Wednesday, October 30, 2002

I do not pretend to be an accountant

William Webster, defending his qualifications to head the accountancy oversight commission, admits that “I do not pretend to be an accountant.” What, not even to impress chicks?

I just saw a political ad on the Daily Show that you have to see, but which I can’t find on-line. It shows Alex Sanders, a candidate to replace Strom Thurmond as senator for SC, and his wife, shooting guns off. Even without the sniper, this would be a scary ad. And the scariest thing, as the Daily Show pointed out, is that this guy is the Democrat. But the ad isn’t on his website. Evidently the Senate race in SC is largely about whether or not to ban burning the flag. Also, there is evidently an Alex Sanders who is a Harlem Globetrotter. Somehow I doubt either one wants to be mistaken for the other, any more than I would wish to be mistaken for my namesake who went into, shudder, politics.

I’ve said it before: the British will bet on anything. Evidently Keith Tyson is favored 11 to 8 to win the Turner Prize, the arts award everyone makes fun of (unmade beds, lights that go on and off, etc). Up this year: a detailed description of a pornographic film Asswoman in Wonderland (or Arsewoman in Wonderland as the Guardian Anglo-centrically put it--it’s an American film); a film produced by a camera on a toy plane, which had two critics barfing on their shoes, and a giant finger pointing at the center of the galaxy.

In the how-stupid-do-they-think-we-are department, I got a slate mailer yesterday, purporting to be “an election guide for independent voters.” Of the 14 persons or propositions it endorsed, 11 paid them money. So there’s independence, and then there’s independence.

Did you see those inmates who doddered out of the geriatric wing of the Guantanamo Detention Camp for Really Dangerous Arch-Villains? One claimed to be 105, and looked not far short of it.

Franco was yet another one who kidnapped the children of his political enemies.

Speaking of kidnapping children, Saddam Hussein took a 4th wife earlier this year, a 27 year old. Well if it’s good enough for Tony Randall...

Today’s political junk mail includes dueling attack mailers in the DA race. Evidently Mike Menesini really fucked up a murder prosecution 4 years ago. And Bob Kochly failed to prosecute a cop who shoved his gun up his wife’s butt. Which is not a practice you often read about in campaign literature, even in the Bay Area.

The one good thing you can say about American reaction to 9/11 was that there were surprisingly few hate crimes against Muslims. The same cannot be said about Australians after the Bali bombing, and it’s still going on, little noticed by the outside world.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

How I learned to stop worrying and love regime change

I have changed my mind on the subject of the phrase “regime change.” I now embrace it as the most honest expression to come out of the Bush White House. There isn’t a trace of idealism in it, no pretense that Iraq will be turned into a democracy or that we even care what form its government will take, as long as it’s headed by someone else, and is subservient to our interests. I’d rather see pure power politics and a US military proconsul than continue to hear words like democracy and liberty be polluted by their passage through the larynx of George W. Monkeyboy.

On the choice of Mondale, the NY Times quotes a Minnesota political science professor who says that Mondale is a guy who used to be famous, that anybody under 30 is probably thinking “Oh yeah. That guy. I remember hearing about him from my parents.” Yes, folks, that’s exactly how exciting a place Minnesota is, they sit around on cold winter nights and tell stories about Walter Mondale.

For Paul Wellstone’s great old election commercials, click here, where you can also get his other ads. Try the radio ad “Names” as well as the Roger & Me-type ad this link is to.

On American biological warfare programs.

You can tell how busy the CIA must be now by the fact that it allowed a leftist to be elected president of Brazil, where the nuts come from (sorry, that’s a tic). Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill generously welcomed the election, saying that foreign investors should continue monitoring Lula until he can “assure them he is not a crazy person.” O’Neill himself is known to be as crazy as a soup sandwich.

Speaking of which, AP reports that the army is trying to perfect a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that can be kept unrefrigerated for 3 years.

On Russian censorship and intimidation of the media during the hostage crisis.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

German insurance companies have decided to keep 1/4 of the fund for the Holocaust victims they previously stiffed, as “administration costs”. That idea was rubber-stamped by Lawrence Eagleburger--remember him? how could you forget when McNeil-Lehrer keeps dredging him out of his swamp to pontificate stupidly--who is chairman of the international commission, salary $340,000, part of those administration costs.

