Sunday, June 30, 2002

Leka Zog, the pretender to the throne of Albania and son of the last king, returns home after a life-long exile. At the airport, the police find hand grenades and other weapons, 90 of them, in his luggage.

NY Times headline: “Gore Vows More Spontaneous Campaign.” Of course, he vows this two years in advance.

Washington Post headline: “Bush Resumes Power After Test.” Really easy graders, then.

Friday, June 28, 2002

Bush speaks against the false accountancy used by WorldCom, Xerox, etc. Reached for comment, Al Gore just sighed.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of vouchers for religious schools, saying they were neutral because they went to many types of religious school, ranging from Catholic all the way to Protestant. Evidently, aiding one religion is bad but aiding a bunch of religions is good, on the venerable legal principle that two wrongs don't make a right, but three do.

Bush very very quietly signs a law granting benefits to the gay partners (and/or other survivors named by the deceased) of cops and fire-fighters killed in the line of duty. The law is called the Village People Survivors Act of 2002.

The Supreme Court also ruled in favor of expanded drug testing in schools from athletic to other competitive extracurricular activities like Spanish club, choir, Future Homemakers of America (that can't really still exist, can it?) etc. Clarence Thomas writes that the drug problem is big enough to justify interfering with privacy rights, but that places without drug problems shouldn't have to wait for it to get bad (the Bush Doctrine in practice, a preemptive War on Drugs), and that suspicion isn't required, because to require suspicion would burden unpopular groups. Much of this is premised on the theory that schools act in loco parentis, and I think any theory that treats a part of the government as if they were parents is dangerous, not to mention creepy. My advice to students: destroy this policy by making it prohibitively expensive. Drug tests cost $30-60 each, so if they're drug-testing the chess club, everybody join the chess club.

Possible the stupidest comment on the pledge of allegiance decision, by Governor Gray Davis: “With troops overseas, this is the wrong decision at the worst possible time.”

Kevin asked me, regarding the Israeli security fence, who they'd get to build it. In fact, the contractor for the first stage actually is Palestinian, according to The Times, so there.

Bush supports keeping the pledge of allegiance just as it is because it is a confirmation that we receive our rights from God. Oh good, so it has nothing to do with religion then.

The Palestinians, of course, are much less lucky. They receive their rights, if at all, from George W. Bush. I rather thought yesterday that he might have shot himself in the foot by talking about democracy for the Palestinians, when he actually meant a highly circumscribed version of democracy, where there is freedom of choice only after the really good or popular candidates are eliminated from contention--the American version of democracy (and French, German...). He seemed to have left himself the problem of what to do when the Palestinians democratically reelect Arafat. Today he made it clearer: I’ve got confidence in the Palestinians, when they understand fully what we're saying, that they'll make the right decisions. Georgie, I’ve spent years trying to figure out what the hell you're saying.

That sentence is a variation of one of the most obnoxious Bush verbal traits, describing his own wishes as a necessity for the rest of the world, as in What Saddam Hussein needs to do is...

[Note: the spell-checker on Netscape suggested that for Saddam I actually might mean “sadism” and for Hussein “hussies.”]

The pledge of allegiance decision shouldnt bother anyone much longer, since the Supreme Courts school voucher decision today should ensure that there wont be any functioning public schools in which children might be forced to recite it. Problem solved.

On the way home with my new computer (did I mention I have a new
computer?), the decision was mentioned on NPRs Market Place program, someone saying that it meant the introduction of market economics into public schools. Oh, were already there. The focus on test result numbers, inflated by fair means and foul, means the schools are already fully WorldCom’d.

Add to that the NY Supreme Court decision of this week (note to Kevin: read Bob Herbert’s NY Times column on this) allowing the state to fund schools in a way that seriously screws NYC public schools. The Courts appellate panel ruled that the state is not obligated to provide more than a minimally adequate opportunity to get a decent education. Justice Alfred Lerner wrote: Society needs workers in all levels of jobs, the majority of which may very well be low level.

Michael Moore on Politically Incorrect tonight (last show Friday) said that every day is Roger and Me now, with corporate malfeasance finally right out in the open. Of course the pro-capitalists will say that the other corporations you dont hear about are perfectly fine and upright and honest, but Ive noticed that when we hear about corps for other reasons, like when theyre associated with politicians such as Haliburton, the Carlyle Group, Ross Perots EDS, etc etc, theyre equally problematic. Heres another one: Barrick Mining, a Canadian corp on whose board George Bush Sr sits, or actually a company that Barrick bought up, which mines for gold in Tanzania. Including in a place called Bulyanhulu, where it claimed to have a mining permitactually the permit was for an area 150 miles away and Bulyanhulu was reserved for mining by self-employed local miners. So there was a dispute, and the company used bulldozers to seal the mines to stop them being occupied--with more than 50 men inside.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

The Vatican--the country--bans smoking indoors. If you must smoke after diddling a choir boy, go outside.

