Wednesday, July 31, 2002

No more easy money? But I haven't had any yet, as Alice said to the Mad Hatter.

For the second time, a New York Times editor lets a reporter (I presume the same reporter) juxtapose a story about a Bush plan to screw the poor with how much money he was raising (I reported the last one Saturday). This time he wants to punish those on welfare still more, and raised $1 million, including from people who paid $10,000 to have their pictures taken with him. Bush is horrified at the notion that people on welfare might go to college instead of work--he calls it a loophole. “Now that’s not my view of helping people become independent. And it’s certainly not my view of understanding the importance of work and helping people achieve the dignity necessary so they can live a free life, free from government control.” But first, evidently, government has to squash their dreams, aspirations and chances of ever making more than $8 an hour, like a bug.

Yesterday a study came out that welfare reform is increasing the number of children living with neither parent.

Bush signed the corporate fraud bill that he refused to support earlier this month and seems already to be taking credit for. “No more easy money for corporate criminals, just hard time,” he said. What, they’ll be sentenced by the Supreme Court to serve as president or vice president? He also said that auditors will be audited, accountants will be held to account, and executives...

Guandong province, China, has increased the fines for having a second child to 8 times the couple’s annual income. Now, that’s welfare reform.

The State Department clears itself of any impropriety in its support for the failed coup in Venezuela.

The UN suppresses a report on the US air strike on that wedding, the very report that said that the US removed evidence from the scene. Amazingly, the report was submitted to the US and Afghan governments to release or not. UN investigations are beginning to have all the credibility of an Arthur Anderson account book. Also, Mary Robinson has finally openly accused the US of ordering her fired as head of the UN Human Rights Commission (which I said back in March).

So the Israeli government was going to send an exhibition about Albert Einstein to China. But China suggested they remove all references to Einstein being a Jew, so it’s going to Taiwan instead. The story on this mentioned an incident I hadn’t heard of before, but gave no date: pissed that an arms deal had fallen through, China served an Israeli delegation pork and shrimp. Anyone hear of this?

The US has declared victory in the Philippines and our troops are coming home. God knows what they’ve been doing, although they did rack up the highest death count of the year (helicopter crash). The group they went there to fight still possesses its leadership, the hostage rescue was badly fumbled, but by damn isn’t victory great!

The Congressional hearings on Iraq began today, and they were a poor meek thing indeed. Not a single opponent of war was asked to testify, and there seemed to be none in Congress. The thing is, since the Gulf War, containment has worked (not for the people of Iraq, of course, except for the Kurds, but nobody really cares about them, as the ongoing sanctions show). And you know there is no evidence whatsoever of Hussein having serious weapons capability left when they start talking about how easy it is to hide such programs--evidence, we don’ need no stinking evidence. In fact, the desire to bomb alleged underground labs and bunkers is behind the US’s plan to develop new “bunker-buster” nuclear weapons, and break the Test Ban Treaty in order to test them. I don’t want to see biological and nuclear weapons in the hands of the mustached-one either, but US hypocrisy on this begins to look like the laws they used to have in the South outlawing teaching slaves to read.

Monday, July 29, 2002

A draft national walking strategy

Remember the wedding in Afghanistan that the US bombed earlier this month? The Pentagon is kind of hoping you don’t, of course. They sent in “investigators” to find evidence. And remove it, to make sure no one else could see it, according to a preliminary UN report. I always wondered how you could bomb people and then send in more military to question witnesses (after securing the scene and tying up the women, of course) and expect much cooperation. One might also wonder why we haven’t seen any film from the cameras on the wings of the planes that were supposed to have been shot at.

You may remember the Beijing Evening News printed as true a piece from the Onion about Congress threatening to leave DC unless it built them a brand-new capitol with a retractable dome & luxury boxes, and then it refused to accept that it had made a mistake, challenging an LA Times reporter to prove that it was true. Eventually, they did retract, but they never quite got that the Onion is intended to be satirical. The paper said that some American newspapers make up news in order to make money. “According to congressional workers, the Onion is a publication that never ceases making up false reports.”

The British transport minister has become worried about a study saying that British people are walking less than they used to. “A draft national walking strategy is being prepared,” he said. The Sunday Times headline was “Minister of Sensible Walks.”

This week, the first Tory MP ever to announce his own homosexuality, without being, you know, caught at it, does so. Alan Duncan. And to tie this story in with Monty Python as well, it seems that Duncan’s constituency includes the grammar school that Graham Chapman went to. When he announced his own homosexuality:

the Python team received a letter from a woman outraged that he had confessed to being homosexual. She enclosed several prayers for his salvation and a quotation from the Bible. Eric Idle wrote back stating simply that the rest of the team had “taken him outside and killed him”. She did not write back.

Mr. Duncan has received the support of his party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, whose head looks remarkably like a penis. Other Tory MPs quoted were less supportive, including one called Crispin Blunt, whose name gives a decidedly mixed message.