The Observer on a phenomenon I’ve been noticing more stories on, Israeli settlers terrorizing Palestinians, poisoning their water supplies, stealing their crops, killing them and generally trying to force them out. Possibly it’s just the stories that are new, since in the case they talk about, this has been going on for 5 years.

Bush, in a very Bush-like move, appoints William Webster, the 78-year old former head of the FBI & CIA, to be chairman of the new accounting oversight board. This makes it look like Bush is taking corporate fraud seriously by putting in charge a heavyweight--but one who will need to take a lot of naps.

Speaking of wrinklies, the Desperate Dems have been reaching for retired pols to fill the sudden gaps in important Congressional races--Mondale, Lauchtenburg--who will probably not be able to serve out their terms. Even if the Dems keep control of the Senate, they could lose it to demographics.

A large part of Kuwait was just declared a colony of the United States. Or a free-fire zone, depending on how you want to interpret it. In this area, US soldiers will build up for their war, out of the public eye, and all Kuwaiti citizens have been ordered to leave.

The Department of Agriculture has decided to allow irradiated meats in school, as part of a program of energy self-sufficiency, in which we save electricity by letting children be their own night-lights.

According to North Korea, it was actually Bush who abrogated the 1994 nuclear treaty, by saying that it was part of an axis of evil, which was, according to the North Koreans, a declaration of war and a statement of intent to hit them with a nuclear attack. Before resuming the treaty, they want a non-aggression pact in which the US promises not to launch a nuclear first strike against them. OK by me. There’s also something mentioned glancingly in the NY Times, that they also think the US ambassador has been interfering in the thaw of relations between the Koreas. It would be nice to know what was meant by that.

Some weeks back I asked why the US was insisting that a UN resolution on Iraq had to say that it had violated previous agreements. The answer: as a hidden tripwire that would allow the US to then say that Iraq had violated the 1991 cease-fire, justifying resuming the first Gulf War.

So if the US resolution is rejected and it goes to war anyway, going against the decision of the Security Council, shouldn’t its seat be taken away? Shouldn’t the minimum requirement for having standing to ask a body’s permission to do something be agreement to abide by its decision? Even the People’s Court tv show insists on that. “Heads I win, tails you lose” is not supposed to be one of the principles of international law.

Can’t wait to find out what “sleeping gas” the Russians used. They’re not letting the families near the hostages who are still in hospital, which I’m assuming is a sign of something nefarious. And the doctors aren’t being told what it is they’re treating, either. No one’s mentioned whether they’re releasing bodies, which if they’re not would be another sign. It now looks like very few of the 117 or so dead were shot, maybe 2 of them, the rest were all poisoned. That said, it’s hard to see what the alternative was, although Putin is still a shit, and is conducting a war of extermination against the Chechens, who haven’t been left much alternative either. The initial claim by the government that they acted because hostages were being shot is not actually true.

The German military attaché in Israel is holding a ceremony to honor SS and other World War II (and WW I) soldiers. So he invited some Israeli army officers along. This is not going over very well.

That law Berlusconi passed to allow him to challenge judges, take it to appeal and run out the clock? It seems members of his party in parliament voted illegally, pressing their absent neighbor’s button, or taping down their own button so the machine would vote in their absence.

Friday, October 25, 2002

I swear by God we are more keen on dying than you are keen on living

More news of remakes/sequels that should never be made: a remake of The Stepford Wives, starring Scientologist Nicole Kidman. There’s a creepy joke in there somewhere.

Another similarity between North Korea and Iraq: Iraq has ordered its diplomats to send their children back home as hostages to their loyalty, while N Korea only allowed the kidnapped Japanese--as if N Korea had a right to “allow” anything in relation to its victims--to visit Japan if their children stayed behind. (Later: Japan has decided to hold on to the 5). Incidentally, remember that kid in the photo with Saddam from before the 1st Gulf War, one of the foreign hostages? There was an interview with him in the London Sunday Times. He says that he was scared shitless, and is about to become a fireman.