What, like you weren’t thinking the same thing?

I listened to some of the Senate “debate,” if something can be so called when no one argues the other side, on the pledge of allegiance. I needed something in the background not requiring much attention while I backed up some files, and this certainly fit the bill. Robert Byrd called the judges “stupid,” and the level of eloquence never rose above that. Then C-SPAN’s viewers called in, and they were worse. Worse than whatever Congresscritter that was who would have said that the judges should go back to Russia, but in these days that doesn’t apply and he couldn’t think of anywhere else, so he just said they should leave the country. The amount of emotion on this is incredible, and rather makes the point of how coercive the practice of saying the pledge must be. (Although I will say that no one even commented on my refusal, much less beat me up; I took more crap for my poem in the next year’s HS literary magazine--whose editor is on this list-- satirizing the schmalz of others writing on the death of John Lennon.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

WorldCom looks like going bankrupt because of fraudulent bookkeeping. Bush chastises executives for not looking after stockholders’ interests, completely forgetting to mention the thousands of employees about to lose their jobs.

FAIR has a report about Israel’s partly successful attempts to get news organizations to stop using the word “settlement.” The preferred term is Jewish “neighborhood.” Like Mr Rogers, but with uzis.

A funny correction in the NY Times today. An editorial had said that joining us in executing the retarded were only Japan and Kyrgyzstan. Evidently they were wrong about the latter [don’t make me type that again].

A funny moment as I listened to the news about the 9th circuit banning the pledge of allegiance: I heard them say that the guy who filed the suit lived in sacramental. Turned out to be our state capital, of course. Which might suggest his next lawsuit. Well, I feel vindicated for my principled refusal to recite the thing in the 11th grade.

I was reading about an attempt to get gay marriages in New Jersey (I’m picturing two women with really big hair), and it suddenly occurred to me how deeply offended I was by Catholic marriages. I think those people’s values--su Subject: misc
bjugation of women, enforced multiple pregnancies, ham--should not be given credence by having their so-called marriages endorsed by the state.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

A day later, Bush’s speech looks worse than ever, even more of an unleashing of Sharon than I’d realized. Arafat amusingly said that Bush’s words didn’t apply to him, which Bush deserved for not using his name, and that Palestinian leadership was up to the Palestinians to decide. He diplomatically failed to mention Florida or the popular vote. A Guardian writer says that it’s refreshing to hear an American president enunciate so clearly his opinion that it is up to him to pick the leaders of other countries.

Bush is completely isolated in his “Turn yourself into Sweden before giving us a call” policy. Even Tony Blair won’t lapdog for him on this one.

So between 1998 and 2001 background checks for gun purchases prevented 200,000 felons acquiring weaponry. While letting through only 9,000 felons plus 3,000 convicted of domestic violence. By government standards a good job. Why are all those felons even applying?

The Supreme Court rules against judges deciding on death-penalty sentencing, which involves findings of fact rather than law (ie, aggravating factors), which are properly determined by a jury. Can’t disagree with that, although the very next case allowed judges to determine whether someone “brandished” or merely held a gun. Consistency never being a big thing with this Court. It seems that in states with elected judges, the judges are much more likely to fry ‘em than are juries, and the reverse where judges are non-elected. No one evidently is going to question whether there are other ways in which elected judges give different results, just as no one ever asks how many innocent people are convicted of non-death-penalty offenses that we consequently never hear about, how many court-appointed lawyers sleep through trials, etc etc.
In a hilarious opening paragraph, a Washington Post article says
“Fireproofing failures--rather than the impact of the plane
crashes--probably caused the World Trade Center towers to quickly
collapse”. My, what an unfortunately coincidence!

And I won’t even mention the split infinitive.

Germany and Austria seem to be increasingly assertive in favor of the ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war, and now, future German chancellor Edmund Stoiber, whose wife was an expelled Sudeten German, is saying that Poland should also let its German population back in.

Speaking of unwelcome visitors, Israel is about to unleash the dogs of war on Gaza, which is so densely packed that the death count among civilians could be much higher than in the West Bank.

Which didn’t bother Bush when he gave his speech and failed to mention it. There are good analyses by the Washington Post, in the Guardian ( and by William Saletan in I’m still making up my mind. Noticeably, Bush’s plan for Middle East peace in our time involved as small an American role as possible. In fact, I think this speech was it.