A rather good “This Modern World” cartoon this week (find it at Salon)

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Israel assassinates Ollie North

Bush proposes limiting pain & suffering compensation for malpractice to $250,000. By a mathematical coincidence, he was in North Carolina, where he plans to raise $750,000 for the state Republican party & Elizabeth Dole--that’s one amputation of the wrong leg, one blinding and one accidental death.

The censored Homer Simpson.

On this page there is a picture of the Hamas leader assassinated by Israel. Tell me this guy wasn’t Ollie North in a beard. Oh, and read the story, too. Also, it contains another picture which was on the front page of every European newspaper last week, but didn’t make it into any American source I saw.

Good piece in the NY Times magazine on the future of Afghanistan.

The Times also reports that Colin Powell is urging talks between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Note that he is not urging anyone to speak to those most irrelevant of people, the Kashmiris.

Well, almost the most irrelevant, because that would be the Iraqi Kurds (all Kurds, really), which another story points out are currently enjoying a golden age, because the US is keeping the Iraqi government off their backs--at least until we install the next military dictatorship (one of our top choices is being investigated in Denmark for crime crimes, by the by) and turn it loose on them once again.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

The pope visits Canada for World Youth Day. Actually, for the Catholic Church, every day is world youth day, if you know what I mean.

Headline in today’s NY Times: “Bishops Select Lay Board on Sexual Abuse Review.” Double entendre heaven, I hardly know where to begin, with the “lay board” or with “sexual abuse review,” which I see as a Siskel-Ebert sort of thing--the thin priest gives “Father Brian Sodomizes Little Jimmy the Choir Boy” a big thumbs up, but the fat priest thinks it was derivative and doesn’t compare to Father Brian’s early, funny sodomies. (OK, maybe not the place for a Woody Allen reference, or maybe the perfect place.)

Actually, the board has no members of victims groups and just one psychiatrist, who is a founder of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation and regularly testifies in court that victims are just making it up. Another member is Robert Bennett, last seen as Bill Clinton’s lawyer. I think I preferred his early, funny sex scandals.

Alaska’s Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer, according to a badly written AP sentence, “took a break from her campaign to become the state’s first female governor to shop for a smaller handgun.” They have really specific elections up there.

The old one didn’t fit in her purse, in case you were wondering.

The House votes to ban “partial-birth abortions.” With no exception for the health of the mother. The bill actually states as fact that it is never necessary for the health of the mother. Congress should be prosecuted for practicing both medicine and assholery without a license.

A gay couple got married in Vermont. Their home state, Connecticut, doesn’t recognize the marriage. So they can’t get a divorce, because while Vermont will marry people who don’t live there, it won’t give divorces to them.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

A gift to the poor

The Homeland Security Agency debate goes on. I want to point again to the exclusion of the ATF and my suspicion, which no one else has joined in, that this was a sop to the gun lobby. Today’s NY Times notes that when Ashcroft ordered the FBI not to use gun ownership background checks to investigate terrorism after 9/11, and ordered the records destroyed, he was ignoring Justice’s legal advisers, who said it was perfectly legal to use those records, and then lied to Congress about it.

In 1992 Valentine Strasser took power in a coup in Sierra Leone to become the world’s youngest leader at 25. Today he is broke and lives with his mother. Good.

Under Alberto Fujimori, upwards of 230,000 poor rural Peruvians were forcibly sterilized. Betcha we don’t ever hear much more than that.

Ariel Sharon has been forced by world revulsion to reverse himself and say that if he’d known all those civilians would be killed when he ordered a plane to drop a bomb on an apartment building in the middle of a very crowded city at night (a 10th child’s body was found today, by the way) he wouldn’t have ordered it. This would be more credible if he hadn’t crowed about the great success of the operation yesterday, when he already knew of the deaths. It’s almost enough to sully the reputation of assassinations. “Infanticidal tit-for-tat,” the Guardian calls it.

The Guatemalan government is to make payments to members of the old death squads for their glorious service (the death squads have recently been quietly reactivating). This is the government that acts as a figleaf for former dictator and scum Efrian Rios Montt, one of many, well ok, two, scummy leaders forced out on my birthday.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

This is the FBI. Back away from the pizza

As I write, I’m listening to the Senate hearings on Priscilla Owen, or St. Priscilla, as Mitch McConnell dubbed her. She doesn’t actually seem to be listening, which some would consider a problem in a judge. The number of times in which she answered a question that wasn’t actually asked, including the softball ones, and had to be herded back towards what was actually asked, suggested she wasn’t paying that much attention but was, perhaps, looking out the window, watching a squirrel frolic, or waiting for recess, or thinking about boys.

So how much information about us is being handed over to the government by companies we do business with? According to the Village Voice, one unnamed supermarket chain (actually a relatively low-level employee on his own) handed over data from those loyalty cards. So they can profile what a terrorist shops for. Hotels, car rental agencies, travel agencies have handed over information. They are trying to figure out what “normal” patterns are, and what marks you as a terrorist (ordering a lot of pizza delivered and paying with a credit card is a major indicator of terrorist activity. And if you want pineapple or anchovies on your pizza, you have no taste. According to the FBI.). The FBI was handed a list of 2 million certified divers. Without a subpoena even, because no one wants to be seen as uncooperative. Nor did the supermarket chain, or the travel companies or anyone, feel obligated to tell anyone what they did.