We got trouble: Uzbekistan bans pool halls.

A completely over-the-top attack radio ad against Paul Wellstone (60 seconds).
[I wrote that before Wellstone died, but the ad is still worth a listen]

Wasn’t it Bush who said when he stole office that he wanted his staff to spend time with their families? Now he wants them to spend their vacation days stumping for R candidates.

The latest reality show, in planning, is The Will, in which a billionaire’s relatives vote each other out of his or her will.

Bahrain has the first elections in a Gulf state in which women are allowed to vote. Other than that, it’s not a great advertisement for democracy in the Arab world, with Shiites boycotting and Islamic fundies still managing to win a probable majority (there will be a second round).

So the sniper(s) have been caught. This is the guy who left a note saying “I am God.” Oh good, God is black, Muslim, pissed-off, and armed.

About Paul Wellstone’s death I have only this to say: fuck.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Water intifada--would that be a super soaker?

A piece in the NY Times on how the US is training for urban warfare in Baghdad buries its lead rather deep: the model they’re using is the recent Israeli incursions into Jenin, as in “Massacre of”.

Some death penalty facts, in the week that the Supreme Court refused to deal with the execution of minors: About 70 countries have abolished it for all crimes, with a further 23 countries having a “de facto” abolition, with no executions in the past ten years. Since 1990, 34 countries have abolished the death penalty, including Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Turkmenistan.

And this week, the last territory under British rule, the Turks and Caicos islands, abolished it. The last execution in British territories was in 1977 in Bermuda, two men for the assassination of its governor.

Godfather IV. Please god no.

The US will release some of the Guantanamo prisoners. The harmless ones. Did you know we had an octogenarian in custody?

Israel has banned Palestinians drilling for water, accusing them of conducting a “water intifada.” Also, no picking of olives (this is the season for that), because they figured it was easier than to protect Palestinian pickers from attack by settlers.

Another downtrodden minority is organizing: the insane. I just for the first time saw this marvelous expression--“mad pride”--but I googled it and evidently it’s widespread.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Free regime world change

Currently on auction at Christie’s: the employment log of a Turkish bath attendant on the Titanic. They decided that her wages terminated the second the ship went down. After all, she wasn’t working any more, now was she?

Last month a Canadian (with Syrian citizenship) was seized by the INS at Kennedy Airport, where he was actually just changing planes on his way back to Canada. He was then deported to Syria. That’s a man with a Canadian passport, who lives in Canada. And the US won’t share any of its alleged evidence with Canada. That was 3 weeks ago, and they can’t find him in Syria, where he is liable for arrest for missing his military service (he has lived in Canada since he was a teenager).

Dubya’s relationship with the English language is getting odder, if that’s possible. In the last couple of weeks he keeps talking about the “free world” taking on Iraq. I’d love to see a list of countries that constitute this free world. He also says that “regime change” could mean Iraq complying with Security Council diktats. So when he says “the policy of the United States is regime change”, it means what, exactly?

Today’s another day when the newspapers might as well be reporting from different planets. The NY Times has Bush saying that he was trying diplomacy over Iraq (another misuse of a word: issuing orders to be complied with without question, with the threat of military force behind those orders, is not diplomacy), while the London Times, which comes today from that alternative universe where Spock has a goatee, says that the US is promoting “zero tolerance” (a phrase to be found nowhere in today’s NY Times), meaning the slightest deviation by Iraq--a single weapons facility left off a list (and remember the US likes to define anything chemical, including drug factories and water purification plants, as potential dual-use facilities for chemical warfare), a delay of two hours in letting inspectors into some facility-- would lead to war.

There’s a good piece in today’s Wash Post on how Bush supports his policy with lies.

Speaking of lies, FAIR examines 10 media outlets (LA Times, AP, ABC, etc etc), comparing their 1998 reports of the UN pulling inspectors out of Iraq with current reports falsely claiming that Hussein kicked them out.

