Friday, May 28, 1999

Arkansas voters turn down a 1 cent sales tax increase to fund the Clinton presidential library, in the same week that Hillary announces plans never to set foot in Arkansas again if she can possibly help it.

A woman is to go on trial in Italy for not having sex with her husband.

A school has announced a weapons amnesty for the turning in of guns and knives. The school is Eton, in which an air gun was recently fired. The school officials are worried that Prince William and Harry’s secret service will see a weapon and blow away the heir to a dukedom.

Thursday, May 27, 1999

An article in the Washington Post today (Thursday) details some of the sillier cases of school district over-reactions since Columbine. Worth reading. Similarly, Salon takes the WB to task for cancelling the season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Today NATO is to start bombing Serb telephone and computer centers. According to Tom Hayden (also in Salon), the US ranks 26th in countries taking Kosovo refugees. I know that Britain (22nd) has such stringent standards that the planes bringing refugees to Britain are actually arriving with empty seats.

Speaking of US bombing, we killed a kid yesterday. In Vietnam, where an unexploded bomb exploded. Didn’t see a single mention in the Washington Post or the NY Times.

Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Yesterday on McNeil-Lehrer saw Congresscritters Cox and Dicks (Dix?) talking about the penetration of nuclear labs. And when Cox and Dicks talk about penetration....

Of course you can hardly blame China for espionage, unless you think the US doesn’t spy on China at all. You can, however, blame them for spreading nuclear technology. It’s bad enough they have it, but they also sold it to Pakistan, which coincidentally may be about to enter its semi-annual war with India over Kashmir.

The Dolly the sheep cloning may not have been so successful after all; she may have been born middle-aged on the cellular level.

The Welsh Assembly opened today. The house is not going to have the pomp and tradition we’re used to from the House of Commons, I’m afraid. Today one member referred to another as the “honourable member” from wherever. The speaker reminded him that there are no honorable members here.

The Louisiana Senate votes to require elementary school students to say Yes ma’am and yes sir and no ma’am and no sir to their teachers. An armed society is a polite society. Of course it’s Louisiana, so a lot of the 6th graders are older than the teachers.

Thursday, May 20, 1999

Bumper sticker seen in Berkeley: Who died and made you Darth Vader? I’d like to point out that this week saw the removal from power of the two world leaders with the names that were the most fun to say: Bibi Netanyahu and Sitiveni Rabuka of Fiji. Coincidentally, they were both shits. In breast reduction surgery news, two stories from the London Times. A Manchester woman police constable had hers done in order to fit comfortably into the body armor they have to wear all the time now. The force does seem to have made every effort to help with this first, by the way. (Actually, Dave Barry’s column last week mentioned that the Canadians were trying to develop a combat bra, whatever that means) The second story wins my award for best headline of the week: News Presenter to Have Breasts Removed on TV. The size of the Yugoslav military in Kosovo is precisely the same as it was 8 weeks ago. With reports of desertions on their side, and German opposition on ours, it remains to be seen who will fall apart first. It might go a long way to a solution if the US stopped insisting that any occupying force has to be NATO. The NATO invasion was always illegal under international law and no country should have to legitimize such an occupation. And it will be an occupation, and extend to all of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo. If you haven’t seen a map lately, Kosovo is surrounded by Yugoslavia. Thus the Rambouille accord gave NATO troops permission to move anywhere in Yugoslavia unhindered, and why Yeltsin’s statement that NATO wished to make all of Yugoslavia a protectorate (rather than just Kosovo), which sounded to me at first like another Yeltsinism, was in fact accurate.

Tuesday, May 18, 1999

So what happened in the world while I was gone? Well, I only had the L.A. Times, which is fewer steps up the evolutionary ladder from the SF Chronicle than it used to be, so I don’t really know. My favorite Times headline was “Man with One Leg, Not Accepted by LAPD, Sues”. You laugh, but he passed the physical tests. Turkey dealt with the new woman MP who insists on wearing Islamic headgear by revoking her citizenship. NATO bombed a bunch more refugees and the Chinese embassy, notably the only time it really took credit for its own accidents. This week it is saying that the Serbs are to blame for the refugees our bombs killed because they were, allegedly, used as human shields. “Stop hiding behind those refugees so we can bomb you from the safety of our airplanes.”

The D’s & R’s of California, after ordering the voters of the state to take back the open primaries and failing, have decided to simply ignore them, taking separate counts according to party affiliation. That is not what we voted for, twice.

Milosevic offered to pull half his troops out of Kosovo. The US called it a half measure. Duh.

The US, never learning from its past mistakes, is to train the Indonesian police in riot control. One of the biggest under-reported stories of the last few years is how the US has gone back to this sort of thing, especially in Latin America under cover of the “drug war”. In just this way, the US trained the security forces of the juntas in the 1970s and the
Central American death squads in the 1980s.

The Kuwaiti Parliament is dissolved because the government printed some Korans with typos.

While I was gone, Russia got a new prime minister, a man whose university thesis was on The Ideology of Firemen. And speaking of death squads, Israel’s new prime minister is famous for having led revenge attacks on Palestinians in the 1970s, wearing a dress and disguised as a woman. When all the news reports refer to him as Israel’s most decorated general, I think they mean best accessorized.

A deer almost stepped on my cat today.

Speaking of animals, the fields along I-5 are getting increasingly exotic. On this trip, in addition to the ostriches I’ve noticed before, I saw llamas. I think it’s becoming the world’s longest, narrowest petting zoo.

