads and nary an issue raised. I wonder, if Paul Wellstone had died, and received all that adulation, two months ago, would the D’s have learned anything from it, and campaigned differently? Which of the remaining congresscritters would you miss if they died in a plane crash tomorrow?

But let’s not blame the politicians, not entirely, for this was a consumer-led failure. The politicians were so timid because the voters demanded nothing of them. There were no campaigns worthy of the name holding their feet to the fire on, for example, the environment, or health care, even the war, there’s no strong demand for a war with Iraq. People may see it as necessary, but no one’s especially enthusiastic except Rumsfeld and his ilk.

And the Bush administration, which looks to be so heavily backed right now, has totally failed in all its stated objectives. The tax cuts didn’t revive the economy, and won’t. No one thinks the US is any safer from terrorism than it was a year ago, and they haven’t even found the anthrax guy--well, haven’t arrested him anyway--much less Bin Laden or Mullah Omar. Remember the story I mentioned 3 weeks ago about the CIA distributing a picture supposedly of him, but with one more eye than Omar actually possesses? I think that came from a British source--why has no one domestically even mentioned it? If ever there was proof that the Bush admin was incompetent in its stated number one goal, this was it. Instead, Bush has raised Iraq, which does not threaten the US but could probably be beaten in a straight war, the only sort the US is actually any good at, into a bogey man.

The sort of good news is that Tom Daschle will almost certainly think better of running for president, which he had no chance of succeeding in. Of course that puts Gore back more firmly as the likely D candidate, and he has no chance either.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

You sleep with us, you vote against us!

Far be it for me to focus on constitutional niceties no one else cares about, but I am now unrepresented in the state senate. Reapportionment put me in the district of an incumbent I have never had presented to me in an election, and he is not up for reelection this year. As far as I’m concerned, for the next 2 years I don’t have to pay any state taxes.

A warning: if you have any videotapes that might contain something recently recorded from commercial tv, burn them now, or you may be in the hideous position two or three weeks from now of finding yourself watching a campaign commercial again. That way madness lies.

In British Tory news, Iain Duncan Smith is demanding that his party unite behind him. They say no. He misquoted Benjamin Franklin as follows: "We cannot go on in this fashion. We have to pull together, or we will hang apart." As one columnist points out, “All this talk of hanging and pulling seemed to suggest only one thing: curtains.” Oddly enough, his demand to his party to “unite or die” came after a rebellion on whether to allow gays and unmarried couples to adopt (IDS said no, tried to impose a whip on the sort of issue usually left to MPs’ consciences, then said there would be no punishment for disobeying the whip, then today claimed there was a conspiracy against him because 43 MPs either voted against his position or abstained).

More oddly, I am about to mention Posh Spice for the second time in a week: she is suing a football team, Peterborough United, for trademarking its nickname since 1923, posh or The Posh.

Mel Brooks’s musical version of The Producers is going to play in...Germany. Hopefully in the spring.

A sure sign of the apocalypse, number 754: NASA is putting out a publication to answer the conspiracy theorists who say they never landed on the moon.

Oh bother. Oh bother.

A couple in China set the record for world’s longest marriage (85 years). [Mildly racist joke deleted here]

Al-Jazeera is suppressed in Kuwait as being not “objective.”

A good summary of the oil motivation in US foreign policy in Central Asia, Iraq, Latin America...

In all the stories about the assassination of several alleged Al Qaida in Yemen, I have yet to see any hint about whether it was with or without the Yemeni government’s permission or knowledge.

Ariel Sharon says that after the “free world” defeats Iraq, it should go after Iran. And then maybe Libya.

The Turkish electoral system was evidently brilliantly set up so that the votes of 47% of the voters, those who voted for any of the 16 parties that got less than 10% of the vote, were just thrown in the garbage. Because as we know from our own country, there really is no need for more than two parties, when the full spectrum of ideas is covered in a debate between, say, Gray Davis and Bill Simon (whose neck seems to be getting thicker by the day). Of course when we get a third party guy in office, it’s some moron like Jesse Ventura, whose neck is even thicker than Simon’s and whose skin is so thin as to put the princess and the pea princess to shame. Where was this sensitivity when Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich implied he was going to Cuba for sex tourism?

I have just received a call from Martin Sheen asking me to vote for Gray Davis. Now is this the good President Martin Sheen from West Wing, or the bad President Martin Sheen from The Dead Zone?

In searching the IMDB researching that last sentence, I came across a short film called Apocalypse Pooh (under 8 minutes, they will make you see a 30 second preview first) which superimposes dialogue from Apocalypse Now over a Winnie the Pooh film. Hilarious.

Well, I will vote after all. Today’s Tom Toles cartoon suggests that my vote really will count, because the negative ads will have so turned everyone off that only 3 people will vote in the entire country.

Monday, November 04, 2002

So that's how Bush maintains his human visage

In the Idaho race for US Senate, both candidates are pro-gun, but the D, Alan Blinken, is accusing his opponent of not using his own gun enough. This from his tv ad: “Larry Craig talks about the rights of gun owners but he hasn't even had a hunting licence in Idaho for years. I came to Idaho to hunt and fish.” My god, Craig is practically a communist.

On the local news last night, saw Gray Davis trying to start a chant of Four More Years among some not very enthusiastic members of some union. Uh, isn’t someone other than the candidate supposed to lead the chanting?

In a discussion of the right to die in the Observer, a writer refers to the existing state of affairs, in which terminally ill patients are assisted by unqualified family members or secretly by doctors, as “back-alley suicide.”

