Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Wilmington, Dele. police have been compiling a database of potential criminals. Lacking the services of precogs, they use “jump-out” squads of police who drive around, spot a group of, let’s say, black youths, hanging around a street corner, jump (I’m assuming) out of their cars, round up, search and photograph the non-criminals. The mayor insists that this is constitutional in the alternate universe he lives in.

The Spanish Parliament votes to ask that the Batasuna party of the Basques be banned, and a high court judge simultaneously does just that. This means that electricity and water are cut off to its buildings and it is not allowed to call meetings or street demonstrations, but current elected officials can serve out their terms. The vote was 295 to 10, 29 abstaining. I’m guessing the 295 all belonged to other parties, which is pretty convenient for them. Under a new law, parties which justify terrorism are deemed responsible for it (Batasuna doesn’t quite do that, but nor does it condemn it and blames it on the continuing oppression of the Basques). It ill behooves a former fascist state to proscribe some people from the democratic process, especially on the grounds of thought crime.

In Detroit, a mohel was stopped for DUI on his way to perform a circumcision.

Ronald Reagan’s son says that he now speaks nothing but gibberish. I am refraining from commenting, not on the grounds of taste, which have never stopped me in the past, but on the grounds of it presenting no challenge whatsoever.

Speaking of Alzheimer’s, I’d like to remind everyone that Iraq did not expel the UN inspectors, they withdrew themselves, no matter how many times Rummy says differently. Also, the UN “inspectors” (this came out in January 1999) really were American spies, like Hussein always said they were. They reported to the US, which only passed on to the UN what it felt like passing on. Quoting myself from 2/13/99, “after the US offered the use of its U2 spy planes to Unscom to monitor Iraq, the first thing it did was to refuse to tell when and where photos were taken and deliberately fuzzy them up to disguise the U2’s capabilities.”

Evidently, the Bush admin just did a deal with China, actually negotiated whether the Uighur Muslims should be put on our list of terrorist organizations. This is deeply, deeply cynical.

William Saletan has an interesting piece analyzing Cheney’s pro-war speech. He says that there is a new line of argument based on Iraq’s supposedly being about to acquire nukes, for which Cheney offers no evidence whatsoever, and these nukes would prevent US acting against Iraq if it did something unpleasant in the future. Thus, Saletan says, the forthcoming war is no longer an extension of the war on terrorism, but of the 1st Persian Gulf War. Cheney said that inspections would no longer be of any use, because Iraq is so good at hiding stuff. The Bushies, lacking any evidence, are now playing on the difficulty of proving a negative--it doesn’t even matter whether there’s proof of the assertion of near-nuclear capability, let’s bomb now preemptively. Actually, the existing war on Iraq (7 bombing raids in the last week--it may not be Dresden, but that’s certainly war in my book) in aid of the “no fly” zone follows similar logic: it has nothing to do with protecting Kurds or Iraqis but solely with preserving our right to do whatever we want. In this sense, it is actually an extension of Bush’s Star Wars policy--destroying or neutralizing everybody else’s military capabilities while ours remains intact.

At least the Bushies have finally realized the unattractiveness of “regime change” as a slogan.

From the Village Voice:
The actual price of killing civilians in a place like Afghanistan was cheap. Marc Herold, a New Hampshire professor who tracks civilian casualties, compared U.S. compensation to Italian victims of the tramway accident with Chinese victims in the NATO bombing of its Belgrade embassy, and with Afghan civilian deaths. It comes down to this:

• Italian: $2 million per victim

• Chinese: $150,000 per victim

• Afghan: $100 per victim

One might add $50,000, the amount asked for in a Japanese court by Chinese victims of Japanese germ warfare in the 1940s. For the first time, the court admitted the action, but denied that any compensation was owed.

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