Saturday, October 19, 2002


The Vatican has vetoed the American bishops’ zero tolerance policy for child sexual abuse. One complaint was that the policy “did not give a more detailed description of abuse”. Oh just go out and buy your own porn.

Most condescending sentence from a court this week: a panel of the 6th Circuit, upholding drug testing of welfare recipients in Michigan, said "We think it is beyond cavil that the state has a special need to insure that public moneys expended [on welfare] are used by the recipients for their intended purposes."

If you missed it on the business pages, the Bush admin tried to torpedo the brand-new legislation on corporate fraud, proposing to underfund it by 27% less than the law authorized.

In the stories about North Korea, no one is really exploring whether the US kept its end of the 1994 agreement, but there are certainly hints that at the very least it was well behind schedule. We need to know more.

Dick Armey, trying to get in his last few stupid comments before leaving Congress, has found a new political role model: “Al Qaeda doesn’t have a Senate. Al Qaeda doesn’t have a Sen. Daschle who has another focus. Al Qaeda has a clear focus. Terrorizing America is the first and only focus.” Also cheese. They like cheese.

Maybe states just shouldn’t have poet laureates. New Jersey’s is being accused of anti-semitism, California’s just resigned because he fudged his resumé, said he finished college when he didn’t. Let me repeat: fudged his resumé, to be poet laureate. He hadn’t gone through the state senate confirmation process, either. Let me repeat: a senate confirmation process, to be poet laureate. What would that be like? “Mr. Troupe, can you tell this committee what rhymes with vanilla?” Could have been worse, I suppose; Davis could have appointed Johnny Cochrane (If the poet laureate-ship don’t fit, you must re-submit) or Nipsy Russell.

Not to agree with the anti-Europe nutters, but Ireland’s referendum today was a mockery of a fraud of a sham. Last year they rejected the Nice Treaty (Nice the place, not the condition of being pleasant) expanding the EU to the East but also shifting some power away from the member states towards the not hugely democratic EU government. So, as is always the case when the people don’t do what they’re told in relation to Europe, they were made to vote again today, and get it right this time. To be sure, Ireland scrapped rules requiring equal time on tv and a pro & con pamphlet delivered to every household, and changed the question to a compound one, did they want to ratify the Nice Treaty *and* reject membership in a European army. The contempt for democratic practice seems to be growing everywhere. If it weren’t for the ferret guy I’m not sure I’d even be voting next month.

Tokyo: For office jokers unsatisfied with photocopies of their bottoms, a Japanese company has developed a copier with a large plastic screen that can print images of the entire body with “warts and all” definition. It costs £57,000. (AFP)

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The real issue is values

A bible that sets itself on fire. Now if they can only do the same for the American flag.

Speaking of inspections of nuclear programs, North Korea agreed to those in an agreement signed with Clinton in 1994. It never allowed the inspections, and has just said it’s been violating the agreement, and has scrapped the agreement. If this doesn’t show the lack of rationale behind the Iraq war, indeed if the alliterative Bali bombing doesn’t show that terrorism is the greater threat, well I don’t know.

Indonesia has responded to the B.B. by returning to tyranny, with a new security agency and warrantless arrests and detention without trials. Um, just like us. The US will of course support this, just as it praised Malaysia for putting people in prison without trial or rights, and just as it just asked for a mild watering down of the sedition law China is making Hong Kong pass, contrary to the One Country, Two Systems promises. I noticed yesterday the Indonesians were saying that suspects were under “intense interrogation,” which was a) intended to be reassuring, b) impossible for anyone to deny meant torture.

The Dutch semi-fascists, and the government of which they were a coalition partner, fall apart.

A Hungarian couple have his and hers (now hers and his) sex-change operations.

At a wedding in Britain, the organist didn’t show up, so a guest played the Wedding March on his cell phone.

Man bites dog: the head of the Israeli press office accuses international media of being under the control of Palestinians. He also claims that Israeli government boycotts forced various foreign media (ABC, Wash Post, Guardian, Toronto Star) to withdraw correspondents the gov didn’t like. Mind you, he’s bragging about this.