Today, a court in Florida finds Salvadoran generals responsible for torture and orders them to pay damages (if you pay for pizza the wrong way the FBI will be all over your ass, but don’t look for these thugs to be deported any time soon). Tomorrow, the US plans to block an enforcement protocol for the treaty against torture, because it might involve inspection of US prisons and detention centers, including Guantanamo.

Only Ariel Sharon would think it wise to call his assassination-by-air-strike a “great success” despite the deaths of 9 children.

Bush’s hubris grows. He now intends a “regime change” in Iran.

The new Right-wing Dutch government runs into a little trouble. The minister for emancipation and family affairs (!), a follower of the dead bald gay guy, turns out to have once worn a uniform and toted a gun in the militia on the former Dutch colony of Suriname, back when said militia was merrily murdering opposition activists. Not the sort of emancipation they had in mind. She has had to resign.

Remember the 1980 Iranian embassy siege in London? It was stormed by the SAS, which evidently had orders directly from Thatcher that there be no “problems” left over. In other words: take no prisoners. Or, as it turned out, execute the prisoners. No word on when Thatcher will be arrested.

Monday, July 22, 2002

If God wanted you to have a tattoo...

I find I haven’t previously mentioned Bush’s nominee to the 5th Circuit, Priscilla Owen. She can probably best be destroyed by tarring her with Enron. When she ran for the Texas Supreme Court, she took a few thousand of their money, and then ruled for them in a tax case worth $225,000 for them. The White House defends this behaviour by noting that 7 of the 9 justices took Enron money and that she had to raise millions to run for the court. So it’s the system that’s corrupt, not her. I know I feel better. But the real reason to destroy her is her fierce anti-abortionism. In a case on judicial bypass of parental notification, she wanted pregnant girls to show an awareness of the physiology of what would happen to the fetus, that they would suffer psychologically and that there were religious objections to abortion. The last, of course, is why she is not fit to serve on any bench. But it’s still the piddling Enron thing that could actually get her, so I say go for it.

Israel looks like backing off deporting the families of suicide bombers. Was this because the militant groups threatened to go after the families of Israeli officials? Was it because they finally realized how bad it made them look, like last week’s apartheid plan, like 2000's attempt to pass a law legalizing the taking of hostages by the government? Is it worse that they actually consider these things to be reasonable steps, or that they’re so out of step with the rest of the world that they don’t even realize how morally repulsive these ideas are to, you know, sane people?

A line from a Daily Telegraph story, which I think it would be more fun to present without explanation: A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: “This is not something we’ve come across before. It’s not a good idea to put parts of your body into a computer scanner, but then kids will be kids.”

From the Times, news that there are some things people do with their bodies that Ken Starr does consider sacred and private:

July 23, 2002
Starr switches from Monica to body art
From Tim Reid in Washington
KENNETH STARR, the Republican lawyer who hounded President
Clinton with his exhaustive investigation of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, has a new case that this time goes to the heart of the Constitution: the right to get a tattoo.

Mr Starr, a solicitor-general when President Bush Sr was in the White House and a man known for his conservative bent, has taken up the fight of Ronald White, a body artist and punk rocker, who has fallen foul of South Carolina’s anti-tattoo law.

Mr White, 33, is taking his crusade to the US Supreme Court, claiming that needling skin with his designs of dragons, gargoyles and angels should be entitled to the same First Amendment free expression rights as other artists enjoy. In 1999, frustrated by the failure of South Carolina’s politicians to repeal their 1966 law - Oklahoma is the only other state to retain a ban - Mr White tattooed a man on television. The South Carolina authorities took a dim view. He was arrested, fined $2,500 (£1,620) and put on five years’ probation. For that time Mr White cannot carry pistols or rifles, get a drink in a bar or leave the state without informing his probation officer. He appealed to the state’s highest court, citing his constitutional rights, but lost.

Now, with the help of Mr Starr, who views his case as a serious First Amendment issue, he is asking the highest court in the land to decide the vexed issue of tattoos. “It’s our personal right as Americans to choose how we will express ourselves - on our bodies especially - and that is of the upmost importance to me,” Mr White said.

Mr Starr told the court, which is deciding whether to hear the case in full, that it was wrong to outlaw Mr White’s art “in a society that protects liquor advertising and pornography”. He told reporters, however, that he does not himself wear a tattoo, and has no intention of getting one.

Mr White’s nemesis thus far has been J. M. “Jake” Knotts, a South Carolina congressman and a former policeman and Vietnam veteran, who reached the House in 1994 on an anti- tattoo ticket, claiming that they are unclean, ungodly and bad for his state’s image.

“If God wanted you to have a tattoo, he’d have put your name on you,” Mr Knotts, known in the tattoo world as “Thou Shalt Knotts”, declares. [Personally, I feel the same thing about pants, but the police don’t agree with me.]