He did call on Israel to stop “settlement activity,” which I assume means a freeze rather than a withdrawal, and for a pull-back of troops. This is all to the good, although the second half was undermined by other statements by him recently and by the rest of the speech. Calling for Arafat to be removed immediately after Israeli troops put him under siege again looks like endorsement of Sharon’s policy. Which it is, of course. Bush probably foresees another loya jirga, where he gets to call for democracy, but only after the US pressures anyone it doesn’t like into not running. Sharon, as the Guardian piece suggests, foresees another Bashir
Gemayel, the man he foisted on Lebanon as its “president” in 1982 after a remarkably similar invasion. Sharon wanted a force to do the dirty work while Israelis looked on, and yes, I’m talking about Sabra and Shatila again.

I could swear I heard Bush say both that Israel would have secure and recognized borders, and that Palestine would be provisional, without actual borders. How those two things are possible at once is beyond me.

Bush also quietly endorsed Sharon’s policy of witholding Palestinian funds from the Palestinian government, effectively using the money to prop up this democratic-but-not-Arafat government that will magically spring up out of nowhere. This violates international law. And Bush has to recognize that there can be no elections while Israeli soldiers are occupying the country. My favorite bit was when he inserted that Palestine has to be based on market economics. Yes, that’s what the Palestinians need, market-based incentives.

Or did he mean the market the Israelis shelled yesterday?

Sunday, June 23, 2002

The new, more liberal Iran raises the minimum age for marriage to 13 for girls, 15 for boys (unless court permission is given).

Monday is International UFO Day, which is celebrated by, I’m guessing, anal probes. The highest concentration of UFO sightings in the world occur in Scotland, at .004 per square kilometer and 1 per 17,000 people. Something to do with winning Wimbledon, I believe.

Jesus is back, and boy is she pissed. A sect exists in China called Lightning from the East. One method it uses to convert people is to kidnap them, especially underground Christians and Christian missionaries, 32 of whom were just released. Evidently, Jesus has come back as a Chinese woman, age 30.

Mixed messages out of Israel as to what exactly it plans to do with all that land it says it’s going to occupy until the terrorism stops, that is, whether it will reestablish an occupation government or not. This seems a fairly important detail not to have worked out in advance. They were evidently planning to fudge it, being willing to make sure Arafat’s government can’t govern, but not willing to take responsibility by declaring it dissolved. Hopefully, the Palestinians can make sure the Israelis don’t actually resume taxing them (which was also always done in a way that violated international law), but they should start demanding services from the Israelis.

The Israeli Cabinet has just approved exiling the families of suicide bombers (and blowing up their homes, of course) to Stalag Gaza Strip. This is, of course, against international law and is defined as a war crime.

A statement from Al Qaeda warns the US to “fasten its seat belt,” as there is more terrorism coming. Evidently they’ve spent the last 9 months hiding out in the gay district of Kabul, watching Betty Davis pictures. Which should make them very dangerous indeed.

Speaking of Afghanistan, everything about the new government suggests that the US won the war but lost the peace. As I’ve said, the warlords are back in charge and the modernizers lost. The international community that was willing to blow up every wedding party and banana stand in the country is not willing to help disarm the warlords, so there cannot be a real central government. The new government is called “Islamic”; the new chief justice believes in sharia law. And most Americans will know no more about this than they do about the current governments of Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama....

Saturday, June 22, 2002


So now every gas chamber in the country will have to have a picture of George W. Bush and the words “You have to be at least this smart to be executed.” It’s hard to get worked up about the Supreme Court decision that this week it’s unconstitutional to execute the retarded, because it should be self-evident, like the new study showing that fat people like food too much. Although the morally retarded three, Rehnquist, Thomas and Scalia, are actually probably correct that this sort of thing shouldn’t be decided by opinion polls. But then neither should it be done by counting the number of states that ban the practice, like they want, as if what legislators think is reflective of public opinion. As the last 9 months have shown, civil rights should be put beyond the immediate reach of a panicked majority anyway. Which was rather the point of having a Bill of Rights to begin with.

If you haven’t already read the dissent by Fat Tony Scalia, you simply must. It’s Archie Bunker with a law degree, on acid. It’s the tone of moral and intellectual superiority that’s amazing. Even if you believe that there’s some sort of case for executing the retarded, you should at least treat it as a regrettable necessary evil, not be so, well, joyous, at the prospect. He and Rehnquist are especially scornful of the notion of treating world opinion as having any bearing, leading to my favorite sentence in the Scalia dissent: “Equally irrelevant are the practices of the ‘world community,’ whose notions of justice are (thankfully) not always those of our people.” That “(thankfully)” is priceless.