Saddam Hussein wins his election by 100%, with a 100% turnout. 11,445,638, if you were wondering. "This is a unique manifestation of democracy which is superior to all other forms of democracies even in these countries which are besieging Iraq and trying to suffocate it." said Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council. Any Palm Beach joke would be superfluous at this point. Ibrahim added that every family would mobilize to fight the US: “Even a sheep-herder will have a role to play.” I’m trying to picture what that role would be. Any guesses?

Real life once again imitates the Simpsons. A baby “decoder” is on sale.

When the Justice Dept went after an Islamic charity for links to Al Qaida, indicting Enaam Arnaout for having acquired weapons in the 1980s, to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, they failed to mention who he acquired those weapons from. If you guessed the CIA, you are of course correct.

Evidently one reason the CIA failed to find Mullah Omar was that the picture they were using was someone else entirely. The guy in the wanted pictures they dropped all over Afghanistan is a) pissed, b) in hiding. Oh, and c) he has two eyes, unlike Omar. In the kingdom of the American intelligence community, the one-eyed man is king.

The Washington sniper has brought up the question of fingerprinting guns before selling them, recording their ballistics. Not surprisingly, the Bush admin is opposed, unconvinced about its reliability--in which case every conviction based on ballistics evidence should be immediately overturned. Ari Fleischer says “How many laws can we really have to stop crime, if people are determined . . . to violate them.” Didn’t know Ari was a Libertarian anarchist. He also said “in the case of the sniper, the real issue is values.” And talked about the privacy rights of law-abiding gun nuts. When R’s talk about privacy rights, it’s always about something stupid. Incidentally, whenever I renew my driver’s license, the DMV takes my fingerprints, so my privacy isn’t as important as that of a sniper rifle.

Since I wrote that, the government has had to U-turn, by which I mean promised to study the issue for eight or nine years.

Also, knock off the use of military spy planes in the sniper hunt. It’s illegal, and it’s a bad precedent, and I’d prefer that they not accidentally bomb any weddings.

A Michigan appeals court rules that a pregnant woman can use lethal force to defend her fetus when her own life is not endangered. I don’t know about lethal force, but there has to be some way to give greater legal protections to pregnant women without actually giving them to the fetus itself. We have hate crime laws--no wait, I’m against those, but it’s certainly a precedent.

Most sarcastic headline on Iraq’s referendum, from the Guardian:
“A nailbiting night in Baghdad Central”

From an online contest to name the next war:
  • Operation: You Tried to Kill My Dad
  • Operation My Name is Inigo Montoya
  • Dubya Dubya III
  • The Empire Strikes First
  • Operation Vietnam Redux
  • World War W
  • “Fool my Dad once...shame me the second time...uh...Hell, I'm goin' to Texas."

I mentioned that Dick Armey targeted the Dallas Morning News in a rider to the military budget. A columnist from that paper, Dave Lieber, has a few ideas of his own for legislation:
• The Mispronounced Name Amendment: Applies to any congressional leader who in 1995 referred to an openly gay congressman with a term that rhymes with rag. The leader shall be forced to wear, for an entire year, a rainbow-colored tie with the words "Ask me what my first name is."

• The Fool-Me-Twice-Shame-on-You Amendment: Applies to any congressional leader who apologized for the above incident and then in 2000 made another derogatory joke about the same congressman. The leader shall be forced to do aerobics exercises with Richard Simmons on live television.

• The Failed Coup Amendment: Pertains to any top House leader who tried to orchestrate the ouster in 1997 of his boss, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and, when asked about it later, did not tell the truth about his role. The leader shall be forced to tell the story of George Washington and the cherry tree to every first-grader in Flower Mound.

• The Thanks for the Memories Amendment: Applies to any congressional leader who spread a false report on the House floor that comedian Bob Hope had died. The leader shall be forced to serve as an unpaid intern for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., for no less than one year.

• The False Pretenses Fund-raiser: Relates to any congressional leader who had a fund-raiser for his re- election campaign on Dec. 6 with Vice President Dick Cheney in Dallas, then announced six days later that he had no intention of running again. The leader shall repay, with interest, the more than $400,000 his campaign received from contributors.

