Wednesday, June 30, 1999


Some interesting CIA documents on Chile in the 1970s are released. The US knew all the details of the repression, as you’d expect. The Chilean minister of defense asked the ambassador for help in setting up a detention center. There is more interesting material unreleased; they plan to dribble it out over a long period to lessen the impact.

New York bans the keeping of ferrets as pests. Rudolph Guiliani still allowed to roam free.


New York Magazine competition, 6/28/99. Sequels:


Malcolm XI

The Postgraduate

The King and II

Saving Corporal Ryan

The English Outpatient

Mylanta with Andre

Oliver Stone’s JFK Jr.

Dos Boot

It’s Still Pretty Quiet on the Western Front

Rear Windows 95

Mary Poppins’s Revenge

The Eagle has Come to a Complete Stop and the Captain has Turned Off the Seat-Belt Sign

The Grapes of Wrath: Deuxieme Cru

To Stuff and Mount a Mockingbird

Viva Zapata--Yada, Yada, Yada

[NOTE: More New York Magazine competitions here.]

Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Once again, US drug companies are using the opportunity of a humanitarian crisis (Kosovo) to dump old and unsellable drugs for a nice big tax deduction. The NY Times story actually suggests they’re getting better, since it didn’t mention the drugs being years past their sell-by date, as in Bosnia, which cost $30 million to dispose of the junk donations.

France is to have a constitutional amendment for parity in elected positions for women. No one knows quite how to do that, although it has been suggested that government funding of parties be reduced proportionately to their lack of inclusion of women on candidate lists.

Which would just mean they make women run in unwinnable seats.

Speaking of never being able to please women, a woman in Petaluma stabbed her husband in the back for spending too much when he brought her flowers. They are now in marriage therapy (through the bars of her cell).

A British judge postponed a trial for indecent assault for six months because he had tickets to Wimbledon.

Too rich for their own damned good: Lord George Howard of Castle Howard (the place in Brideshead Revisited, which looked better on tv than it does in real life, if you ask me), and ex-chairman of the BBC, sent a 1934 Austin in for repair in 1972 and then forgot about it. The family just got it back.

The parent of the week award is tied this week between the woman who smothered 8 of her children and claimed crib death, and the man whose fiancee wouldn’t cut her vacation short when his father died, so he carefully plotted his revenge, marrying her, getting her pregnant, giving her just enough time to get attached to the kid, and then killing it. You don’t want to step on that guy’s foot in the prison chow line!

Bob Barr is suing Clinton, blaming him for releasing information allegedly from Barr’s FBI files during the impeachment trial, on his wife’s abortion.

Sunday, June 27, 1999

An article in Slate reminds us that it was 6 months ago this week that Clinton was impeached, which was supposed to be alter the political landscape forever. Hey, yeah, Clinton was impeached once, I vaguely remember that.

There’s actual talk of Clinton running for the Senate from Arkansas in 2002. It won’t happen, but if it did, it would make him the 4th ex-president with a Congressional career (not 3rd, as the London Times said). Can you name them? Of course you can’t. John Quincy Adams served in the House, Andrew Johnson of all people was Senator from Tennessee, and
the one the Times missed, John Tyler was elected to the Confederate Congress.

A sad day in British politics: Tony Benn will retire from the House of Commons at the next election, if that means anything to anyone here besides me.

Saturday, June 26, 1999

The president of the Philippines decided to stop an execution yesterday, but couldn’t get through.

The reason China doesn’t believe that the US, excuse me, NATO, bombed its Belgrade embassy by mistake is that at least 2 of the 3 people killed were Chinese spies and the bomb hit the intelligence section of the embassy.

Good article in Sunday Washington Post on the growing conservatism of the Supreme Court and how the liberal wing of the court has no liberals on it.

Thursday, June 24, 1999

Khrushchev’s son has passed his citizenship test, missing only the question on what sort of government the US has. I know you’re all waiting with bated breath, so the answer is evidently supposed to be: a democracy.