The US just gave up its right to seize the whole of Bermuda and several other places, I think including Newfoundland, in event of an emergency, like the need for a really good tan. It was part of the Lend-Lease deal with Britain. Speaking of which, those deadbeat Brits are expecting to pay off their war debt to us by the end of 2006.

In his ongoing battle to stay to the right of, well, everybody, Tony Blair tried to get the EU to cut off aid to countries that didn’t prevent refugees fleeing to European countries or refused to take them back. The EU didn’t bite, but views on immigration keep moving to the right, and the German conservative leader, who is the only Bavarian who does not drink beer, says that immigration will be the key issue of the next German elections, so this is a wedge issue now.
On the day Israel implemented its new policy of seizing Palestinian land after bombings, Israeli troops fired a “warning shot” into a crowded market, killing 4 people, including 3 children. Therefore Israel will now have to give land back to the Palestinians. “Fair is fair,” says Ariel Sharon. The state of Israel should be the size of a postage stamp by the end of 2003.

The Observer says that the mass funerals Iraq holds for children
supposedly killed by US weapons and sanctions are a fake, although it actually sounds like the bodies in the little coffins are real, but they store them up (contrary to Islamic law and the parents’ wishes) and bring them in to Baghdad periodically for the event.

The Italian supreme court, whose rulings no one reports unless sex is involved, or possibly that is all it ever rules on, says that sexual demands of a sado-masochistic nature are grounds for divorce. Unless someone’s actually *been* a naughty boy who needs to be punished.

Headline: “Bush Declares War on Fat America.” I accept. Where do I go to get an extra-large uniform? I’m planning to do my military service by beating up a super-model. Or, to keep with a theme, by spanking a super-model.

As its part in the war, Southwest Airlines is making fat people buy two seats. One person interviewed, it sounds like they tried to sell her two non-adjacent seats. And in case you’re wondering, no extra air-miles. But I’m assuming two meals.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

How many debates do you want?

Bravely marching backwards, Israel is planning to re-occupy Palestine bit by bit as a collective punishment for terrorism. Hey Ariel don’t turn the clock back too far or you may find yourself trying to sing while crossing into Switzerland.

The new Hungarian prime minister turns out to have been a spook. In the spirit of openness, he has threatened to sue any newspaper that discloses any more, because, he says, he is under legal obligation not to talk about it. Should make that lawsuit difficult then, shouldn’t it?

Also threatening to sue is John Gotti Jr. With the interest in his father’s death, Uncle Junior is worried that memorabilia will be sold without him getting a piece of the action. This is what we call a copyright protection racket.

Karzai names his cabinet and sort of submits it to the loya jirga, not for individual vote, or indeed any vote, except by hands, since if votes were actually recorded, he’d have been voted down. Nor did he allow discussion (I’ve been meaning to mention that every time the former king tried to address the nation, the tv transmitter suddenly cut out--three times, and that when the only other candidate for president, a woman, tried to speak to the assembly, Karzai bounced onto the stage and cut her off. Which is an improvement over the old Afghanistan, in which he would have cut off one of her body parts.), saying “There was debate. I told them do you agree? And they said yes. How many debates do you want.” Say what you will, his democratic instincts are at least superior to Dubya’s.

As I understand it, the new cabinet is considered a failure because it doesn’t contain enough warlords with blood on their hands. Really. Karzai asked them all to join, but they refused, preferring their regional fiefs, calculating that Kabul will not have any power worth mentioning.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Headline: “Spam Museum Set to Open in Minnesota.” Hey, I’ve got news for you: the entire state of Minnesota is a spam museum.

Interesting but semi-comprehensible piece in Salon on the recent expansion of the FBI’s phone-tapping capabilities. It seems that as of the end of this month it will have access to more information than before (they’re using the increase in digital over analog technologies to quietly acquire much more data while pretending it’s the same thing as the old pen taps), despite it’s previous attempt having lost in court. This time it did it the old fashioned way, through bribery. Seems Congress appropriated $500 million to help phone companies make changes under the US Patriot Act, but left disbursement up to the FBI, which used it to leverage deals with phone companies giving it information the court had ruled it couldn’t have.

The Hindu nationalist ruling party of India will nominate as the next president (which makes him a certainty) a Muslim. The guy who was in charge of the nuclear bomb program, who has no political experience, but the office doesn’t really require it. Presumably his designing a weapon to kill lots of Muslims makes up for him actually being one, like Werner von Braun (if you don’t get that reference, feel free to call up Kevin, who will be happy to sing you the song).

The NY Times says that Pakistan is holding American citizens, and has US permission not to check their identities too quickly, to give them more time to torture information out of them. I believe I said some time ago that most of the torturing was going to be sub-contracted, and so it has proved.

