Monday, September 30, 2002

Cheap trollopes and Christian spanking

The US proposal for Iraqi inspections is indeed intended to be rejected. They snuck in a provision for sending armed guards with the inspectors. Combined with the demand for access to presidential palaces and Bush’s cowboy rhetoric, that sounds rather like hit squads, or will sound like that to Iraq. Not only inspectors and guards, but also anybody else the states which are permanent members of the Security Council feel like sending along, and those nations could also pick their own sites. In other words, spying in advance of war (choosing targets for bombing) would actually be institutionalized. And Iraqi scientists and others could be removed, presumably by force, from the country--so that they could be safely interrogated, of course.

According to Dubya, "You can't distinguish between al-Qaida and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." He can’t distinguish a hawk from a handsaw either.

Actually, the Wash Post says Bush hasn’t mentioned the name Osama bin Laden unprompted since March 8, at all since July 8. Although to be fair we don’t know if Osama has been talking about Bush. OK, this is in part embarrassment at having muffed the ostensible purpose of the last military action before launching the next, but Bush doesn’t get the kick out of his enemy’s names that his father did. Junior likes nicknames, but not real ones. When was the last time he mentioned Al Gore’s name? It actually came up last week, and Fleischer said not to read anything into the fact; Bush sentences referring to Gore lately have had so many pronouns I defy him to say which “he” refers to whom. Remember the contemptuous tone in which Bush the Elder used to say “Saddam”, or “Pierre” for Pete du Pont, dragging out the vowels to the length of whole sentences?

Ari Fleischer insisted at a press conference today that the homeland security bill is bipartisan, though no more than 1 D supports it.

Isn’t it awfully cheap of the New Jersey Republicans to try to keep a replacement for Toricelli off the ballot?

David Mellors, who was fired by John Major for a sex scandal in 1992, says that Edwina “Hot” Currie is a cheap trollope, a phrase you surely do not hear every day.

40 years ago today JFK, just like Shrub, stood up to a rogue state which was resisting the will of the world, and threatened to send in the military. Fortunately, Mississippi surrendered.

Jeb Bush’s daughter gets away with it. OK, I don’t believe in criminalizing drug use, but bringing drugs into a rehab clinic might be something else again. You might also wonder about a rehab clinic where the same client gets caught twice, and just whose reputation they were protecting by refusing to testify. Maybe Jeb should take the advice of his new child welfare services, and give her a jolly good, but Christian, spanking.

Speaking of Christian spanking, click here for the Domestic Discipline & Spanking Web Site, which asks the magic question, “is domestic discipline commanded of God?” To save you some time, the answer is evidently yes. [Update: that link is no longer working.]

A University of Glasgow study proves that housework makes you depressed. Then I should be the happiest man in the world.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Bungee jumping from helicopters and having sex with dolphins. Must be the weekend

This could be entertaining: a site that allows you to test whether a website is blocked in China or not. They can get The Onion. [update: dead link]

At the creepier end of the Web, try, which asks the burning question, How can I tell if a dolphin wants to have sex with me? [update: dead link]

It’s easy to see the catch in Bush’s proposed UN resolution on Iraq. It’s not the access, it’s that Iraq would have to produce a list of all its programs and sites, and if Bush pretends not to believe the list, he gets his war. If this is legal under the UN Charter, we all have to stop taking the UN seriously. Also, the UN would get to inspect Hussein’s palaces---and mosques. What I haven’t figured out is why the US is so insistent that the resolution say that Iraq is in breach of past resolutions.

The % of people bothering to vote in primaries has increased to a whopping 17% this year, a truly vigorous democratic process.

In November Oregon will vote on whether to allow free negroes and mulattoes to move to their state.

More on the John Major sex scandal, as long as I started on the subject: when he was PM, there was a rumor that he was having an affair with the Downing St. caterer. His staff advised her not to deny the rumors, which she now realizes was so that she would be the decoy for the real affair. Major himself told her she should earn as much money as she could from the story, and they both sued the New Statesman for doing a story which denied the rumor, but still reported it, in the context of a story on Britain’s over-strict libel laws. Major and the caterer made a lot of money off those over-strict libel laws, and a lesson was sent to the papers not to go after the real affair, if they ever found out about it.

The British National Health is prescribing vibrators for women with sexual and physical disfunctions. But just once submit a claim to Blue Cross for hookers... Incidentally, a women’s sex shop in the East End is called Sh! I suppose they preferred that to Bzzzzzz. Also in today’s papers, a new nasal spray that puts women into a state of extreme sexual arousal.

At last some D’s are beginning to come out against, or at least ask questions about, the war. Frank Rich has a sentence in today’s NY Times about sure the D’s are patriotic, they give national security nearly as high a priority as their own job security. You do have to wonder about the strategy that they should just cave in to Bush quickly (cuz they’re gonna do it anyway) so they can get back to domestic policy. Guys, you spend $200 billion on a war, there is no domestic policy.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Bias, preconceived notions, and apparent animus

I forgot to mention that Bill Simon, floundering candidate for governor here, has loaned his campaign some money, I think $4 million. This is a truly terrible practice, which other millionaire-candidates have used. Worse than regular campaign contributions because it means that every donation that comes in after the election goes to pay off that loan, so it goes straight into his pocket, and is thus even closer to bribery than normal.

Something else I’ve been meaning to mention is that the repeated claims that Iraq tried to assassinate Bush the Elder in 1993 were pretty much discredited by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker at the time. Happily, the website has just put that story online. And here's a current Hersh story on Zacarias Moussaoui. He suggests that the Justice Dept is looking for one conviction, the only one it could conceivably get related to 9/11, and doesn’t much care about how little the charges against him relate to reality, or whether he has any information. In a conspiracy case, you always go for a plea bargain to extract information, but Justice is unwilling to give up its shot at a nice, healing, feel-good execution.

I do enjoy the story about Justice accidentally giving him classified documents. The FBI defended itself by saying that some of its agents drafted in to work on terrorism after 9/11 didn’t know how to work with classified documents. As we all now know, the usual procedure is to lock them in a drawer and never act on them. The next Wash Post story says that the CIA director doesn’t like the staff of the House-Senate investigative committee. He accuses them of acting with “bias, preconceived notions, and apparent animus.” So he’s hiring them all as CIA analysts.

Daniel Goldhagen, who wrote Hitler’s Willing Executioners, has a book coming out on the complicity of the Catholic church in Nazi anti-semitism, including giving access to birth records used in finding Jews. He thinks the Church should have declared it an obligation to resist persecution of the Jews, as the Danish Lutheran Church did.

Milosevic in the Hague blames the Srebrenica massacre on...the French secret service. Didn’t see that one coming.

There’s nothing so fun as a good Tory party sex scandal: John Major and Edwina Currie, 1984-88. This is a guy who as prime minister had to fire several ministers whose affairs became public. Although there was one adulterous former-minister he never gave the cabinet-level job she expected: Edwina Currie.