Another war ends and guess what, the Pentagon was wildly over-optimistic about its successes again. Who’da thunk it? NATO bombing destroyed all of Yugoslavia’s tanks except for, um, those 250 that rolled out of Kosovo. Evidently we took out a lot of cardboard tanks.

The Village Voice has a guide to the many many scandals of Hillary Clinton. Remember the White House travel office? Castle Grande? The $100,000 won in a single day playing the cattle futures? Channeling Eleanor Roosevelt?

Speaking of families with peculiar finances, what is it with the Bushes? Jeb Bush’s wife spent $20,000 on a little shopping spree in Paris and then lied to Customs. Whatever happened to Neil Bush, anyway? Or Roger Clinton? And how did Reagan ever get to be president without an embarrassing brother? Dubya’s finances could use a little wholesome sunshine themselves. Although he insists that since being born in the family compound on Third Base he never actually benefited from having well-connected relatives, it seems that his oil skills were minuscule, and he was paid a suspicious amount of money for his involvement in that, um, what, football team? basketball? Another one of those deals where the sales tax got put up so that investors like Dubya could walk away with a fortune.

The Supreme Court has released a raft of silly decisions this week. Under the guise of “federalism,” states evidently have complete sovereign immunity to break any law they feel like. Death penalty trials can be shoddier than ever, with juries given inaccurate or non-existent instructions on the alternatives if they deadlock. Also, in the same case the Supes ruled on whether the 2 necessary aggravating factors required for the death penalty can be basically the same one. Actually, the two were “the victim was a chick” and “her family liked her”, neither of which seem to me to count, unless you admit that some people have more legal protection than others and accept as mitigating factors “the victim was only a black person” and “he was a shit anyway”. The case was from Texas, where “he needed killing” is considered a defense, which is about all you can expect for the $500 or so most counties allocate for the defense in criminal cases. Dubya just vetoed a bill that would have provided a lawyer within 20 days of arrest (everywhere else it’s 72 hours).

Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Well, I'd like to think it was all about something

An e-mail making the rounds asks the disturbing question “What if the hokey pokey *is* what it’s all about?”

The one thing I don’t think the NY Times, which has been coming woefully inadequate over the last few years in providing maps in general, has bothered showing is a map of the zones in Kosovo. If they did, we might have to ask the question, why were the French given the zone with the highest concentration of Serbs? The French are the most pro-Serb and the least willing to do anything aggressive. As the ethnic Serbs are creating no-go areas in the north, the French are standing around and watching, saying that ethnic separation is a good thing. I have to assume that’s NATO policy as well. Indeed, they seem to be encouraging the Serbs to return immediately (as is Milosevic, who has difficulty declaring victory with all these refugees hanging around), but the Albanians to wait a couple of weeks while NATO futzes around with mines. If the Serbs succeed in grabbing and walling off the north, with all the mines (um, mine mines, not landmines) and other economic resources, the Kosovars have much less of an economic base and are therefore less likely to declare independence, at least I think that must be the reasoning.

A story in the Sunday NY Times on the Son of Sam says that he is now a mental health peer counsellor at his prison.

Monday, June 21, 1999

Stalin lives, and he’s photographing royal wedding! In the official pictures of the Prince Edward-Sophie Rhys whatever wedding, which had a smaller audience share than the average Eastender’s episode, but still screwed up my tv schedule all weekend, one picture had Prince William not smiling until they digitally stuck his head from another picture in it. Creepy. As her wedding present, Queen Elizabeth, rather than give one of those $20,000 tea pots on the register, gave them a couple of new titles. Otherwise, Sophie would evidently have been known as Princess Edward.

The Joint Military Intelligence College is offering a Masters degree in intelligence. I could tell you what my dissertation was about, but then I’d have to kill you.

Bumper sticker seen in Berkeley: I (heart) Big Brother

Fortune cookie: “You have an unusual magnetic personality. Be aware of your polarity.” If I remember my high school physics correctly, that means a fortune cookie just told me that I’m repulsive.