The Supreme Court rules 6-3 that it’s ok for cops boarding buses to conduct random searches not to tell people that they have a right to refuse. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, entirely from the perspective of non-criminals, who are always happy to cooperate with the police for their own safety and for the safety of others, and so certainly don’t feel coerced. Hell, in San Francisco guys go up to cops all the time and ask to be searched, purely in the interests of public safety, but maybe that’s not what Kennedy had in mind. Now anyone with the brains god gave gravel understands that someone concealing cocaine, as in this case, would only
have allowed a search if he did in fact feel coerced and/or did not know his rights. Since the decision was not about the searches themselves, it was only about whether cops are permitted to conceal the lack of a legal mandate for their actions, to actively deceive people. And now the Supes are in collusion with this deception, because really why should it ever decide against informing people of their rights--if only just to be safe? Why would it ever be a good thing for people not to know their rights?

Condoleezza Rice says the Palestinian government is “corrupt and cavorts with terror.”


Monday, June 17, 2002

Many Israelis are taking out papers for a backup citizenship in case they want to get out quick. Germany.

Which is in the process of raising the minimum age for gun ownership from 18 to 21.

Bush is talking about “interim” Palestinian statehood. Without actual borders or anything concrete on paper. Talk about declaring peace and going home.

In their respective parliamentary elections today, the Czech Republic moved nicely to the left, but France to the right, although not the far right--Le Pen’s National Front looks like ending up with zero seats. The fear of fascism disappeared awfully quickly in France, and the elections had a very low turnout (though still above American standards, of course), indicating that once the initial threat was over, no one made any attempts to engage the French public with the political system. Once again, apathy is the political elite’s friend, and everybody please go back to sleep again, nothing to see here....

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Israel will make it much harder for Palestinians in the Occupied
Territories who are married to Palestinians (or presumably to Jews?) in Israel to get residency permits. For now, they have frozen new family reunifications, and will sextuple the fee. Israelis (and I should say Israeli Jews, or perhaps Israeli fascists, since it’s a bad habit to refer to Israeli Jews as Israelis, as I told my 4th grade teacher during the 1973 war) are worried about demographics for obvious reasons. And for some reason the number of new immigrants under the Law of Return is way down--and the majority of those aren’t even real Jews.

William Webster, former head of both the CIA & the FBI (which means he’s not even supposed to talk to himself) wants Al Qaeda POWs injected with truth serum. This assumes that they aren’t doing that, or worse, now. I trust no one who reads the article in the Sunday NY Times that contained that tidbit really believes that questioning consists solely of good cop-bad cop and mind games. Given--I say again--that the progress and consequences of the hunger strike begun in Guantanamo 2 1/2 months ago have not been reported, nor is there any indication that any reporter or Congresscritter in the whole country gives a shit, much less the people at large, the only thing preventing torture is the goodness and purity of heart of the CIA/FBI interregators and Marine guards. Good luck, guys, hope none of you are innocent. This country manages to execute innocent people after trials, with lawyers and all the trimmings, and appeals and such, as opposed to being swept up by random military patrols--god knows we blew up a lot of convoys and wedding parties and friendly forces and arms dumps that weren’t what we thought they were--so, um, good luck, you’ll need it.

A story that I may have sent a couple of months back, probably in the Stop the Week section of the London Sunday Times that I used to send, before Rupert Murdoch got greedier and started charging for access, was that the Poetry Society had forgotten to renew their website URL and lost it to a Hong Kong company which sells online gambling and impotence cures--and URL’s back to their original owners. The New Statesman ran a competition asking for famous poets on the subject. Here’s one entry:
Cyber-Tiger, virtual blight,
With your online gambling site,
What e-portal, bland or sly,
Could claim domain o’er poetry?

Who, in odists’ dotcom guise,
Peddles cream for flaky thighs?
And, when our manhood’s in retreat,
Flogs us handy Groin-Deep-Heat? .....

Friday, June 14, 2002

Kaliningrad looks like being a problem. A non-contiguous part of Russia, Lithuania and Poland plan to make residents get visas if they want to go to the rest of Russia. It could just be a minor irritant in relations, or it could be the next Danzig Corridor.

The US is screwing with the prosecutors at the war crimes trial of Slobby Milosevic, who want Richard Holbrook to testify and are being held up by endless State Dept negotiations. If they wind up not calling him, Milosevic will, so this isn’t going away.

Speaking of trials, that of Moussaui, or however you spell it--I’d get the newspaper to look it up, but there’s a cat in my lap--will require information in the possession of the Germans. The problem is that they aren’t, like most Europeans, supposed to assist death-penalty cases. Unfortunately, they look like they’re going to fudge it, asking for a statement that their evidence wouldn’t actually contribute to the death penalty.