The tattoo ban dates from the 1960s, when a parlour in New York was blamed for a hepatitis outbreak. Most states banned the practice, but have since relented.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

With remarkably little discussion, we are soon going to see the start of Operation TIPS, which stands for Tyrannical Informants Program... Oh, the only thing I can think of for S is Stasi, which is highly appropriate, but doesn’t really work. This is the brilliant idea of getting every postal carrier, cable guy, meter reader, truck driver and possibly crack dealer to report “suspicious behavior” to the government. 1 million informers. Which some say means you have the right to keep meter readers the hell off your property unless they have a warrant, since they’ve been deputized (the Post Office backed out of the program). So the next time you see a meter reader looking in your bathroom window, don’t worry, he’s probably just looking for Al Qaeda. And here’s me writing political manifestos on my computer at 5 in the morning; that’s not suspicious, is it?

Speaking of fascism, Israel has been rounding up the families of suicide bombers to deport them into the vast concentration camp that is the Gaza Strip. Speaking of Israeli responses to terrorism, I caught a couple of minutes of the tv movie of the Antebbe raid on cable tonight, looking to spot my great-uncle, who played Scared Jew #3, before I gave up. OK, that has nothing much to do with anything, but it’s these personal touches that distinguish these writings from Mother Jones.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Yet another use for cow shit

Bush predicts--or possibly orders--that the SEC will clear Cheney.

Bush is firing (or kicking sideways) his gay AIDS adviser. It is suggested that this was because he advocated that gay & bisexual men use condoms. Well, that’s what it says in the NY Times. He was also a critic of the ridiculous abstinence-only sex ed. policies this admin loves (chastely of course) so much.

London Times headline: “Horses Mark Bomb Anniversary.” These are horses, Echo and Yetti, who survived an IRA bomb attack 20 years ago.

Americans, many of them, are claiming political asylum in Canada, from persecution for their use of medical marijuana. 800 Canadians have permits to grow or use marijuana. In the 1960s the Flying Burrito Brothers sang of
“heading for the nearest foreign border/ Vancouver may be just my kind of town/ ‘Cos they don’t need the kind of law and order/ That tends to keep a good man underground.”

From the Belfast Sunday Life, a response to the IRA’s apology this week for accidentally killing and wounding a few hundred people:

A statement issued by a spokesman on behalf on the ‘non-combatant’ people of Northern Ireland:
“‘During several years of armed conflict waged on our behalf by a variety of paramilitary groups, there were many incidents during which we civilians severely inconvenienced our tireless freedom fighters and jeopardised their vital operations. These incidents include: people setting off booby traps which were not intended for them, bearing a slight similarity to ‘legitimate targets’, living in the wrong area, obscuring the targets of snipers by walking recklessly across their own streets, and generally being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While it was never our intention to be killed or seriously wounded, the reality is that on a number of occasions, this was the consequence of our actions. We would therefore offer our sincere apologies’.”
A Hindu nationalist group says people can protect themselves against nuclear attack by smearing themselves with cow dung.

And the new Indian president, as predicted, is fake-Doctor A P J Abdul Kalam, nuclear scientist and vegetarian (because it’s bad to kill a pig, but not to kill 30 million Pakistanis). In fact, President Kalam is on tv right now. Oh my god, he’s covered in cow shit, run for the hills everybody, save yourselves, oh the humanity!

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

A very sensitive part of its geography

The Spanish fight back in the world’s silliest war, over the uninhabited Parsley Island, occupied a couple of days ago by a few (six, I believe) Moroccans with tents. The Spanish actually sent in the special forces, with attack helicopters and gunboats. According to the Spanish defence minister, “Spain was attacked by force in a very sensitive part of its geography.” Well, that can be very painful. The Times, jokingly I think, calls Morocco’s action the first occupation of Western European soil since WW II. The ownership of the island is actually pretty vague, but given Spain’s attitude towards Gibraltar, the Basques and Catalonia, and Morocco’s continuing illegal occupation of the Western Sahara, I’d say the colonialist impulse is still strong in both countries, so fuck ‘em. Or to put it another way, I say it’s parsley, and I say to hell with it.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the air conditioner, and the first day in a while it’s been cool enough not to need it.

The British government blames its failure to cut teenage pregnancies on the public’s “giggly” attitude towards sex. In other words, and explicitly, they are blaming Benny Hill. Benny’s father sold condoms for a living, by the way (there is a large biography just out, if you can imagine wanting to read such a thing).

The Republicans in Congress have loaded up the bill to tighten up the Bermuda loophole with tax breaks to businesses (designed to help them transfer American jobs overseas) worth 10 times as much as the loophole. You can’t make this stuff up.

Click for the Miami Herald’s report on what happened to all of those Bushies who participated in the post-election fight in Florida. Would you believe that at least 50 of them were given government jobs? Of course you would!

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

A powerful asset

The Israeli cabinet backs off the apartheid plan. For now.

The US is not only training a new central Afghan army, but also little proxy units to go after Al Qaida. These units are connected with local warlords and not under the central government’s control, and are paid more (by the US, I’m assuming), which means that the central army training programs are being deserted (at least 1/3). So the US is not only helping create private armies, but actively undermining its own puppet central government.