Stupidest idea of the week: The Godfather IV, starring Leonardo DiCaprio (as Sonny Corleone, formerly James Caan, who found out what happens when you don’t have exact change in the exact change lane).

Saturday, June 19, 1999

Netanyahu declares that the Israeli people are just ungrateful bastards who won’t have him to kick around anymore. He also accuses the Labor government of being run by “rich industrialists and capitalist fat cats.” In other words, Jews.

Some doctors in Britain are offering aversion therapy to “cure” homosexuality on the National Health.

Speaking of which, Prince Edward got married today. He had trouble getting Sophie’s finger into the ring, which is probably a metaphor.

Serbia seems to have taken all its Kosovar political prisoners with it when it left. You’d like to think NATO would have noticed that. But then, while British troops were escorting Serbs out of Kosovo, the Serbs actually stopped to burn a few buildings.

Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Sensitive headline of the week: “Ageism Code Condemned as Toothless” London Times.

The longest-serving political party leader, Lord Screaming Sutch of the Monster Raving Loonie Party, is dead, evidently of suicide, at 58.

[Hello to Googlers in 2005: you are here because you misspelled Loony, as I did when I wrote this post. If you are looking for the 2005 Monster Raving Loony Party manifesto, click here.]

In what I can only assume is a tribute, Blair responds to the crushing defeat at the European elections by reinstating plans to ban fox-hunting.

Icky Kosovo story of the week: a family returned to their home to find that Serb soldiers had been using it to rape women. They had a large pile of underwear to burn.

Saturday, June 12, 1999

“I’m dead, Jim”: DeForrest Kelley put on his red shirt yesterday.

The German chancellor’s brother is on the dole.

Prince Charles met the Artist Formerly Known as Prince this week. It is not known what they talked about.

Well, I tried to give the Russians the benefit of the doubt and assumed yesterday that the troops really did move into Kosovo on their own accord (not that a military that out of control would be much less scary), but I was wrong. Today their commander was promoted. And Kremlin finally admits that Yeltsin gave the order. It’s the sneakiness of the whole thing that’s the worst aspect, along with the childishness. All the lying and the denying and stalling, and pretending that Yeltsin was asleep and couldn’t be called to the Batphone.

Friday, June 11, 1999

Please someone tell me that we’re not starting one of those Cold War races for territory again. Evidently no one, including in Moscow, thought that the Russian troops were just going to storm into Kosovo like that. Did no one notice that in all the UN talk, the Russians never agreed to be ordered around by NATO or even coordinate, and that their proposal of last week to establish zones of occupation in Kosovo, which I commented at the time (whether in e-mail form or not I can’t remember) was wonderfully retro (no doubt Russia’s tribute to the new Austin Powers movie), was simply going to be put into effect on the ground unilaterally.

Jacques Chirac is claiming to have personally given approval or vetoed every one of the 22,000 NATO bombing runs, and saved the historic bridges of Belgrade and stopped NATO doing a lot more damage to Montenegro.

I can’t wait to see what a UN protectorate actually looks like. Presumably it gets to set its own tax rates and everything. Does the UN actually get to vote on whether the Kosovars get to vote for an elected assembly, and if so, whether refugees not in the country get to vote?

John Cleese has signed on to play George Washington in a movie directed by Ben Stiller.

Justice Antonin Scalia issues his silliest opinion since the last one he wrote. In saying why he thought Chicago police should have been able to order loitering people who might or might not be gang members and might or might not have a reason for loitering, to move or be arrested, he quotes large chunks of West Side Story. If this is not the first Supreme Court opinion to contain the words “Gee, Officer Krupke, krup you,” I don’t want to know about it.

Scalia, I just met a jerk named Scalia.

Monday, June 07, 1999

Hillary Clinton & such

The Daily Telegraph, which often gets American things wrong, seems to think that Hillary faces a constitutional problem in holding an executive branch office and becoming Senator (if she were elected, these would overlap for 17 days). Has anyone else heard anything along these lines? I doubt the Constitution had the office of First Lady in mind, but it is a fact that the First Lady has an office and staff paid for by the taxpayers, so she is exercising some sort of Executive branch function. Of course there is one obvious solution...divorce Bill.