• The Misleading Signs Amendment: Pertains to any congressional leader whose son has lost a primary to replace him in Congress. If supporters put up signs stating "Support the Armey Flat Tax" to confuse voters into thinking that the father was running for re-election, the congressional leader shall remove the nails from each wood stake using his front teeth.

• The Father-Son Nepotism Amendment: Relates to any congressman who helped get his son a job as the regional administrator for the General Services Administration in a city whose name is Fort Worth. If the father and son said afterward that the son got the plum patronage job on his own merits, then the congressional leader shall be forced to tell the story of George Washington and the cherry tree to every second-grader in Flower Mound.

Rummy Rumsfeld says that he believes North Korea already has several nukes. And he’s just getting around to mentioning this now. Guess it slipped his mind.

What did the North Koreans mean when they said they also had “more powerful things”? Presumably biological and/or chemical weapons. So there should have been a public eruption today in Washington. But there wasn’t. Still as Ari Fleischer said, "What is different is the unique history of Iraq. Different policies work in different parts of the world, and different doctrines work at different times and in different regions because of the local circumstances." Actually, I tricked you. That quote was about why pre-emption was fine for the US, but not for India against Pakistan.

The Daily Show explained why we’re going after Saddam Hussein but not Kim Jong Il: you can’t bomb a man with glasses.

The Pakistani Islamicist coalition that did so well in the elections has named as its PM candidate Fazlur Rehman, a man who called in 1998 for the killing of Americans if the US bombings in Afghanistan killed his hero, a fellow named Osama.

Perhaps it shouldn’t, but I find my sympathy for the Australian victims of the Bali Bombing diminishing as they’re all whisked home to top-rate burn clinics, and the Balinese are leaving hospital untreated because they can’t afford it. (This is combined with Australia’s generally awful history in relation to Indonesia and the fact, which I mentioned but which is unheard in the US media, that the nightclub excluded natives, and the reprisals against Muslim institutions in Australia).

Indonesia will introduce an “emergency death penalty” for terrorists by presidential decree.

As a historian, I could only hope to live in a country where it was possible for the work of a historian to really piss people off. A historian’s suggestion that Philip of Macedon (Alexander the Great’s father) was killed by a jealous gay lover set off demonstrations in Salonika by Greek nationalists.

Congress finally passes a bill to reform election counts, but probably won’t bother fully funding it, and the R’s got what they wanted, ID checks and the use of DMV and Social Security records to deal with the nearly non-existent problem of voter fraud, but which will somehow be implemented in such a way as to disfranchise minority voters.

The judge in the case of those Florida boys convicted of killing their father overturned the verdict. Here’s another detail which should but won’t be used in the disbarment of the DA involved in the case: he planned, if he got convictions both of the boys and the other guy, to ask that the latter be set aside. That is, he acknowledges that he went into court arguing a position he did not believe to be true.

Tom Tancredo, the Congressman for the district including Columbine, has said that his promise not to take money from gun groups wasn’t a real promise (“didn’t rise to the level of a pledge”), and has taken a contribution from the NRA. Tancredo, who doesn’t rise to the level of pond scum, is also one of those who promised to limit himself to 2 terms. He is running for his third term.

From an AP story: A Modesto man has died after his wife held him down and bit him repeatedly when he refused to have sex with her, police said.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Making the world safe for petroleocracy

Some clown in the Indonesian government with a really short memory says that the bombing of the Bali nightclub was the worst incidence of terror in Indonesia’s history. Unless you count the million dead Chinese and/or Communists in the 1960s, or genocide in East Timor, Acheh, or the Japanese occupation, or Dutch colonialism, then yeah Indonesia has been a paradise until now. Incidentally, the reason so many foreign tourists died was because Indonesians weren’t allowed to go in.