Two of the NY Times columnists in the Tuesday paper focus on Bush’s past economic history, Kristof noting that when the Rangers coerced Arlington into seizing private property for their ballpark, they added to the list properties they wanted to re-sell for a profit (after getting them at compulsory knock-down prices). Krugman focuses on the funds of the U of Texas, which Bush effectively privatized and whose dealings he made secret, so that many (unprofitable) deals were made with cronies, one of whom was Bush himself. He also notes that Bush’s fellow-owners of the Rangers gave him $12 million more than his investment entitled him to, out of the goodness of their hearts, and not because he was the son of the presidents. This is all familiar if you read Molly Ivins’s columns, but bears repeating.

Bush, meanwhile, is calling the current economic slump a “hangover” after an “economic binge.” Far be it for me to contradict Dubya on a subject he knows so much about, hangovers, but what’s he suggesting? That the economic growth of the Clinton years was unhealthy? That all stocks are horribly over-valued and need to come down? That the boast that everyone is a stock-holder now suggests that everyone is a drunken rube now? Actually, the truth is that Clinton’s Justice Dept was even less likely to punish corporate crime than the previous admin (or environmental crimes or...). Is he suggesting that Clinton was soft on white collar criminals? It would be amusing to hear him say it aloud. And rare indeed to hear him say “Clinton” out loud.

When Bush sold his Harken stocks, it was 2 months after he’d signed a promise not to for 6 months. This makes his claim that his sale was unrelated to insider knowledge about the company’s crappy performance, and that he’d always intended to sell to finance the Rangers deal, is that much less believable. The Bushies say that the promise was related to a planned public stock offering and that when it fell through the promise no longer needed to be kept.
Which would mean that Bush knew that the company was in trouble, so even their explanation points to insider trading.

Cheney, who did pretty much the same exact thing with Halliburton stock, is being sued, but, according to Ari Fleischer, “The Vice-President continues to be a powerful asset for the country and the President.” Another example of bad accountancy. There may also be a little fuss over the billions a division of Halliburton is now earning providing support services for the military, at much more money than it would cost the Pentagon to do it itself. The company got into this business after Cheney, the Elder Bush’s defense secretary, changed the rules to allow it...

The government gets John Walker Lindh to plead guilty, armed only with an illegal confession, a raftload of false charges they could never have proven in court, the knowledge that he’d be convicted in this environment whether they proved their charges or not, and a judge hand-picked for his willingness to allow in unconstitutional evidence. The system worked. He pleaded guilty to carrying hand grenades in Afghanistan, which I find hard to believe is against American law, and working with the Taliban, which ditto. Also, he’s supposed to cooperate in giving intelligence to the government. If little Johnny Taliban knows anything that the CIA still doesn’t know, you have to be wondering what they’ve been doing the last 10 months.

Bush proposes to set up cells to think like terrorists and plan attacks. And in a couple of years they’ll have skills they can take with them into the private sector.

From the Telegraph: A quadriplegic man is suing the Wildside strip club in West Palm Beach, Florida, for allegedly breaking the law by not providing wheelchair access to the lap-dancing room.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

According to SEC documents, Bush did in fact know that Harken was in trouble when he sold his stocks–in fact, it looked likely to go bankrupt. That is insider trading. Rather than the SEC exonerating him, as he claims, an internal memo said the lack of action ‘must in no way be construed as indicating that the party has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result’. Incidentally, you’ll remember Bush claims (now) that it was the fault of his lawyers that his documents didn’t get filed. So how did he reprimand those lawyers? One of them is now ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Friday, July 12, 2002

Committing public order offenses with his feet

Bush has gotten bored with going after the corporations, and thinks everyone else should be too: “I believe people have taken a step back and asked, ‘What’s important in life?’ You know, the bottom line and this corporate America stuff, is that important? Or is serving your neighbor, loving your neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself?” Of course George has usually had much richer neighbors than the rest of us.

And his friends can afford their own drugs, which is why he’s opposing Democratic plans for drug coverage for the old. He says the plan, by making existing drugs affordable, would cut back on the incentive for drug companies to come up with new drugs that people can’t afford. Come to think of it, his argument is that the plan would be too expensive, but drugs under it would be too cheap.

New in the South African version of Sesame Street: an HIV-positive Muppet. Maybe the Cookie Monster can provide some marijuana brownies.

Guardian headline: Police Praise IRA for ‘Calming Clashes’. I’m assuming that here “calming” is used as a verb rather than an adjective.

Six Afghan governors are demanding that the US military get their permission before conducting military operations in their states. Good luck, guys. This alliance actually looks like a de facto separatist Pashtun region.

The Congressional hearings on the Heimat Security Agency suggest that the legislative branch has begun to realize what a power grab the proposal was. In the name of flexibility, the Bushies are trying to wrest from Congress the ability to shift funds and personnel at will. In addition to scaling down Congressional oversight, it would also ride rough-shod over civil service rules, or to put it another way, screw some large unions that generally support the D’s.