Speaking of evidence, in my email of last Sept. 19, I asked whether the standard of proof Bush used to link bin Laden and 9/11 was the same really high standard he would require to admit that global warming existed or arsenic in the drinking water was bad, or the low standard under which he was convinced that Star Wars would work. And you’ll note they still haven’t adduced any convincing evidence of bin Laden’s guilt. But my point today is that there has been a recent rash of alarming claims backed up by nothing. Not just dirty bombs and apartment bombing threats, but
the crap Rumsfeld is throwing around every day. Iran is harboring Al Qaeda (by the way, a second unmanned spy plane in as many months just crashed in Iran). Iran is developing missiles. Al Qaeda is operating in Kashmir (his handlers took this one back). All with no evidence. The Guardian calls him a clumsy loudmouth. Yup, but the American press still regard that, inexplicably, as charm.

One sad consequence of the Israeli invasions of Jericho and tighter border controls is the closing of the casino there (you’ll remember I announced its opening a year or two back saying that if the Palestinians were only allowed a reservation, they were entitled to act like it). But the Jews evidently have a real taste for gambling, and will soon do so over Israel in a plane. Oh, and they’re also betting on the location of the next
suicide bombing.

Bob Barr, he of the world’s creepiest mustache, is suing Bill Clinton, James Carville and Larry Flynt, for a conspiracy to expose his adultery during the Clinton impeachment, thus causing him, oh, $30 million worth of emotional distress. Elsewhere, he is sponsoring legislation to cut down on frivolous lawsuits.

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Imperial presidency

Look at the list of stories in the nation & politics section of the Wed. Washington Post. Collectively, they show the expanding powers of the presidency: a man held without trial or lawyer for 8 months, treaties abandoned without Congress being consulted, and the decision to stop telling Congress, which I thought was given the power of the purse by the Constitution, anything about Star Wars expenditures, and an attempt to censor a book, in which the theory is argued in court that the executive’s decision to classify information is unreviewable by courts. Chimp Boy thinks he’s king.

Favorite moment of the farce that is the loya jirga: today, Karzai declared himself elected president by the body, and then had to admit that there hadn’t actually been a vote yet. The US has put god knows what sort of pressure on every rival candidate to drop out, so the election will actually be between Karzai and a woman. I don’t honestly know why we’re even pretending, since even less legitimacy could be granted by this body than by Zimbabwe’s last elections. Colin Powell denied that the US had exerted “undue influence,” but didn’t define what influence he considered to be due the US.

A detail I missed in yesterday’s email: the “treatment” program for sex offenders not only required its unwilling participants to confess to crimes for which they had not been taught, but then polygraphed them.

The European Parliament has voted to ban the import (phased in over ten years) of cosmetics which have been tested on animals. Such testing is illegal in most EU countries, but required in the US. We’ll see if the US dares start a trade war over this.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Favorite headline of the day: Senator Helms Moves to Rehabilitation. Presumably at the Betty Ford Center for Recovering Assholes. I believe he received a pig heart, which is too good and fitting a story to ruin by checking the facts, so I won’t.

Oh, driving on I5 I passed an old VW wagon filled with college signs, with a cardboard sign in the rear window saying “Show Us Your Tits.” I thought about it, but in the end failed to comply.

Second favorite headline of the day: Cabbage Machine Crushes Man to Death. And cuts off another guy’s arm. It’s not every day someone dies in the cause of cole slaw.

An even better death (hey, I had to drive 400 miles listening to the radio whitter on about dirty bombs, I deserve a little gruesome entertainment) was that of Peter Mokaba, one of South Africa’s “There is no such thing as AIDS” brigade. I don’t think I have to tell you what he died of.

So what *really* happened at the loya jirga today? The whole thing always seemed like a way to broker deals under the spurious guise of “tradition,” instead of the usual spurious guise of rigged elections. But the self-selected body really wanted the king back, and the Americans stepped in to, what, bribe? threaten? him into refusing any part, thus ensuring (helped along by the occasional assassination and assassination attempt by the CIA) that the US’s puppet government continues another term of puppetry.

The Washington Post Monday caught up with the Bush Doctrine, which I mentioned a few days ago. No longer will we be able to complain about Pearl Harbors and cowardly sneak attacks. Those will be ours. The Bushies are now trying to sell NATO, sort of. The sort of is that they’re claiming preemptive attacks aren’t explicitly ruled out by the NATO charter, so they must already be NATO policy. In the 17th century and beyond, various European countries had sumptuary laws, which said what clothes certain classes were and were not allowed to wear, the idea being that social class should be visible at all times. The Bush Doctrine proclaims the same sort of thing for certain weapons. Especially symbolic of this is that they are trying to develop small nuclear devices to destroy well-protected, dug-in weapons of mass destruction. Rumsfeld has told NATO that the standard of proof need not be very high, either, before an attack is launched.