From Newsweek, on the claim that Iraq is backing terrorism, including an Iranian group I’ve never heard of, which also used to be supported by various members of Congress, including one Senator John Ashcroft. And this is a group that killed Americans in Iran in the 1970s. In May 2000 he wrote to Janet Reno protesting the arrest of one of its members for failing to disclose her terrorist background when claiming political asylum.

The Bushies are extending health benefits to “unborn children,” including those of illegal immigrants, in a cynical ploy. My first thought was that if that’s what it took to get pre-natal care covered, so be it, but I’m having second thoughts. I think this policy isn’t just heading down the road to making abortion illegal, which I can deal with because the top of the slippery slope is not the same as the bottom, if you follow, but I think such a policy is already at the bottom of one dangerous slope, because it separates out, from a medical perspective, the health of the mother from that of the fetus. While the two are usually one and the same, when they conflict, I don’t want anyone putting their thumb on the scale in favor of the fetus. The policy would direct medical resources to the fetus in a way that treats the mother as an incubator, and this is not the way I want doctors thinking.

Can’t remember if I passed on the story about two Floridians who went fishing and found a severed human head, bringing it to the authorities only after continuing fishing another five hours. A detail I missed: they named the head Bob, geddit?

Bootylicious / The California propositions

The British chief rabbi has escaped from charges of heresy by recanting his stated view that there were things to be learned from other religions.

This week the Bushies seem rather desperately to be trying to link Iraq with Al Qaeda without actually producing any evidence. Introducing a new charge at this late date smacks of desperation. And lying.

Good calm piece against the Iraq war by Michael Kinsley on the Slate (Thursday). (and the Wash Post editorial section for Friday)

Ari Fleischer says everyone should stop finger-pointing. Good, tell your boss that. He also tried to say that the line about the Senate not being interested in the US’s security was taken out of context, like there could ever be a good context for such a comment (and Bush said it several times, so it wasn’t a slip of his famously accident-prone tongue). Actually, Fleischer said that it was ok because it wasn’t about the war on Iraq, but on the details of the Homeland Security Agency. As someone on Slate, maybe Kinsley, points out, this is worse, because Bush is calling traitors people who disagree with him on a relatively minor matter of labor regulations in a government agency. Also, the RNC is using the Bush quote in a fund-raising e-mail to 2 million people (I wonder how you get on that list without giving money?)(OK, I’ve just signed up for something, well I signed my cat up, although I hope they don’t try mailing anything to the street address they required).

Of course it’s hard for the Republicans to attack your position on Iraq when you’re trying so awfully hard not to have one, huh Mr. Daschle?

Merriam-Webster has added a definition for “Bootylicious.” And the new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary includes Blairite, Klingon, Tardis, name and shame, wedgie, chick flick, and bunnie boiler.

It’s time once again to play Deconstruct the California Voter Pamphlet. As ever, if you vote No on everything, you wouldn’t be going that far wrong.

We all know that financing spending by bonds is bad policy, no matter if the cause is good, so that’s a big NO to props. 46, 47 and 50. But let’s go further.

46 is bonds for “housing and emergency shelter”. This lumps together way too many types of housing programs--lumping together is the theme of the November 02 ballot--from university housing to firemen to the handicapped to migrant workers to homeless shelters, but not to the one they’re using to advertise this measure, shelters for battered women, which is simply nowhere in the prop.

47 is bonds for schools, K through U. Note the biased adjectives of the official summary: it funds “necessary” facilities in areas of the “greatest need,” and will provide “adequate higher ed. facilities.” Hey, it’s on the ballot so that the voters can decide what’s necessary and adequate. Note to writers of the statement in favor: I think I saw a sentence that wasn’t capitalized or italicized; try to do better next time. “Students can’t learn and teachers can’t teach in overcrowded and rundown classrooms.” Of course they can. And building new classrooms would keep class sizes small. Funny, I thought you needed more teachers as well. Or are you saying that now there are a bunch of teachers who spend all day just hanging out in the parking lot smoking because there’s no classroom for them? The No people say this was written to favor LA Unified, which would be nice to know the veracity of, if I weren’t voting against it on the bond thing.

48 is only technical and non-controversial, according to the official statement and the Yes argument respectively, so vote no. 4 years ago we evidently voted (who remembers) to let local judges decide whether to consolidate courts, and they all have, presumably because Superior Court judges are paid more. So there are no more municipal courts, and 48 would eliminate references to muni courts in the state Const. Which would make it impossible to revive them, although the No people make a good case that they give rise to conflicts of interest.

49 is The Arnold’s measure for after-school programs, which will evidently solve all crime and improve grades and possibly cure cancer. Up to $5 per day per student and they get their own personal android from the future to protect them and teach them valuable life lessons. For some reason it screws larger schools. Like all propositions this time, the Yes people claim it will cost nothing, just re-jigger existing spending priorities, taking all budget decisions out of the hands of the Legislature, like Prop 98 before it. This is taxation without representation and I say to hell with it.

50 is drinking water and wetlands and bonds therefor, and if you think this comes up every two years, you’re right. Actually what’s going on is something kind of new, at least on this scale. 51 is another, which is for transportation projects. I’ll consider them together. Basically, special interests were allowed to buy into these initiatives, adding their own projects in exchange for contributions. They’d both divert existing funds to these projects (plus the bonds in 50). So 50 has some good Colorado River stuff, but also makes sure that new housing developments get water piped out to them, somehow, and 51 includes, if I recall, a $300,000 (or was it 3 million?) road for a golf course, and these would be funded no matter what the economy was doing or what other priorities there might be.

52 is election-day voter registration, which works in other states (the No people say that doesn’t count because Calif. is big and those states are small, but I fail to see the relevance). It’s a bit iffy on what counts as proof of residence (yes, it does include junk mail, I checked that claim in the wording of the actual initiative), but then you don’t need to show picture ID now, to register or to vote, so what’s the dif?

Candidate statements are always fun. The Libertarian for governor, who I believe has been fired by his party for spitting on a talk show host, cites Gene Roddenberry alongside Milton Friedman and Herbert Spencer as one of his favorite philosophers. Come on, Roddenberry and Spencer would have despised each other. The Green says that other parties represent the past, Greens the future. Just once I’d like to have a party that represents the present. The Libertarian for Lite Governor is the ferret guy (did they really break down his door to seize his ferrets?), while the Green candidate’s son was murdered, which perhaps puts the ferret thing into perspective. The D for secretary of state is against people who have had abortions being denied the right to vote. The Green for Controller pledges to Follow the Money. The Libertarian for attorney general will encourage businesses to put full walls and doors on public restroom stalls. Just encourage, mind you, not require, because he is a Libertarian. The Republican, excuse me, “nonpartisan” for superintendent of public instruction seems awfully focused on what the students and teachers wear. And wants a moment of silence. Excuse me, a Moment of Silence.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Internal threat

A piece in the International Herald Tribune notes that Sharon used to demand 7 days of quiet before he’d negotiate with Palestinians, but when there were 6 weeks of quiet, nothing. (That’s assuming that “quiet” means only attacks on Israelis; Israel killed 75 Palestinians during that period). But he did appoint as head of settlements (and there’s a new settlement today, by the way) a proponent of expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank. Tom Friedman writes today that Sharon wants to both treat Arafat as irrelevant and treat him as responsible for everything that occurs.