So the chair of the New Mexican Republican party gets a donation from someone he won’t name and insists he doesn’t really know who the guy was acting for, in order to bribe the Green Party (which refused to play) to run spoiler candidates for the United States Congress. This should be a big deal, but it won’t be, like earlier this year when I was the only one in the state complaining that Gray Davis was running ads to influence the primary of another party.

Speaking of which, the aptly named State Dept under-sec for Latin America, Otto Reich, tells Bolivia which of their candidates for president they will not be allowed to vote for, if they know what’s good for them. The ambassador tried that before the first round, and the guy’s numbers went way up.

I was pleased that the story I sent on the 2nd about the gang-rape ordered by the Pakistani local council got so much press, for a couple of days anyway. But the story goes on. If you’ll recall, the rape was ordered as punishment for another family member, her younger brother, who was accused of dating a member of a higher caste. In fact, he was accused of raping her. He was 11, she 30. In actual fact, it was he who was raped, by 3 men of an upper-caste. To cover that up, the 30-year old made her accusation. So the story just keeps getting scummier.

This week’s Private Eye cover is entitled New Osama Threat to America, with a picture of bin Laden saying, “Forget terrorism, I’m going to become an accountant.”

Thursday, July 11, 2002

So police in LA (Inglewood) are caught on videotape beating up a black guy. That’s what I hate about summer: nothing but reruns on tv.

The papers tell me that the US has backed down on its demand for immunity for peacekeepers from the international court. In fact, it changed its demand from immunity in perpetuity to immunity for a year, which would be renewed annually.

Somehow the papers that Bush says would show his innocence in insider trading are in the possession of Harken, not the SEC, and Harken ain’t making them public. Perhaps it’s time to review how Bush the Elder managed never to answer any questions on Iran-Contra.

Another unanswered Harken question is who bought Bush’s stock from him. This is secret. Some experts are quoted saying this is common and it doesn’t matter, but there are two problems with that: 1) someone handed a large profit to the son of the president of the United States, so they might have an ulterior motive, 2) someone lost a lot of money due to Bush’s insider trading.

The European Court of Human Rights says that Britain must give full recognition of the femaleness of a transsexual, including the right to marry. More worryingly, women in Britain can retire at 60 instead of 65, so... do you really really want to retire early...?

Britain will introduce extra maternity pay and paternal leave exactly 9 months from today....

Wednesday, July 10, 2002


Jon Stewart of the Daily Show had the best reaction to Bush’s speech on corporate crime. After each proposal, they cut to Stewart’s stunned face--You mean convicted CEOs could become CEOs again? You mean they don’t have to attest to the accuracy of accounts now? You mean auditors can have conflicts of interest now? You mean if they profit from false accountancy, they can keep the money now? Are there are rules on Wall Street, he asked, can they just kill a guy for lookin’ at them?

Maybe it would be safer not to test that out.

By the way, Chimp Boy, we want to see the SEC case file on your role in Harken.

It’s been, what, 2 days since the Israeli Cabinet voted to institute racial segregation. Notice the wave of indignation from American politicians? Didn’t think so.

On news today, saw an Arthur Anderson promotional video from 1996 in which the company is praised by Dick Cheney. Priceless (although Arthur Anderson would put it in the plus column).

In US planning for war with Iraq, there arises the problem of what to do with Saddam Hussein, if he’s ever captured. Obviously not the international court. Another country-specific war crimes court? Current thinking is to let our Iraqi puppets set up a kangaroo court. Don’t expect the UN Security Council to have much to say about this: evidently the US is already parceling out the contracts to Iraqi oilfields like so many party favors.

London Times headline Thursday: Jordan to Let US Use Bases for War on Iraq. Daily Telegraph headline Thursday: Jordan Rejects Invasion Plan. The fix is only half in, I guess (man, I’m talking in nothing but clichés today). The hope seems to be that US troops will use Jordan, but that the Jordanian people don’t notice.

Mafiosi in prison in Italy are going on hunger strike to protest the prison regime. Joke for fans of The Sopranos: What, no fuckin’ ziti?

Daily Telegraph article:

T-shirts with hidden appeal
A Berlin designer has launched a range of T-shirts impregnated with pheromones, hormone-based scents said to attract the opposite sex. Anna Figoluschka, 26, says her “flirtshirt” gives its wearer an advantage when trying to stand out in a crowd. T-shirts with a blue anchor design contain male pheromones and those with a pink heart have female pheromones. Hannah Cleaver, Berlin

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Confidence Game

Bush used the word “confidence” 5 times in his press conference. And many more in today’s speech. Which as I understand it put all the blame for corporate greed on the “late 90s.” I suppose that in the era-bashing department it makes a refreshing change from Republicans bitching about the 1960s.

Here’s a sentence you don’t see everyday, from a Daily Telegraph story:
A passenger who tried to smuggle her pet chameleon into Britain by wearing it as a hat was foiled by customs officers.
At his press conference, Bush was asked why he was not showing up at the NAACP annual meeting. He said, “Let’s see. There I was sitting around the table with foreign leaders looking at Colin Powell and Condi Rice...” before tailing off. Think Colls and Condi will set him right on why that was a stupid response? Me

The first article following is on Bush’s personal finances, the second compares the same to the standards he claims to be setting for others.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Restoring Confidence

New Yorker cartoon: 2 dogs looking at bowls filled with paper. Oh no, not homework again.