Here’s a story from “liberated” Afghanistan:
The Afghan Supreme Court has dismissed a female judge for not wearing an Islamic headscarf during a meeting with US President George Bush last month. Marzeya Basil was attending computer courses in Washington at the invitation of the US government when pictures of her, bareheaded, standing with Bush were carried by the world media. She was sacked days after her return to Afghanistan.

Sacked for not wearing a sack. I trust you’ve also been following the stories of girls’ schools there being burned down or threatened. But they can still fly kites, right? I just read a review of a book in which an article appears, saying that Islamic fundamentalist revolutionaries promise utopia but because they reject history as a deviation from early Islamic purity they lack institutional models for social transformation so that, for example, Iran retained traditional ideas of property. The result is that revolutionary transformation winds up being restricted to the sphere of individual conduct, burquas and kites and so on.

Belarus has banned any religious organizations which have been in the state under 20 years (i.e., those which were not banned by the communists), has introduced censorship of relig literature and bans foreigners from leading relig groups. All very retro. I especially like that 20 year thing, which I believe Russia tried but abandoned. The Orthodox Church using the repressive laws of the godless Soviet communists to prop up its own monopoly, you have to admire the irony, you really do.

The Russians are meanwhile reimposing controls on the increasingly puppified media. During the theater siege they shut down web sites and tv stations, pressured various news outlets and removed normal encoding from all mobile phones, and has since passed a law barring reporting of anti-terrorism operations or any criticism of same.

And continuing our theme of the day of a slide to the bottom, the US has given up, or at least postponed for a year or more, plans to set up military tribunals, because it has realized it has no need of even the pretense of rule by law.

The Islamist party wins Turkish elections. The BBC shows them dancing in the streets, which will no doubt soon be outlawed. The party’s head is barred from office because he once read a poem the authorities didn’t like. Interestingly, the Islamists state their highest priority to be joining the EU (which will never happen). The US also wants to force the EU to admit Turkey, and has told Germany that the way back into Shrub’s good graces is to push this.

And Israel’s government is lurching to the right, if possible. Who knows what secret deals are being made, but the parties that might be brought in to prop Sharon up tend to be of the Death to All Arabs variety, people whose very presence in government amounts to a declaration of war. The new defense minister is being investigated for war crimes.

In further bad news, a plot to kidnap Posh Spice was foiled. I’m thinking “The Ransom of Red Chief.”

Friday, November 01, 2002

The future is now

The Republican lamb being sacrificed to Walter Mondale, Norm Coleman, is using the slogan “The future is now,” which shows a disturbing lack of understanding of the space-time continuum. Although if the future is now, I’m putting in for Social Security.

A letter to the NY Times on the snipers suggests that where the trials should be based on where the crimes were committed, not who has the nastiest death penalty. Just one more example of ends having become significantly more important than means.

So after the Moscow hostage thing, will Bush stop saying of Saddam Hussein that he used chemical weapons on his own people?

The butler did it: I wasn’t following the story of Princess Diana’s butler, who was on trial for stealing a lot of her stuff after her death, until today when the trial collapsed because the queen suddenly “remembered” that he’d told her he’d be storing the stuff, for safe keeping like. In other words, as any three-year old instantly understood, he had blackmailed the queen.

From the New Republic, a story on how the US is encouraging other countries to deal with terrorism through extra-legal means, something I’ve been saying for a year. Also how the US is transporting suspects to countries like Egypt and Jordan for torture. Here’s an especially smug Hosni Mubarak: "[W]e were right from the beginning in using all means, including military trials... There is no doubt that the events of September 11 created a new concept of democracy that differs from the concept that Western states defended before these events, especially in regard to the freedom of the individual."

Florida just figured something out about it’s brand-new voting system: even if the machines work this time, as they didn’t in the primaries, given the length of the ballot, there literally isn’t enough time for everyone to vote, and the wait is likely to be very very long. Oh, and those new voting machines? They were not distributed according to the number of voters in each district.... There was also something in Salon that only subscribers could read and no one else has picked up except the Guardian in Britain (and I checked the Miami Herald), that they’re still using the highly inaccurate list of alleged felons they used in 2000 to disenfranchise mostly black people. 94,000 are still on the list, of whom only 3,000 are known to be legitimate felons, so to speak. The list includes 8 people whose “convictions” pre-date their birth date, and 400 whose crimes are listed as happening at dates in the future. The future is now. The state plans to fix the list... next year.

Stuff like the accountancy oversight board is actually important, if unexciting. Honest capitalists should be expressing outrage today that Webster was nominated despite his own involvement in firing an accountant who told a truth about fraud in the firm he was director of. They should be demanding Pitt’s resignation as chairman of the SEC. They are not. This suggests that corporations are indeed all up to their necks in corrupt and fraudulent practices, or at least would like to be. Look at the way businessman candidates like Bill Simon have been pounded this year and you can see that the reputations of corporate directors as a group are racing those of politicians and priests to the bottom. You don’t have to have money in the stock market to worry about the effect of all this on the economy.

Speaking of which, it seems that in 1990 Harken’s lawyers warned directors who had negative information about the company to refrain from selling their stocks. A week later, Dubya sold off $848,000 of his, triggering an SEC inquiry (while Daddy was prez). The letter from the lawyers was suppressed, not given to the SEC until the day after the inquiry was concluded.

A big Paris baker, something to do with bread but not baguettes, died today. Headline: “Master baker dies in helicopter accident”. That’s baker, with a k.