The constant refrain of Hitler analogies during last week’s war resolution debates was bad enough, but the references to the Cuban Missile Crisis were just plain bizarre, considering how close the world came to reenacting the last scene of Dr Strangelove (sorry, pre-enacting; the movie came out in ‘63). I meant to comment on that last week but forgot; today I can add that we came closer even than we thought. A Russian naval officer now says that during the height of the crisis, a US destroyer dropped depth charges on a Soviet submarine, without realizing it had a nucyular weapon on board. The crew believed WW III had started, and discussed launching the weapon, a nucyular torpedo, which would have required the approval of 3 officers. So today’s hero is the one who voted no, one Arkhipov. This was the day before Russia backed down over Cuba.

OK, I’ll stop misspelling nuclear now. Just twice and it’s already getting on my nerves.

Bush says that the US would “never seek to impose our culture or our form of government” on Iraq. Well I’m sure they’re breathing a sigh of relief that they won’t be forced to line dance and listen to country music (although I understand Donald Rumsfeld has commissioned the Dixie Chicks to write a new national anthem for Iraq) and their children won’t have to memorize A Very Hungry Caterpillar as if it were the Little Red Book. Sadly, I think he’s lying about the form of government thing, since their future, like ours, is to be a vassal of Exxon-Mobil under what I’ve just now decided to call a petroleocracy.

It took about 3 days after the first reports that the Bush admin was sabotaging discussions to create a commission to investigate the intelligence failures of 9/11 for the actual details to emerge. Bush wants the commission to have a Republican majority, not split evenly, and with no subpoena powers for the D’s acting alone. Also there may have been something about not inspecting presidential palaces.

Speaking of which, the latest Iraqi “obstructionism” on inspections turns out to be nothing more than that they won’t guarantee anyone’s safety in the areas of the American no-fly zone, and don’t want to pay for all the protection and ancillary services of the inspectors, both of which seem fair.

Remember the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes 30 years ago and they ate each other? The 14 survivors just went back to Chile to play the match they had been going to. They won. Which just goes to show vegetarians have it all wrong. No story mentions how the team got to Chile.

Well it’s another Indigenous Peoples Day, so don’t kill any wooden Indians.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Speaking of chemical warfare being waged on the Iraqi people, it seems that American tobacco companies (RJ Reynolds, Philip Morris) have been involved in the smuggling of billions of cigarettes into Iraq in violation of sanctions, to say nothing of tax law (which is why the EU is suing). The financial beneficiary is Uday Hussein, who runs the operation. Although there is a lot of talk about connections between drugs and terrorism, nobody mentions cigarettes, which are big money-earners for Hezbollah and many others.

Now that we’re courting Iran, no one is willing to mention the return of the religious police, public stonings, a great increase in public executions, amputations, blindings, etc.

Still, I’m hoping the mullahs stay in power long enough to issue a fatwah against Jerry Falwell, who managed to apologize for calling Mohamed a terrorist without making a single mention of the 9 dead in India in the protests about his remarks (only in India could a statement by an American Christian “reverend” set off fighting between Hindus and Muslims. Although there were those riots when Falwell said the Teletubbies were gay. Well, ok, maybe not, but wouldn’t it have been cool?)

Speaking of odd theology, what if the Maryland sniper really is God? Just asking.

NYT on why people mispronounce nuclear.

Friday, October 11, 2002

But is it art?

Another poll, from the Pew Research Center, says that 66% believe Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, and 86% believe he has or nearly has nukes. This country really does have the “president” it deserves. But note that it also says that 85% believe that Saddam has to be ousted for the war to be a success; winning the war that many in Congress claimed to be voting for, the war for UN resolutions and disarmament, would be considered a failure.

Found the Montana hairdresser ad. Very amusing.

The Bushies intend to rule Iraq through the US military rather than through a government of the existing opposition, a tacit admission of how badly they screwed up Afghanistan. Actually I’d prefer a Douglas MacArthur-style military occupation to a cobbled-together bunch of puppets and losers such as the existing opposition forces. Still, we gotta leave some time, and it doesn’t look good. A coalition of ethnic and religious groups will fall apart when no one’s around to knock heads together, leading either to Afghan-style warlordism or Iran-style Shia loonyism.