The German Christian Democrats are going after the gay vote, including a proposal I’ve never heard of in this country: giving gay partners spousal immunity from being forced to testify against each other.

The Israeli Cabinet votes 17-2 in favor of banning Palestinians buying houses in Jewish communities.

Hopefully, tonight’s news will juxtapose images of WorldCom executives refusing to testify before Congress with Bush calling questions of his own immoral and indeed illegal dealings with Harken Oil old-style politics. (That they were illegal is undeniable, whatever Bush might say.)

Look at the reporting of the hearings and of Bushs alleged plan to crack down on corporate malfeasance, and you will notice a lot of talk about the need to restore confidence. In fact, let me pause here and use that new-fangled Internet thingy to do a count.

OK, too early for a transcript. The White House site does have this headline, though: President Urges Congress to Support Nation’s Priorities. You’d think in a proper democracy, what the Congress supported would automatically constitute the nations priorities, wouldn’t you? Ah, just kidding.

At least twice, though. The problem is that confidence, for Bush as for the CEOs, is something to be manipulated. Harken, for example, used false accountancy methods (fuzzy math, if you will) to over-inflate its value, and Bush took advantage to sell his stock just before more accurate figures came out and the stock tanked. If he were selling anything other than stocks, that would count as fraud, selling something by pretending it is something else, like when they told me buying a computer would make my life easier. And since Bush was on the audit committee--and try picturing Chimp Boy on the audit committee of anything--this constitutes actual fraud. He doesnt want honesty in business, he wants confidence in business. How hard can that be to create, when the polls suggest that the American people have confidence in the leadership abilities of George W. Doofus? As I wrote this, I was reminded of something I wrote here last September 22:
The problem with Bush’s jihad is of course the one Republicans saw in every one of Clinton’s military adventures: no end strategy. Asked about that 2 days ago, Rumsfeld hemmed and hawed and then said that the end would be when Americans were persuaded that they were safe. Actually, much of what we’ve heard about security the last 2 weeks has been entirely about PR. Listen to it the next time someone talks about planes or skyscrapers: the language most of the time is about making people *feel* they are safe, not actually making people safer, except inasmuch as it is necessary to the goal of altering perception.
Indeed, much of Bush activity has been about creating the illusion of activity, given the complete inability to capture bin Laden or the Al Qaida leadership. Although as weve seen with the dirty bomb scare (remember that? just 4 weeks ago today) and vague terror alerts, perception can be altered in the other direction too when it suits the administrations needs.

So remember, when they talk about restoring confidence in the markets, what they mean is what they always mean: You are getting sleepy, sleepy, and when you wake up you will feel secure and confident and that your president isnt a mindless dipstick.

Saturday, July 06, 2002

The Observer reports that teenage girls are using webcams to solicit gifts. [Oh good, my new, up to date word processor’s spellcheck has never heard of webcams. Um, or spellcheck, which is a bit worrying.] 14-year olds getting CDs in exchange for pictures of themselves. Also, some of these camgirls sell advertisement to hardcore websites. What a world! And how do you find these sites? Kidding, just kidding.

I mentioned the dog running against Katherine Harris. The website is Putting the lick back into Republican.

The US has finally admitted that it killed civilians in Afghanistan, but still seems to be insisting that its planes came under anti-aircraft fire from the wedding party.

Looking at both print and television news sources, I sometimes conclude that a picture is worth zero words. Yesterday or the day before the BBC ran film from that incident a couple of weeks back where Israeli tanks fired on civilians, killing many, including children. The film shows the tank having a clear view of who it was it fired on (of their backs anyway--they were running away at the time) at close range. Nothing in any newspaper since.

Friday, July 05, 2002

The wisdom and the blessing of Divine Providence

I trust everyone saw the July 4 event in which everyone inc Shrub shouted the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance. Makes you proud to be a Christian, I mean American. Bush talked about how “the wisdom and the blessing of Divine Providence” have guided the nation. Oh good, I’d hate it to think it was you, George.

Japan’s farm minister says that whales cause (human) starvation by eating a lot of fish.

The US is planning to resume helping Peru and Colombia shoot down drug-smuggling planes, having passed the statute of limitations on fuckups just 14 months after participating in Peru’s little mishap with all the American missionaries. You may remember that the Americans working with the Peruvians at that time a) worked for a private contractor, b) didn’t speak very good Spanish. The contractor was actually a CIA front company, now defunct, which I assume means they were doing an end-run around Congressional undersight [see, I said I’d use that one at some point]. No one’s explaining why it’s a good idea to shoot down planes and kill people over drugs (it’s also against international law), as 38+ planes have been in Peru under this program, much less because they don’t respond to their radios; I mean, if I don’t answer your emails in a timely fashion, please don’t fire a missile at me. The CIA has taken its balls-up and gone home, so the State Department will be in charge of the resumed program and, once again, private contractors, mostly the same ones the CIA used. I don’t actually know which is worse, having the spooks telling foreigners when to shoot down planes, having diplomats do it, or having private contractors do it.