And Maureen Dowd comments re Germany that the Bush policy is now that the US can decide not only who can run a country, but what the proper issues are for their election debates.

Those of you read the NY Times online instead of getting ink on your hands missed a hilarious picture of Kyrgyzstan’s dictator Akayev and his amazingly improbable eyebrows. He wants more US aid for supporting the US on terrorism. The US did put an opposition Muslim group on its list of terrorist groups--as I’ve said before, we now seem to be negotiating such listings with other countries.

William Bennett has formed a group called Americans for Victory over Terrorism, which has a list of Americans it considers an “internal threat.” I’ve checked their website, but there’s no application form. I’ve always wanted to be on an enemies list, although personally the only internal threat I know of is attached to my ascending colon.

The government is threatening to vaccinate us all for smallpox. Those of us already vaccinated would have to be revaccinated because no one knows whether it’s still effective. Doesn’t that give you a cozy feeling, that they’re planning to inject this stuff into you and don’t even know how long it lasts? An Amerind leader is demanding that Indians be vaccinated first, since they have less immunity.

It took Clinton forever to get RU-486 licensed, but he did so under such stringent conditions (whose validity I can’t judge, but France seemed to get along quite well without them for many years) make it difficult and a pain in the ass to use, as well as more expensive ($100 a pill, with three being the recommended dose--I thought it was being manufactured by a non-profit) than surgical abortion. That’s great national medical policy isn’t it? Why do policies that produce unnecessary surgical procedures always seem to involve women? OK, I know the answer to that one.

And since I wrote that, the House has voted to allow hospitals and insurance companies to refuse to pay for or perform abortions and still keep their Medicare and other federal funding.

When the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown up, it was storing a TOW missile in a locker a few floors above the famous daycare center. The government sees nothing wrong with that.

The most hilariously tasteless 9-11 commemorative thingy since the last one.

Remember, that satire of mob mentality I sent out on the 15th? It’s been closed down at the request to the web provider of the Metropolitan Police. The author is pissed, but does see the irony.

I haven’t tried this experiment, but someone who ran “why do they hate America” through a search engine got 823,000 hits.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002


Today is the 50th anniversary of the Checkers speech. 

The Bushies are still pissed off at Chancellor Schröder, even though he sacrificed the justice minister who denies having said what the newspaper said she said, which was pretty mild to begin with, really, and the head of the SPD in the Bundestag, who had compared Bush to a Roman Emperor. Ari Fleischer says that Schröder’s letter to Bush “really didn't read like an apology. It read more like an attempt at an explanation.” Yes, if she was misquoted, an explanation would be more appropriate than an apology, unless you’re calling Schröder a liar, Ari. The head of the Christian Dems says that German-American relations have never been as bad as they are now. Um, never? One thing we do know, the Bush administration do love their grudges.

The White House says that Israel’s siege of Arafat’s hq is “unhelpful,” the same word Rumsfeld used about Schröder’s campaign. Because as we all know, the rest of the world exists to be helpful to the United States government. Of course it took 3 days for them to say anything at all about the siege (but then again, Bush hasn’t called Schröder to congratulate him on his election victory either).

I was just reading about a US defense planning document which says that the US should ensure that no rival superpower emerges by taking on the defense of all other industrial nations itself and “maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role”. Also, the US should prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, by military means if necessary. It was written in 1992 by Paul Wolfowitz, working for Dick Cheney (who in the 1st Bush administration refused to believe that Gorbachev’s reforms were real and asked about nuking Iraq). The article (by Frances FitzGerald in the Guardian), says that the current under sec of defense for policy, Douglas Feith, wrote with Richard Perle in 1996 a paper advising Netanyahu to scrap Oslo and re-take the West Bank and Gaza. Asst secretary of defense for international security is J. D. Crouch, who in 1995 advocated military strikes on North Korea’s nuclear plants and missile facilities. It also notes that while Bush is now claiming Iraq threatens the US, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, while out of office, called for Saddam’s overthrow on the ground that he threatened Israel and the region. Indeed, Wolfowitz wanted it done to remove any possibility of Iraq backing Arafat, in order to force Arafat to surrender. 

The Tom Ridge color of the day is in fact still orange.

Belgium legalizes euthanasia (and Bush is fighting same in Oregon in court).

Virgin shark gives birth!

In theory, this link is to video of the infamous and hilarious Bush “fool me once” gaffe.

If not (and I think the Voice fucked that one up), the audio is definitely available here.

The US invaded another country today, the Ivory Coast. Twenty years from now, we’re going to see stories about American soldiers discovered in jungles somewhere not knowing that the war on terror is over, like those Japanese soldiers after World War II, except in our case it will be because we lost track of how many countries we sent troops to. “Hey, didn’t we deploy some Marines to Yemen? Whatever happened to those guys?”

The next country we’ll have to invade is obviously Israel, which is refusing to stop the siege of Arafat, as demanded by the UN Security Council resolution, and we all know how seriously Bush takes Security Council resolutions.

I think Germany is becoming fed up with being told it now has to suck up to the US. Bush intervened fairly obviously in the German elections, which is unforgivable from what’s supposed to be an ally. The US has, finally, become as hostile to honest differences of agreement as Israel. Which leads me to a new website designed to name and shame anti-Israeli academics in the US. Some of the examples are hilariously mild, much milder than, say, *my* average comments on Israel.

The NY Times had a story today about how Indonesians refuse to believe the report, which the CIA says the Indonesian government leaked and vice versa, that a captured al Qaida guy (and I really wish we’d stop going to war with people who don’t put a U after their Q’s) says it is operating there and was part of a massacre of Christians, planned to blow up the US Embassy and kill the president (of Indonesia). The Times reporter seemed torn between claiming it was just denial--that sort of thing could never happen here--and admitting that the CIA has a history of black propaganda in that country. This is also why the claim last week that Cuba was hindering our efforts by passing on false tips about terrorism was ignored by pretty much everyone.

The Tom Ridge Color of the Day has indeed been down-graded to yellow again. Next time we go up to orange, I at least want to see some shit blow up. The Post says “US Given a Yellow Light As Threat Index Is Eased.” So everybody speed up and try to get through before it changes colors again.

Actually, it’s more dangerous than you think, because Bush says that the Senate is "not interested in the security of the American people." Really knows how to win friends and influence people, doesn’t he? I think what they’re saying in semi-private is probably a lot stronger, at least that’s the hint in the Wash Post. By semi-private I mean fund raisers, to which thousands of important, or at least rich, people go but what is said is never reported in the media. We’re more likely to hear what Bush sings in the shower than what he tells crowds of millionaires.