The UN World Summit on Food is meeting in Rome to discuss world hunger. They are too embarrassed even to vote on whether there is a “right to food.” The delegates were, of course, well fed (the menu may be found in the London Times article on the story), although those from the richer countries didn’t dare show up at the banquet.

The Tuesday Post has a piece that wonders how the US will deal with armies containing conscripted 12-year olds, as so many do.

A guy shot up a Benedictine monastery today, killing two monks. The Church wanted to know if the guy was a priest, because they’re allowed one atrocity or child-rape free under the Two Tykes and You’re Out policy.

The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that prisons can punish convicted sex
offenders who refuse to admit guilt during therapy. I think mandating therapy is already a violation of their 1st Amendment rights, but that issue doesn’t even seem to have come up. Instead the Supes astonishingly saw no violation of the 5th Amendment in a requirement that a prisoner sign an “admission of guilt” form and, oh yes, list all his victims. The punishments involved seem to include going into maximum security and taking away his tv, but you know that some states must be keeping prisoners in jail for more of their terms. So it’s not just “terrorists” who have no rights in the US.

And note that Bush was able to remove all the rights of an American citizen unconvicted of any crime (the dirty nuke guy), including the right to see an attorney, or to any form of trial whatever, simply by signing a piece of paper. Just the way to treat someone who hates liberty, I say!

I haven’t decided whether to take the whole dirty bomb thing seriously or not.

So why wasn’t the ATF included in the Heimat Security Fiefdom, even though it was key in breaking the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and involved in Oklahoma City and other terrorist investigations? Think it’s part of Ashcroft’s campaign to make sure that no information on gun ownership is ever used for law enforcement purposes? Me too.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

The Interior Department is buying out, for $235 million, offshore oil & gas leases off the Florida coast but refused to do same for California. Not for political reasons, but because, evidently, California is not opposed to offshore drilling like Florida is. At least that’s what the Interior Dept says.

A website offers pictures of women, excuse me, “homicide mothers”, at abortion clinics.

The Sunday Chronicle has a section on the FBI’s relationship with Reagan when he was governor, and their mutual attempt to wipe out the UC system. Not to be missed.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

The House has voted to kill the estate tax. Unfortunately, when the estate tax’s will was then read, it turned out that it had willed us all a major increase in the deficit.

The California Supreme Court (finally a California story worth passing on, after a week and a half of reading the LA Times--unless you want to know about Valley secession, which has pit brother against brother, surfer dude against Valley girl, all very Ken Burnsian) grants both paternity and custody to a guy who is not the kid’s biological father or even married to the mother, but acted as the kid’s father. Advocates of gay adoption see this as a great victory, although biology has always been secondary in establishing parenthood under the law. The British are talking about a law to prevent “fathers” DNA-testing their putative children.

Speaking of British parenting, the joke I’ve been meaning to send for a week: at the Royal Jubilee, it had been announced that the Queen would go on stage to sing All You Need is Love with Paul McCartney. This did not happen, presumably because he was unwilling to rewrite the lyrics, like Elton John did with that Diana song, to All You Need is Repressed, Unexpressed, Horribly Awkward Love.

Bush’s solution to the problem of bureaucratic infighting among the intelligence agencies is to create another bureaucracy. Who say’s he’s a Washington outsider?

It wouldn’t even resolve the problem of the infighting, just create a new body for the FBI and CIA to stonewall.

Of course if you over-centralize intelligence, it leaves it open to moles, as we know from John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy.

In 2000 there were only 16 children put up for adoption in Sweden. How?

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Ah, rich Republicans. Mitt Romney, candidate for governor in Mass., actually claims that his primary residence is in Utah, in order to save on his taxes. The funny part, for a Republican running in Taxacheussets, is that the taxes are Utah property taxes.

Bush on the EPA’s report acknowledging the existence of global warming: “I read the report put out by the bureaucracy.” My, the contempt just drips from his tongue, doesn’t it? Oh, and he didn’t so much read it as color it in.

There’s a piece in today’s NY Times op-ed section on why the whistle-blowers at the FBI and Enron were women. Basically, it was because women have no insider status and found that they could only change their workplace by going outside it. The author: Anita Hill.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Long to reign over us

Hard to get any sense out of the British papers today, given the Jubilee celebrations. The Queen was wearing a stunning ensemble from the Dowdy Matron collection, circa 1955. My fellow cultural historians will have a field day in future generations explaining Dame Edna Everidge and Ozzy Osbourne’s prominence. God forbid they should celebrate with excerpts from Shakespeare or, I don’t know, Upstairs Downstairs.