The London Times says that the Dark Ages were brought on by ivory. In the 6th century ivory ships brought the Black Death from Zimbabwe.

The Wash Post says that 1% of US gun dealers sold 45% of the guns used in crime last year.

Virgin Atlantic Airlines is installing private cabins. I think they were tired of catching people initiating each other into the Mile High Club in the bathrooms.

Thursday, June 03, 1999

If they’re Greek, how about some hemlock?

It has been pointed out to me that today’s McNeil-Lehrer featured a segment on boozing on campus that at one point mentioned an association of sororities which were “substance-free”--as if they were ever anything else.

Bringing crap to Newcastle: McDonald’s is to start selling pizza in its restaurants in Italy.

The death penalty in Russia is ended.

In the most important news of the week that you won’t read much about and couldn’t understand if you did, the euro is beginning to collapse.

And the United Nations was abolished today. You may not have noticed, but that was certainly the implication of the peace agreement with Serbia, which specifically says that the occupation force will have “NATO at its core”. Ignore the presence of Russian and other non-NATO troops; they are window dressing, and in the absence of proper UN action they too are illegal. The occupation will have force behind it, not law. That it may have morality behind it as well is to some extent beside the point. Germany dismembered Czechoslovakia in order to protect the poor Sudeten Germans. The US invaded Panama because some American woman got felt up, or something like that. In the absence of international law, there is always someone with a good excuse for military action. So all hail NATO, the new world’s policeman, when and where it feels like. Since this precise agreement could have been come to before the bombing started if the US was willing to accept a UN rather than NATO occupation, or a month ago if it had been willing to stop bombing, who is to say that the real purpose was not to give an excuse for the continued existence of NATO.

Wednesday, June 02, 1999

The inventor of the hovercraft died today. Last week it was the inventor of nylon, and the inventor of trucks going beep beep beep when they back up.

The Ku Klux Klan is starting up in Australia. Throw another cross on the fire, cobber.

Friday is the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The square is closed for renovations and curiously enough all western tv stations were taken off the air for maintenance. So who was that guy who stood in front of that column of tanks? We still don’t know.

Tuesday, June 01, 1999

NATO has been a busy little beaver this weekend, hitting a hospital, an old folks’ home, an apartment building, and a crowded bridge. Incidentally, under the War Powers Act, which is still the law of the land, this war actually ended last Tuesday. You’d think after all these accidents, NATO would change its tactics, and it has: it’s stopped apologizing. NATO (motto: it’s war, watcha gonna do?) bombed a bridge that even if it were a legitimate military target, could have been hit some other time than in broad daylight on market day, if it cared in the slightest about civilian damage. Now I can remember when the Israelis were roundly condemned, and justly so, for using cluster bombs on Lebanon, nasty and extremely indiscriminate little fuckers. NATO is using the same bombs with impunity. Yugoslavia, meanwhile, has practically surrendered, agreeing to a military occupation of the whole country with a NATO component, but it would prefer the troops have a non-NATO commander. Since there is no legal basis whatsoever for NATO to occupy a whole country, you’d think they’d jump at the chance to pass the buck. Of course it would be easier to feel sympathy for the Serbs if just once in all those interviews you’ve read and heard, had even one Serb said “It’s awful what our government is doing to the Kosovans, but bombing us isn’t nice either.”

Netanyahu, who amazingly is still in power, takes the opportunity to expand a West Bank settlement. Barak (and isn’t Barak a perfect name for a Klingon?) is still trying to put together a coalition that doesn’t involve #3 party Shas (motto: Who’s a black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks? SHAS!).

When the Turks kidnapped Ocalan, I said that he had obviously been drugged to the gills. On the other hand, given his plea in court to arrange a complete surrender of the Kurds if they wouldn’t hang him, maybe he’s just a coward.