Wednesday, May 05, 1999

In Saugus, CA, a 13-year old was given a bag of marijuana by a friend. He took it to his parents who took it to the police, presumably exactly what he was supposed to do. But since he was given it on school property and there is a zero tolerance rule, he has been suspended and transferred to a different school.

I said some time ago that Gen. Wesley Clark would turn out to be a hawk, given that he had a wimpy name that must have resulted in his getting frequently beaten up as a kid, and I was right, wasn’t I? Well, I saw the Star Wars movie (superb special effects, shame about the script) and young Anniken Skywalker, the future Darth Vader, is called by the abbreviation “Annie”.

So back to Kosovo. Yesterday I was thinking that Milosevic may have done the future state of world politics a favor by responding to NATO’s demand that he jump not with “How high?” but with “No.” Today, though, everyone is praising the efficacy of air power without ground troops, and that doesn’t bode so well. Before bowing down before the almighty bomber, it might be remembered that NATO not only killed an estimated 1,200 civilians through accidents but bombed several different whole other countries accidentally, to say nothing of the Chinese embassy. Also, military analysis suggests that the much greater military efficacy of bombing in recent days was due to the fact that there was in fact a ground force in the field, a little thing called the KLA, which a) told NATO where the appropriate targets were, and b) drove Serb soldiers and tanks and such out from under cover so that they could be bombed. Which suggests that simply arming the KLA earlier would have been a better strategy than indiscriminately bombing every farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in Yugoslavia. If I see one more story saying that Clinton was really a military genius after all, I may puke. Here is the man who ruled out ground forces, making it necessary to bomb every farmhouse etc in order to reverse the impression that he really wasn’t serious, who never seriously tried to negotiate or any other non-military method, who touted the Apache helicopters as the magic bullet to win the war, then marched them to the top of the hill and marched them down again....

What must it feel like to be bombed by a country that doesn’t change its bombing tactics one iota when it’s hitting hospitals, old age homes etc etc on a daily basis, that is waging what feels like total war from the ground but is an unimportant sideshow on the other side, which never so much as figured out how one pronounces Kosovo, and which is willing to sacrifice thousands of Serb and Kosovar civilians to the cause but not a single US soldier? If Milosevic had had any understanding of the US psyche, he wouldn’t have had those 3 US soldiers taken prisoner, he’d have made sure they were found riddled with bullets on the wrong side of the border.

And speaking of things that piss me off, have you noticed the pull-quote in the ads for the movie The Thirteenth Floor in which the movie is supposed to be a cross between “Phillip K. Dick” and Orson Welles? What they mean is not the novelist Philip K. Dick, who they have probably never read, but the movie Total Recall, which similarly misspelled the author’s name in its credits (the movie didn’t really bear any resemblance to anything Dick wrote, but it’s common practice to buy the rights to something in order to immunize yourself from people claiming you plagiarized the script they’ve been circulating for years). (Speaking of which, I once wrote “boom” on a piece of paper in 1970, so I want 10% of the gross of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace based on their theft of my intellectual property.

As long as I’m rambling, there is nothing even vaguely resembling a phantom menace in the movie. I know that Lucas was really pissed off when Reagan’s missile defense program started being called Star Wars and I think this title is just to make sure that whenever a politician calls for Star Wars, an opponent can say something about it offering protection only from a phantom menace.

Monday, May 03, 1999

The Washington Post has articles about one-man vast right wing conspiracy Richard Mellon Scaife in the Sunday and Monday papers (still available at least until Tuesday’s paper comes on line).

Before Jesse Jackson went to Belgrade I was wondering why the Clinton admin was so vehemently opposing a trip that I figured had a good chance to get the hostages/kidnap victims/POWs (the Pentagon never really did get its story straight on that one or decide on what side of the border they were patrolling, did it?). And then I saw Jackson meeting with Milosevic and talking about giving peace a chance and the lion lying down with the lamb (London Times comment: some lion! some lamb!) and I could see what the problem might be. Am I right that Jesse only called for a cease-fire after his mission had succeeded? did he really negotiate his call for peace? I’m certainly not one to call a traitor someone who questions American foreign policy, for obvious reasons, but this is the sort of behaviour that turned Jane Fonda into Hanoi Jane and Lord Haw Haw into a corpse.

Queer as a $5 bill: according to Larry Kramer, Abraham Lincoln was gay. I don’t have anything to say about that, but that $5 bill joke did spring to mind.

The US unfreezes the assets of the guy who owned the chemical factory in Sudan that the US bombed, officially admitting to being unable to prove any terrorist connection for him or chemical warfare capability for the factory. I predict that this story will be completely ignored.

Which should serve as a warning for the Kosovars, who might be tempted to believe that after Clinton declares victory and goes home, that they might have some level of protection when Milosevic turns nasty again. Americans have the attention span of my cat, who I expect will not even recognize me when I return in two weeks. Note, for example, the engrossed attention not given to the elections in Panama this week, a country I believe the US has invaded more than a few times. The widow of a former president was elected president. He served three incomplete terms, being deposed by coups all three times. Her opponent was the son of a coup leader. Another example: tomorrow’s Washington Post notes that while the US claimed as one of its reasons for invading Haiti five years back that its generals were engaged in drug trafficking, the amount of cocaine funneled through Haiti has skyrocketed since then, now being about 1/5.

The Supreme Court by 9-0 says that the US can deport political refugees who have also committed non-political crimes, even if they will be persecuted, tortured or murdered in their home countries. It says that these matters are really none of the business of any courts, but that the executive “knows best” how to deal with issues that affect international relations. It is now official: human rights are a bargaining chip, not an absolute right.