Speaking of the fear of high culture, TNT just ran a version of King Lear transposed to the Old West (haven’t seen it yet) with Patrick Stewart. Notably, in their commercials for it, they didn’t mention Lear or Shakespeare.

A court in India makes illegal any assembly of 4 or more pigs. Cows, meanwhile, do whatever they like. Can’t we all just get along?

A girl in England has been excused from school because she bursts into tears every time she sees a school uniform. She has been diagnosed with “school phobia.” Of course when a middle-aged Tory bursts into tears when he sees a school uniform, it’s something else entirely.

A couple of Salvadoran military chiefs look to go on trial in Florida for atrocities committed in the early 1980s. Two more war criminals I didn’t know had been given asylum. I’m not sure what they’ve been doing while here. You’ll remember that the guy who shot the Vietcong captive in the head in the most famous photo from the Vietnam war owned a pizza shop in Virginia.

Arafat overrules a court to keep in jail someone Israel has ordered him to keep in jail, and fuck the rule of law. Actually, the NY Times quotes a Clinton staffer as saying that their policy in such cases was “I don’t think we really cared about due process.” Hey, no kidding. As I’ve been saying, the US policy re Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Philippines, etc has been that “terrorists” should be kept in jail, no “revolving door,” but not actually ever put on trial.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

In a drug store yesterday, saw the most disgusting sign ever: “Assorted incontinence on clearance.”

Some of the Pacific Coast Highway is now the American Veterans of the Vietnam War Memorial Highway. ‘Cause you never know when PCH is just gonna SNAP.

Saw my opthamologist yesterday. She told me I have a hernia.

See William Safire’s column in the Monday NY Times castigating the FBI’s assumption of new powers. Or better yet, don’t, so that I can use his phrase “Congressional undersight,” and you’ll think I invented it.

I said within a couple of days of 9/11 that the hijackers didn’t require anywhere near the level of organization that everyone was saying. But I didn’t realize they were actually complete idiots. Various terrorist types were all using the same cell phone; some of the hijackers had previously done a milk run flight all together, breaking the basic security of keeping cells separate from each other, which any 8-year old knows. The point being that not only should the FBI and CIA have been talking to each other and to others (I like that the State Dept routinely renewed visas of people known to the CIA, which hadn’t told anyone to watch out for them), but that the whole network could rather easily have been rolled up.

There is finally a Bush Doctrine, not that anyone was paying much
attention: first strike, preemptive action against countries that haven’t actually done anything, but are lookin’ at us funny. Which is a legitimate defense in a Texas court.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

The Cal. legislature buries the bill to ban Indian mascots at public schools. It was a tough choice, really: perpetuate Indian stereotypes or California PC stereotypes.

The FBI has finally decided that what it really needs in the war on terrorism is more power. There’s a surprise. On Tuesday they announced new powers for the central hq of the FBI. On Wednesday, more powers for agents in the field. Next up: janitors will be able to strip search any celebrity they want, at random (the janitors have an even better union than the field agents). Does anyone really believe that the FBI wasn’t able to surf the internet?

PETA has been fighting off the infiltration and counter-intelligence operations of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. When the circuses have their own secret agents, you know you’re in trouble.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Some days, life hands you the perfect straight line. In this case, it was a business news report that McDonald’s was going to start selling “non-food items.”

Denmark pulls in the welcome mat, enacting an extraordinarily tight immigration law. This is in part thanks to the presence of a racist party in the new coalition government, but I wouldn’t absolve the rest of the government. For example, did anyone in the cabinet rebuke the leader of the Danish People’s Party for saying that Muslims have a taste for mass rape?

Britain is similarly moving to an instant-deportation system for those rejected for political asylum. On the other hand, they do now have the first ever black cabinet minister.

The Bush administration decided that the way to deal with failing Indian reservation schools run by the BIA was to privatize them, but stepped back after the obvious protests.

Colin Powell was on McNeil-Lehrer yesterday threatening India or Pakistan with worldwide condemnation if they start a nuclear war. Right, they’re not afraid of having Delhi or Islamabad hiroshimaed, but they’re terrified of “worldwide condemnation.”

Ever wonder where your old computers go when you throw them out? The answer was China, where these and other highly dangerous electronic components (“e-waste”) are stripped by little children without protective gear, and the drinking water polluted. Actually, China just banned the import of such products. The US is the only industrial country which didn’t sign up to a 1989 convention against exporting hazardous waste.

Speaking of which, Zimbabwe, though on the brink of starvation thanks to being run by an idiot, has refused an offer from the US of $9 million worth of maize, because the US would not certify that it wasn’t genetically modified.