Sign of the Apocalypse of the Week: a shark in Detroit’s Belle Isle Aquarium has a virgin birth, three in fact. Evidently they can do that.

Excerpt from the Guardian:
A new report calculates today that the European Union spends enough money each year on farmers to pay for a round the world trip for all 21m European cows. Aid campaigners estimate that, thanks to the generosity of Europe's taxpayers, the cows could touch down in London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Hanoi, Siem Reap, Brisbane, Raratonga, Los Angeles and San Francisco and still have enough left over for £400 spending money each. Alternatively, the 38bn euros (£24bn) annual cost of the common agricultural policy (CAP) could pay for an upper class ticket to New York on Virgin, and the cows would get a free haircut, manicure and massage plus a choice of 50 different movies thrown in.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

For Fox Sake, Listen

Ya know, they changed the Tom Ridge Color of the Day to orange for 9/11+1, and then forgot to tell us if they changed it back or not.

California prisons ban pornography. It creates a hostile work environment for female guards, and heaven forfend prison guards experience a hostile work environment.

The toffs were out in force today in London, marching for the right to kill foxes. For a hilarious write-up, see this.

Here’s a paragraph:
As the cortège of blood sportsmen and women came into view, the pigeons in Trafalgar Square took off in a dense cloud and didn’t come back, which was pretty sensible of them in the circumstances. But this was not just, or even largely about hunting. “Only Stupid Sheep hide under Bushes, Tony” one placard said, in what appeared to be a reference to Iraq, but may be a piece of old country lore. Rather more alarmingly, another placard declared: “British Beef is Safer than Sex.” Someone must explain to this person, and quickly, that British beef has absolutely nothing to do with sex.
Someone was wearing a t-shirt with the slogan in my subject heading. Other slogans: a sign held by an 8-year old: I want to hunt when I grow up, daddy. “Revolting peasant.” “No taxation without Morris dancing.”

The SPD seems to have sort of won the German elections, which I said a month ago could never happen. Oops. To be fair, it looks like Schröder only gets to keep his job thanks to the popularity of the Greens. The Frei Democrats are reduced to 4th place, which isn’t quite the kicking I’ve been wanting them to get for the last 20 years, but it will have to do. Mostly it was the massive incompetence of Bavarian PM Stoiber that did it. He criticized Schröder for not supporting the US’s Iraq war, but hadn’t realized that required him to have an answer to the question, So does that mean you’ll send German troops. By the end, he was actually more anti-war than Schröder, saying he’d refuse to let bases in Germany be used. This is a guy who started the campaign by kicking a football, right into the face of an old lady, several times called Bush “George Bus,” failed to cut short his vacation during those floods, and when he finally showed up, was wearing loafers. One can but hope his racist anti-immigrant talk, which only showed up late in the campaign when he seemed to be losing (is it better or worse that his racism was only opportunistic, I can never tell?), was also unappealing to voters.

The political news from Slovakia is also good, for once.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Still thinking in pre-9/11 terms

Gray Davis’s ads keep telling us that California rose from the 7th to the 5th largest economy in the world under him. Actually, thanks to the dotcom bust, we’ve dropped behind France. But a Davis spokesman says “We will not surrender.” Fortunately, as ever, France will. “We won’t fight about numbers,” said the Chief Stereotype Upholder at the French Consulate.

What Davis isn’t bragging about is that the California state fish (!), the California golden trout, is becoming endangered. Oddly enough, if it gets listed, the government will tell the California golden trout who they can fuck, because evidently the problem is in part that they are miscegenating with other breeds of trout. And then how do you bring up the children? All very Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Still no word on making the banana slug the official state mollusk, a bill for which was vetoed by Deukmejian, as you will all recall.

Unclear on the concept: the FEC fines the Democratic Party $243,000 for accepting $1,000,000 in illegal campaign contributions in 1996.

Israeli troops are tearing up Arafat’s headquarters around him, and replace the Palestinian flag with an Israeli one. Not terribly subtle, the Israelis.

A cute piece in the Wash Post on how Texas still doesn’t see what the big deal is about executing people, and candidates routinely accuse each other of being soft on executing the retarded.

Maureen Dowd has the perfect analogy for Bush’s streamrollering tactics for his war on Iraq: “Bush is like the guy who reserves a hotel room and then asks you to the prom.” And a quote from Rumsfeld I’d missed: "I suggest that any who insist on perfect evidence are back in the 20th century and still thinking in pre-9/11 terms." Didn’t we already bomb a country because we blamed it for bin Laden? How many countries can we blame for the same thing? Isn’t going after Iraq like the FBI continuing to name different people as the “20th hijacker”?

Can you believe that Union Carbide still isn’t telling Bhopal exactly what chemicals it released 18 years ago?

Friday, September 20, 2002


There was a demo in Vienna today against a plan to require horses drawing carriages to wear diapers. The protesters protested by wearing, you guessed it, diapers.

Slate nicely provides a link to this 1999 Wash Post story about US infiltration of UNSCOM, including sneaking in equipment to intercept Iraqi military communications having nothing to do with the UNSCOM mission.

Shrub’s proposed resolution will do what I said the UN resolution he wants would do, transfer all decision-making power to Bush with a single vote, after which he would not have to bother with them again. It calls for him to be allowed to use “all means,” which we expected, when and if he wants, and in advance of any UN resolution and in advance of finding out how inspections actually go. Even the 1991 resolution required the government to use peaceful means first. What’s impressive is that the Bushies wrote the resolution so it doesn’t even restrict possible military action to Iraq. When they say they want “maximum flexibility,” they mean it. I hear yoga is good for that.

The Bushies are really pissed at German Chancellor Schröder for using opposition to Bush’s wars in his reelection campaign. And especially since that position may put the SPD over the top. But they’re really pissed that the justice minister compared Bush’s actions to Hitler’s, in using foreign conquests to detract from domestic failures. The Bush people think this is unfair, and point out that Hitler’s domestic policies, especially economic, were much more successful than Bush’s.

In the minute and a half I spent studying German, I missed one of their really useful compound words: nichtregierungsfaehig, meaning “unfit to govern.” Let’s all try to subtly work that word into a conversation. Add a .de to the end of that, and it’s an SPD website. Not quite sure what the animation of the donkey crapping is meant to signify.

Shrub also releases a new military doctrine of pre-emption, while trying not to use the word. I believe the title is Kill Them All, Let God Sort Them Out, since its premise is that there need be no proof of a specific threat in order for US action to constitute “self-defence.” It makes a pretense of multi-lateralism, which William Saletan of Slate says is merely unilateralism in disguise, since it involves creating coalitions only of whoever is willing to back us up in doing whatever we damned well want to do. It also says that the US will remain militarily far superior to anyone else forever, and that anyone trying to come close will get their ass kicked (“dissuade future military competition”).(The US now spends as much as the next 8 military powers combined). The Times reminds us that Bush when running for this job promised a “humble foreign policy.” By the way, non-proliferation will be replaced by counterproliferation, whatever the hell that might be.