Those poor foreigners: we’re guided by the wisdom and the blessing of Divine Providence, all they get are lowest-bid contractors with bad Spanish-language skills.

I think I deserve some sort of credit for “taken its balls-up and gone home.”

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Not knuckling under to Johnny Foreigner’s International Court

I reported some time back that a couple of months before 9/11, John Ashcroft took reports of terrorist threats seriously enough to stop flying commercial flights. I expected some degree of outrage, but instead the story was completely ignored. I think my original source was British, and the only attention its gotten in the American media has been in the Tom Tomorrow cartoon This Modern World.

Speaking of the media, CNN has been caving in to the Israeli government on how it reports on terrorists. This is after the local satellite company introduced Fox News & threatened to kick CNN off the air, and the Israeli gov. threatened reporters. CNN will stop reporting statements by suicide bombers (taped beforehand, obviously) and their families. Israelis have been complaining about moral equivalence in CNN reporting. Fine, let's balance out the terrorists with interviews with Israeli soldiers who bulldozed homes in Jenin with people inside (hey, I wonder how that UN inquiry is going. Oh, yeah.), or fired rockets from helicopters, etc etc. And their proud mothers as well.

Moral equivalency. Sheesh. I remember listening to the BBC in the 1980s, when Thatcher had declared IRA leaders unpersons in the media (following South African precedent), and they got some actor to dub Gerry Addams’s voice.

Since writing that, Ive seen a McNeil-Lehrer debate on the subject, in which a CNN flack talked about moral equivalency & not upsetting the families of Israeli victims of terrorist attacks. Just in case you thought of CNN as being in the news business.

Britain has been experimenting locally with loosening enforcement of marijuana laws. Headline in Daily Telegraph: Blair Under Pressure on Cannabis. And you know what could take the edge off that pressure...?

Bush looks like realizing that threatening to halt the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in order to get his way on the International Court does not look good to the rest of the world. I don’t know, Bosnia occupied by soldiers from a nation which puts its own nationalistic goals ahead of international human rights standards, well at least its what they’re used to over there. Bush’s idea of a compromise would leave the court intact but give the US a permanent veto over its citizens actually having to appear before it, or to use his words, prevent them being drug in front of
it. The Unilateral States of America rides again.

The bridge & groom of that wedding party did survive, if anyone cares (the US media sure didn’t). The US media also, according to one British paper, gave far less time to this than to the one soldier in Afghanistan who got shot in the foot during a fire-fight. Moral equivalency, I guess. The US still hasn’t gotten its story straight on this one, no doubt in part because of the little detail that if the rocket was dropped by a B-52, as the original reports said, well a B-52 flies too high to be under any
threat from the anti-aircraft fire they claim it was under fire from.

Israel dismantles some settlement outposts. Empty ones. Big woop.

Note to Julius Caesar Watts: don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Katherine Harris, known as Cruella, will be running against a border collie named Percy in the Republican primary for Congress in Sarasota. We’ll know there have been more shenanigans if it appears that cats have voted for Percy.

Norway is introducing a scheme whereby anyone stopped by the police and asked for ID or frisked will be issued a receipt. It’s to cut down on racism.

Rumsfeld wants no rush on deciding whether dropping a missile into the middle of a wedding was a good or bad thing. And the Pentagon is refusing to issue an apology. Although to be fair, the newlyweds, assuming they’re still alive, probably won’t be issuing any thank you notes for the gift.

A NY Times columnist seems very sure he knows who was behind the anthrax attacks, and all but names him in an effort to get the FBI (his informant is clearly a Fibbie) off its ass. There really has been amazingly little pressure on the agency to solve this one, compared with, say, the Jon Benet Ramsey case.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Just as historic

Jiang Zemin rebukes the government of Hong Kong for failing to keep it as rich as it was when it was handed over to China five years ago. That’s probably because Zemin had Tung too busy suppressing democracy, such as the protesters who Zemin never saw during his visit. Hong Kong has actually become less open in many ways than China is.

The head of Kabul TV is fired--except that he refuses to go, which has worked for him in the past. He banned women from tv, especially women singing.

Maybe someone should suggest to the Afghans that they stop shooting into the air to celebrate weddings, since sometimes, these days, the air shoots back.

The Telegraph explains why American intelligence agencies can't track Arab terrorists: they have no single standard on how to spell (transliterate) their names. For example in the CIA computers, Muammar Gaddafi’s name is spelled no less than 60 different ways.

The Post reports that in April we reached a milestone I had missed: the 100th innocent person released from death row since the death penalty was reinstated. Hope he got a cake. The article also says that Ashcroft has been on a major death penalty push, which was inevitable but has gone unreported up until now. He overrides his own prosecutors to insist on going for death.

I’m going to give this quote without any comment:

The Supreme Court in 1954 declared that our nation cannot have two education systems, and that was the right decision,” Bush said. “Last week, what’s notable and important is that the court declared that our nation will not accept one education system for those who can afford to send their children to a school of their choice and for those who can’t, and that’s just as historic.”