Colin Powell says that the US will block UN inspectors going to Iraq unless it gets the resolution it wants. In other words, no inspectors without authorizing the US to go to war.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The higher good

Santa Cruz handed out medical marijuana yesterday, so I guess it hasn’t changed that much since I left. More proof: one of the sponsors was the “Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana.” Favorite line in the NY Times article: “While people smoked marijuana on the lawn in front of City Hall, cigarette smokers were asked to move to the sidewalk.” The DEA sent a helicopter to try to drown out the demonstration. A candidate for city council said that “it would be noble of them if they felt the pain a little bit and did something for the higher good.” He should immediately be kicked in the balls, for the higher good. Wait, did he really say *higher* good? He also thinks marijuana is responsible for the rampant heroin use in Beach Flats, my, um, old neighborhood.

Once again, Florida’s elections were so badly screwed up that it’s impossible to tell who really won. Reno had to pull out, not because she lost, but because to do otherwise would have cost so much money and time that whoever was finally declared the victor in the primary would have lost to the Jebster. Well good look to Mc-whatshisname, but that wasn’t a real election. When people aren’t allowed to vote, when polling stations open late or close early, etc etc, you shouldn’t even bother to count whatever votes the computers didn’t eat, because the conditions for a fair election were not there.

Saw my first commercial for a proposition today. Evidently Ahnuld Schwarzeneger is sponsoring one for after-school programs. The ad directs you to the website, where you can read about Prop 49 and, oddly, see a picture of him in bathing trucks showing off his muscles at least 20 years ago.

Saw Rummy Rumsfeld on McNeil-Lehrer today. Haven’t seen someone so smug since Elliot Abrams.

I read a funny story about chemical warfare today. In 1939 the British, unsure of whether the Germans would use mustard gas as in the first war (they didn’t), were testing the possibility of chemically treating knickers to protect members of Highland regiments. See, true Scotsmen are a) insane, b) wear nothing under their kilts (see a), and during WWI had experienced some rather nasty burns in their nether regions. Kilts were banned in 1940, but that didn’t stop officers continuing to wear them, although it made them a target for snipers, at least when they stopped laughing.

Also read about the new right-wing nut president of Colombia. OK I knew that when he was a governor he started vigilante groups and the homicide rate doubled in his state (and plummeted when he left again), but the Sunday Times strongly suggested that his career has benefitted from the drug cartels. He was mayor of Medellin in the early ‘80s when Pablo Escobar was pumping all that money into civic projects there. And he was head of civil aviation at a time when many pilot licenses were being handed out to smugglers. The article was a bit light on proof, but I guess it wouldn’t surprise me.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Taking yes for an answer, with singular bad grace

As expected, the US refused to take yes for an answer from Iraq. The first US statement was that it is not about inspections, it is about disarmament. Well yes, but I detect somebody quietly raising the bar, and then complaining that Hussein is quibbling with UN orders. Colin Powell whined (but in that dignified way) that Iraq had complied but had failed to admit the “error of its ways” for the last 12 years.

By the way, did you know that Condi Rice calls pre-emptive attacks “anticipatory defence”?

One problem for the US is that the UN inspectors are no longer working for it, under changes made since the US was discovered to have infiltrated spies (and bugs) into the inspectorate, as I mentioned a few days ago, but which everyone else in the world has forgotten. This will make it harder for the US to create a crisis by, say, trying to “inspect” Saddam Hussein’s palaces. UNSCOM was in fact abolished in 1999. It was one of those humorous pretend UN agencies whose deputy chief, the guy really in charge, was always, always an American. The new agency is called UNMOVIC and doesn’t even use American satellites. Oddly enough, one of its trained inspectors, an expert in biological warfare, is Steven Hatfill, the anthrax guy.

The US is pushing hard for a new UN resolution, you may have noticed, with a deadline. The idea is a Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, so that the US only has to bribe Security Council members once, and then never again. It could just declare Iraq in violation and launch its war, when it feels like, on any evidence or none. The US would not only be jury, but judge and executioner, since it would decide how to respond to Iraqi violations. Maximum flexibility would reside with Shrub. This is the equivalent of what he wants Congress to give him: not a declaration of war, but a free hand to decide when and what to do.

And today Bush says "It's time to determine whether or not they [the UN] will be a force for good and peace or an ineffective debating society." He sure does know how to sweet-talk people he wants favors from, doesn’t he?

There will be a movie of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The director will be the guy who did the Austin Powers movies, which seems like a not very good fit to me.

From the Daily Telegraph, with no sense of irony:
“An 86-year-old war veteran died after a teenager robbed him of his takeaway meat pie, mushy peas and gravy in an act of "senseless street violence", a court heard yesterday.”

The greatest nation on the face of the Earth

Well, Iraq agrees to let weapons inspectors in, calling Bush’s bluff. I wonder if Saudi Arabia’s caving in to the US is what did it? The UN says it will take a few months before inspectors are ready, and months more to make any determination, which certainly screws with Bush’s Wag the Dog scenario for the November elections. Expect a smug little victory dance from the Bushies.

Speaking of democratic processes (and before I forget, thanks to the Swedes for not too many of them having voted for racists; we’ll see what happens in Germany) (Britain already has them, in the form of blind home secretary David Blunkett, who says that immigrants should speak English at home. Well goodness gracious me.), those in the Indian sub-continent are proceeding apace. Pakistan is forcing officials and soldiers to work for certain candidates, and Indian soldiers are combating a boycott of the polls in Kashmir by kidnapping people and dragging them to the polls, or threatening to cut off any fingers that don’t have indelible ink on them (and guess what the Kashmiri militants are threatening?). Finally, a word about the idiots responsible for WordPerfect’s spellcheck, which was fine with Kashmiri but never heard of Kashmir, and wants me to misspell kidnapping. Well, I had a word for those idiots, but the spellcheck never heard of that one either.

This weekend will see a huge protest in London. Not against the war, but against plans to ban hunting. Toffs from all over (the spellcheck doesn’t grok “toffs” either) will converge on the capital, Eton and Harrow will let their charges join in...

Bush’s economic adviser said that war with Iraq will be good for business. Oh, sure, it’ll cost $200 billion or so, but it should bring oil prices down, if we win quickly and exploit Iraq’s resources for all they’re worth and if oil companies don’t decide to make large profits instead of passing the savings on, so it’ll all work out, at least for big corporations, and wasn’t corporate greed what this war was supposed to distract us from? Environmentalists suggest that instead we just produce a car that runs on ground-up Iraqis, and cut out the middle man. Anyway, it’s nice to hear this sort of “jobs jobs jobs” justification for the war, à la James Baker, on a day when William Safire is sneering at France and Russia’s opposition to the war, supposedly because it would interfere with their business arrangements with Iraq.

As I keep saying, the war with Iraq never actually stopped in 1991. The US’s enforcement of its no-fly zone (which it is worth repeating was declared by the US and not the UN) has been altered in order to do more damage to Iraqi infrastructure, using bigger weaponry and attacking fixed facilities.

Just when I’m complaining that Americans have no sense of history, the Republican Party takes out ads against Tom Harkin for a vote to tax Social Security in 1983 (of course the ads don’t say it was in 1983).

Speaking of history, today is the 20th anniversary of the Sabra & Shatila massacres.

Speaking of 20, yet another “20th hijacker” has been arrested. This is beginning to seem less like a manhunt than an audition. Bush “he forgot the greatest nation on the face of the Earth is after them”. Pakistan?

Sunday, September 15, 2002

The NY Times says that any commercial radio station can simply push public radio stations with weaker signals right off the air, and that right-wing religious broadcasters are doing this deliberately.

I’ve lost track of how many countries have given in to US pressure regarding the International Criminal Court, but one which has is the newest, East Timor. Which is especially egregious because the original Indonesian invasion was green-lighted by the US, specifically by Henry Kissinger, that one-man war crime wave.

Hong Kong, following Beijing’s commands, is planning a law against sedition and subversion.

Post on how the R’s are using “faith-based initiatives” as election-year bribery.

One of my sources of odd websites doesn’t seem to realize that this one is a satire, of parental hysteria over paedophiles. I especially like this one, under Upcoming Events:
Portsmouth Mob
Event: 3rd Annual Name-and-shame-athon
Date: 22nd October 2002
Type: Ousting
A spate of random acts of violence against local paediatricians and that man who hangs around in the park, you know, the one with the coat. Free placards for under-10s when accompanied by a furious adult.
According to Dave Barry, in a column on the diversion of money from those tobacco lawsuits, not only is most of it not being spent on anti-smoking programs, which I knew, but, which I didn’t, North Carolina spent $41 million of its share on buying machinery to make tobacco growers more efficient.

You might also read Barry’s column on the Florida election debacle 2002, not his regular weekly column.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Thursday, September 12, 2002

If aluminum tubes are outlawed, only outlaws will have aluminum tubes

At the UN, Bush said that if Iraq’s government doesn’t obey the UN, then Iraq’s government is illegitimate, and if the UN doesn’t do what Bush tells it to do, then the UN is illegitimate. His proof of Iraq’s nuclear, excuse me, nookyuler, program is that Iraq has tried to buy aluminum tubes, but was fortunately stopped. Somehow I don’t feel particularly threatened--Oh my God, he has an aluminum tube!

Meanwhile, the British Parliament will soon be recalled in order to have a debate on the Iraq war. Not a vote, mind you, that would be too much like democracy (making war is a prerogative of the crown, so there is sometimes a vote, and sometimes not--there was none before the Falklands war). The government will release its long-delayed dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction 3½ hours before the debate starts.

At a British hospital, a woman had a prosthetic right knee joint installed. In her left leg, unfortunately.

Following up a glancing reference in the London Times to the speech after Bush’s at the UN, that of Generalissimo Musharaf, I went to the Times of India’s website. 1st insight: in headlines, they call him Mush. Mush had some not very nice things to say about India. And in keeping with the theme of the day of using the UN to make threats, Russia threatened war against Georgia. And Robert Mugabe attacked Tony Blair.

By the way, is it not bad taste for the US to bitch about Iraq violating commands from the UN Security Council, when the Security Council is set up so that it will never make any demands on the US?

And as Bush prepared to give the speech, he sent the real message to the UN by moving war hq from Florida to Qatar. He told the UN not to make itself “irrelevant,” a word I’ve gotten pretty sick of this year as Ariel Sharon keeps using it for Arafat.

Nelson Mandela accuses the US of racism in its selective condemnation of certain countries having certain weapons. It’s evidently ok for a white country like Israel. He also says that the US lack of respect for the UN is perceived as coming from the series of black secretary-generals.

When Afghani interim puppet in chief Karzai was almost assassinated last week, he was saved by his American Special Forces bodyguards. Back in the US, Pentagon officials saw the footage and saw a really major problem--the soldiers looked pretty scruffy. They had been encouraged to blend in, so they all had beards and bandanas. They have since been ordered to shave (they all have sunburn now) and wear nice pressed uniforms--which will make them targets.

A poem from a Washington Post reporter, consisting of lines from Shrub:


I think that we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses.
Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?
They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where
Our wings take dream.
Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Happy Patriot Day!

I’ve read that telemarketers are taking Sept. 11 off. So the terrorists have won after all.

Mark Hertsgaard comments on something missing in the media’s 9/11 coverage, that it was the anniversary of the US-sponsored coup in Chile in 1973, where the official death toll was 3,197.

A candidate for sheriff of La Plata County, Colorado has dropped out of the race after he shot a gang member. He, the candidate, was dressed at the time in women’s clothing, which he said was because he was part of an undercover assignment, and was leaving an adult bookstore. He refuses to say what agency was employing him at the time of the incident. In fact, no one can figure out if he has ever had a law enforcement job.

A Jewish family in Israel, who came from the US four years ago, took the Israeli bribes for doing so etc., have all converted to Islam (the father was converted over the internet). This has never happened before and the immigration ministry doesn’t really have a procedure for it. Their passports still say Jew (do Israeli passports really specify religion? Wasn’t the last country to do that Nazi Germany in 1938?).

While driving today, at a couple of overpasses I saw people waving large flags. One of them was chatting on his cell phone at the same time.

So happy Patriot Day, everybody. I think after using that word for the “USA PATRIOT Act,” with its detentions without trials, unlimited phone and e-mail taps, etc etc, maybe it was inappropriate to use it as well for the commemoration. Personally at 5:46 a.m. I sang a verse of “Happy birthday, international terrorist incident,” but that’s me. The Food Network (I first typed Foot Network, which must be one of the few channels my cable doesn’t carry) was off the air, which I suppose is a better statement than if they’d stayed on and just run pork recipes all day. Turner Classic Movies was running “Manhattan Melodrama.”

Speaking of movies, I just want to note the death of actor Katrin Cartlidge, who would have been one of the greats.

A letter to the Daily Telegraph says that Britain is obligated to join the US in its war on Iraq, given our support in both world wars. So if the US starts the war in 2003, Britain should enter in, say, 2006.

You’ll remember my theory that the reason the ATF wasn’t included in the Ministerium der Homeland Security was to make sure that no information on gun owners was ever used for law enforcement purposes. Well now the Bushies want to move it from Treasury to the clammy hands of John Ashcroft at Justice, where no doubt it will be renamed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Dancing.

A Washington Post editorial notes that on 12/7/42, the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor, things were a lot clearer than they were today, with the US at war with Japan, Germany and Italy. Actually, I’d have said that was a lot like our case. FDR used the incident to expand a war from one enemy to many. Germany had no more to do with Pearl Harbor than Iraq with the World Trade Center (yes yes, I know Germany declared war on us, but the point still holds good).

I thought that fuss in UC Berkeley over whether ribbons should be white or red, white & blue was silly until today, when Bush in his speech said that the victims of 9/11 were killed because they were Americans, which of course many of them were not. He also said that we fight for the dignity of life, just in case you were collecting oxymorons. He also said something about liberating a nation and it took me a minute to realize he meant Afghanistan.

Bush, whether he knows it or not, is now responsible for everything everywhere in the world. He wanted a world-wide war on terrorism, he got it, but the responsibility goes along with it. This month, Pakistanis are blaming him for "letting" Musharaf rewrite the constitution to give himself and the
military absolute power over any “civilian” government. And they are right to assign the blame to Bush, who is now officially helping prop Musharaf up, although two years ago he couldn't come up with his name when asked. The rule of the war lords/criminals
in Afghanistan, that’s his as well. He now runs the world and, gosh, good luck with that. This is why the establishment of a viable Middle East peace is mandatory.

Many of you know my theory that when the US’s attention is elsewhere, as it is today, Israel commits an atrocity. Well, I don’t know that it did, but it did threaten Lebanon with war if it goes ahead with a water project.

Incidentally, I was wrong earlier about the telemarketers. I have in fact been given the opportunity today to switch phone companies.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Here’s a sweet story: a man in Iran cut off his 7-year old daughter’s head because he thought she had been raped. She hadn’t. The man said “The motive behind the killing was to defend my honour, fame, and dignity.” Well at least he still has those.

On the Sunday talk shows, Condi Rice says that the US has the right of self-defence under the UN Charter and that the burden of proof is on...Iraq. Logic is not big in the Bush administration. I’m assuming that the concept of Iraq also having a right of self-defence never entered into anyone’s minds. She also said "The United Nations and Security Council have teeth, and in 1991, they bared those teeth to try to deal with this real threat." Did they also jump up and down and throw their own poo? Dick Cheney says "We don't have all the evidence. We have 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent. We don't know how much. We know we have a part of the picture.” No wonder the burden of proof is on Iraq: the American case for pre-emptive war is predicated entirely on the ignorance and incompetence of the CIA.

Israel has banned 12 members of the Palestinian parliament representing Gaza from attending the Parliament. Security, you know.

Mouse pads showing Jesus weeping for the Twin Towers.

How does UC Berkeley plan to spend September 11? Debating the appropriate color of ribbons to wear and whether the display of American flags is appropriate.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

You don't introduce new products in August

I mentioned the Florida trial of the two boys. They were convicted, the other guy was not, but the jury in the second case (the boys) says it was tricked, that it thought the other guy must have been convicted, and believed everyone was guilty but that the family friend did the actual murder. The jury convicted them, and exposed them to up to 22 years, because it thought they--opened the door. So what happened was that since the DA didn’t have any consistent theory of who actually committed the crime (and without one it was unethical to try anyone), the jury made up one of its own, largely based on guess-work. So what else happened, maybe, was that the defendant who got off was better able to game the system than a 13-year old, who was in no position to participate adequately in his own defense in a grown-up courtroom. They jury also didn’t believe the boys’ confessions.

Belgians have a technique they claim can determine the sex of children through IVF, that they can sort sperm by X & Y chromosome. It’s pretty much unproven, but they’re implementing it. But only to give couples who already have children a child of the opposite gender. I might not have mentioned this, but for the opportunity to note that the head of Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, who sound-bites for the Observer, is named Suzi Leather.

Evidently, if Quebec had declared independence in 1995, Canada was prepared to invade, at least to secure weapons stockpiles (for some reason, most of the Canadian army’s ammo dumps are in Quebec, isn’t that comforting).

A headline in the Wash Post says that Bush and Blair “decry” Saddam Hussein. In one of my linguistic moments, I stopped to look up decry and found that its origins was to “decrease the value of coins by royal proclamation”--or in this case, to increase the price of oil.

Explaining why the White House hasn’t made much of a case for the forthcoming Iraq war, chief of staff Andy Card says, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

I almost wish the Bushies would make their case for Iraq entirely on the basis of American national interest, because it is when they speak for everyone else that they are at their most annoying. Saddam is breaking UN resolutions? Maybe, but that’s for the UN to say. Threatening his neighbors? There isn’t one country in the region, including Kuwait, which feels any threat. Kurds? The US has “stiffed” the Kurds by “crawfishing” in its policy more times than most Kurds have had hot meals, and they’re better off now, autonomous, than they would be forcibly re-integrated into a new “democratic” Iraq.

The Pentagon has cleared itself for the air strike on the wedding in Afghanistan.

The latest in incredibly intrusive surveillance of high school students.

Friday, September 06, 2002

Don't look now: Saddam is drowning kittens

Germany refuses to let a Turkish couple name their child Osama bin Laden.

Israel’s little show-trial of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti continues, and it’s darned entertaining. Today guards tackled his 13-year old son, and the judge made these impartial comments: someone fighting for peace "doesn't turn people into bombs and kill children".

The Siemens company has decided, after all, not to register Zyklon as a trademark for a range of products, including gas ovens.

Ari Fleischer says of Iraq, “No other nation has been as militaristic.”

Former-Soviet former-republic Georgia has given in to Russian pressure to allow its troops into the country to hunt for Chechens.

Bush has said that Congress will be allowed to debate Iraq, and that it will not influence him in the slightest because his mind is made up. The Magic 8 Ball has spoken!

Indeed, US intelligence has conveniently discovered new evidence that Iraq is putting up buildings in places we don't like, because when we bomb them back into the Stone Age, by God they'd better stay back in the Stone Age.

I’ve had to remove several British football references from the following:

Don’t look now: Saddam is drowning kittens

The warmongers failed to win public opinion, so they’re suddenly cobbling together ‘evidence’
By Mark Steel
The Independent

So, they’ve got the evidence, about the weapons of mass destruction, but we can’t see it just yet. Is it still at the printers? Is it being held up by a row about how you spell "aflatoxin"? Perhaps there’s a problem with the plot, and the scriptwriters are refusing to let it go because the character of Tariq Aziz is left in the air and the relationship between Saddam and the scud missiles left hopelessly unresolved.

If they know the evidence, why can’t they tell us the main points until we have the dossier? Or at least make a trailer: "This is a story of a man for whom mass destruction was simply a hobby - ‘Soon all my chemical weapons will be in place’ -- and two men determined to stop him - ‘My God, there’s enough uranium in there to murder every living thing in every country affiliated to Nato. And look at this delivery notice, it says he’s getting his last crucial warhead in exactly three months’ - Together they have 90 days to stop the axis of evil."

Or when it comes they might announce: "We don’t have any photos of his weapons of mass destruction just yet - but we have got drawings. In felt pen."

And what a coincidence, that this evidence should promise to pop up now, just as it becomes clear public opinion is against a war. It all looks as desperate as a couple coming back from holiday and incompetently trying to carry out an insurance fiddle. Blair and Bush are almost kicking each other under the table as they mutter: "They’ve definitely got plutonium. Uranium. No, plutonium. Hang on a minute - I thought we agreed uranium."

In a couple of weeks Blair will hold another press conference and announce he’s left the evidence on the Tube. But he has finished it, honest. Then that night he’ll ring Bush and say: "Can I copy yours?"

So for the time being we’re left with statements such as the one by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who said the war must go ahead because "Saddam has not lived up to his promise to allow inspectors into the country". He was then asked if the war would still go ahead if Saddam did allow them into the country, and Fleischer answered: "The policy of the US is regime change, with or without inspectors." So if Saddam does admit inspectors, they’ll be doing the most pointless inspecting in the world. You couldn’t blame them if they sat in the shade for a fortnight and sent back a note saying: "He’s got a machine that can turn us all into tadpoles.".

Which would be at the level of one paper’s cut-out guide to "Iraq’s evil arsenal", pride of place going to "Scud missiles". It admits the accuracy of these things is less than a mile, so can we really go to war with someone for possessing a large firework? They might as well include "The Dead Leg. Evil thigh-tingling weapon that could numb several people in one day". The Scud, we are told, has a "range of 200 miles, making Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait possible targets". So either the demand is that Saddam gets rid of his Scuds, or that he moves Iraq to somewhere more than 200 miles from the nearest country.

But the tabloid also mentions nuclear weapons. For, "if Saddam acquires enriched uranium, he could be just months from building a warhead". If the Women’s Institute acquired enriched uranium, they could be just months from building a warhead. There is, however, a fair amount of evidence that Saddam doesn’t have the military power that Blair and Bush claim. Scott Ritter, who led the UN inspections team, has stated repeatedly that any nuclear potential was destroyed. And the last bunch of inspectors eventually left because they admitted they were acting as spies.

The other argument for war, that Saddam’s evil is proved by his war against Iran and his treatment of Kurds, is poetic in its hypocrisy. It’s true he did both those things but we were backing him at the time. The Americans shot down a civilian Iranian plane, vetoed a United Nations resolution condemning the attacks on the Kurds and dismissed anyone who pointed out this barbarism.

So it could be that because the warmongers are failing to win public opinion, they’re suddenly cobbling together "evidence". And there will be piles of it. Just like the stories of Germans raping nuns in 1914 and Iraqis throwing babies out of incubators in 1990, admitted as lies once those wars were over. There will be grainy film of Saddam chucking kittens in canals and crackly tape of him threatening to ruin David Beckham’s hair.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

And what rough beast, its hour come at last, crawfishes towards Bethlehem to be born

Bush sent the London Times reporter scurrying for his slang dictionary to figure out what the hell it means that Saddam Hussein has “crawfished” out of UN agreements. The foreign pages’ editor comments, “Presumably UN support, if it is given, will register more formal offences than these.”

In Florida, a DA is concluding his second murder trial for the same murder. This happened in Torrance a couple of years ago and got almost no publicity, but this one has gotten a bit more. This time, the jury verdict from the first trial has been sealed, so that the possibility that a conviction has already been reached won’t hurt the prosecution’s ability to put an entirely different theory to another jury. The two boys in the first trial were 12 and 13 at the time they’re supposed to have killed their father, but of course are being tried as tiny adults.

Israeli hackers have been conducting a little cyber-warfare against peace and pro-Palestinian activists in the US, sending out fake e-mails under their name with subjects like Down with the United States.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

The president is not a prop for some reality show

Evidently CNN offered to make those Al Qaida training films available to the government before airing--on condition that they’d get to film Bush’s reaction to the tape of the dog being gassed. Hey, Clinton would have done it. An unnamed Bushie said, “The president is not a prop for some reality show.” Guess that guy didn’t get the memo.

Israel’s Supreme Court allows the expulsion of relatives of militants to Gaza. Palestine says it will refuse to allow them to enter Gaza.

Monday, September 02, 2002

Water is essential for human life

WaPo on how US AID money in Egypt is going to support, not pro-democracy groups, but the courts that put members of those groups in jail, and government-run “trade unions,” and to computerize the toy-telephone Parliament and local governments.

The Earth Summit has produced some stunningly vague agreements, but it has also managed to make some stunningly obvious pronouncements. In the words of a London Times headline, “Water Is Essential for Human Life--It’s Official.”

More on the oil pipeline through Turkey. Fascinating on detailing the relative power of oil companies and nation states.

A former prisoner in Britain, to publicize his demand for compensation for injury from a razor hidden in a mattress, broke back into the prison and went up on its roof for four hours.

There are in fact 210 people named Romeo in Britain.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Most politicians turn out to be eunuchs

G’day, Bruce: A town in Australia is up for sale: Bruce. Bruce is 200 miles from Adelaide, population 4 people, 3 dogs.

The famous are not like you and I: Posh Spice and David Beckham have named their second child Romeo; their first was named Brooklyn (I don’t know if that’s a boy’s name or a girl’s name, but it is a future psychiatric patient’s name).

Germany is getting ever less cooperative over the war on Iraq. There is a big push by the US to remind Germany that it is also a hate target. Wait, are you telling me that there are people who don’t like Germany? Whatever for?

Iraq, according to the Times, is going on a “charm offensive” across Europe. It is not often you see “Iraq” and “charm” in the same sentence.

The latest in stupid corporate team-building exercises, like paint-balling and fire-walking, include: making stuff out of Legos, and herding sheep with dogs.

On September 11th, there will no doubt be a minute’s silence. Gee, it was such a big event, I think there should be at least a year’s silence. Anyone with me on this?

The Kentucky prison system has suspended religious services by Satanists, who claim that the Kentucky prison system, and indeed Kentucky itself, is absolute proof of the existence of Satan. Wiccan services continue.

Follow-up: the monkey god has died. Gets big funeral.

Libya has some Al Qaida prisoners. Qadafy has announced he will treat them like dogs, and not give them lawyers or the right to defend themselves. Just like the US, he says.

From the Times:
THE first eunuch to be elected mayor of an Indian city has had to resign after a court ruled that a eunuch was not eligible for a post reserved for women under an affirmative action scheme.

Kamla Jaan, 52, a flamboyant and illiterate character, who has dressed all her life as a woman and refers to herself as feminine (Indians traditionally refer to eunuchs as “she”), shocked the political establishment when she was elected Mayor of Katni three years ago in a landslide victory. ...

She proved an extraordinary and instant success, using her uniquely direct style to forge ahead with long-delayed civic projects, such as sinking new wells, fixing long-disused drains and renovating the local bus station. [That sentence is double entendre heaven] ...

The law in Madhya Pradesh state defines some eunuchs as men and some as women, and the judge backed the claim of petitioners that Ms Jaan was male. [If there were ever a sentence that needed elucidation...] ....

With no families, they are perceived to be less nepotistic and their role as social outcasts has made them less inhibited about speaking their minds.

As one of Ms Jaan’s constituents put it: “Most politicians turn out to be eunuchs, so we thought it was time to elect a real one.” [I suppose it’s easier than electing someone and then castrating them, but not as much fun.]

Last year eunuchs marked their entry into national politics with the launch of a national political party, led by Shabnam Mausi, who is known as Aunt Shabnam.