Speaking of which, how ‘bout them Pakistani elections? I admit I didn’t see it coming, but Musharaf must have done. After all, he hobbled the semi-democratic parties and generally put his thumb on the scales, so if the balance of power is held by Islamic fundies, he must have wanted it that way, or at least not minded. The president of the 6-party Islamic coalition group has a manifesto that begins with making everyone fear Allah and goes on to removing from the tv all “singing by prostitutes and dancing girls,” which I guess is very big over there after Seinfeld reruns, and hell, a ban on all singing and dancing, and instead, jihad all the time. Yes, I am quoting. They aren’t yet talking about banning kites, as far as I know, but it’s only a matter of time.

Where they really did well was in the two provinces bordering Afghanistan, which means an end to turning over Al Qaeda & Talibanis, they’ve said as much. So far the Bushies are just saying they accept the results of a, cough, democratic election, but with really sickly looks on their faces. If this gets out (not that it will, given the ignorance shown by the polling above), some of the rationale for invading Iraq but not Pakistan must surely be in doubt.

What hasn’t gotten much play is the story that a deal is near on UN resolutions on Iraq. There will be one written so vaguely that France and Russia can say it doesn’t authorize military action, and would require another resolution, and the US can say allows force without one. If this happens, I want the UN disbanded.

One of Bush’s nominees for a federal district judgeship in Texas, who has been confirmed but not technically given office, has decided, against all ethical rules, to postpone it and continue in the Texas Legislature for a bit, to make sure the R’s get to choose their own speaker. When I say ethical rules, I mean the rules for judges, I’m not sure there are any ethical rules for the Texas Lege.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is practically taunting the CIA to stage another coup against him. He appointed the brother of Carlos the Jackal as director of energy (i.e., oil, so you know the Bushies are paying attention). Oddly enough, Carlos in 1975 burst into an OPEC meeting and held a bunch of oil ministers (including Venezuela’s) hostage.

Harry Belafonte criticized Colin Powell as a house slave. Guardian headline: Belafonte Told to Stick to Day-O Job

Can’t wait for Sunday when C-SPAN will run Iain Duncan Smith’s speech to the Tory Party conference, where everybody was paying so much more attention to the old John Major-Edwina Currie fuckfest. IDS, the least likely John Wayne lookalike, proclaimed himself the Quiet Man (“do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man”). As some have pointed out since, he really has a great deal to be quiet about.

From the Daily Telegraph: Two zoo keepers in Recklinghausen, north-west Germany, are being investigated by police for eating chickens and sheep from the zoo's petting area.

Christian toys, including
Item # (3a) Calvary Hill-complete with 3 removable crosses and roll-away stone. >>$10.75 ea.
Yes, let your children reenact the crucifixion. Suitable for ages 4 to 9, they say. (scroll about half-way down).

Speaking of childhood trauma, from the Sydney Morning Herald:
NZ court rules against porn movie birth
October 11 2002

A High Court judge today issued an injunction preventing the labour and birth of a child being filmed for a pornographic movie.

Justice Heath issued the injunction in the High Court at Hamilton. The woman, who can be identified only as "Nikki", is due to give birth on November 26, but was admitted to Waikato Hospital this week with complications.

Child, Youth and Family wants guardianship of her unborn child and a court order preventing the filming of the birth.

The court's decision is regarded as a landmark one and the government's deputy solicitor general, Helen Aikman, acted on behalf of the department.

She told the court, "It is increasingly common to videotape birth. The key difference here is the intention to shoot the film for pornographic purposes, not for personal or educational use," the Waikato Times newspaper reported.

"The thought of a baby being in a porn movie is likely to be highly offensive to a person of normal sensibilities," Aikman said.

"It is an unnecessary impediment to put on a child growing up, knowing it has been in a porn movie. The baby is likely to be harmed merely by association with this film."

To the extent to which I should have said 'purported,' I accept that

Iran has been making its own cola drink, Zam Zam, which is now being drunk all over the Middle East as a sign of opposition to US imperialism. A French Muslim is to launch Mecca Cola, while sales of Coke have dropped 20-40% in some countries. When I was in East Berlin in 1983, dropping off some microfilm, I mean just being a tourist, just an innocent tourist, I had me some of that “Commie Cola,” and it was truly atrocious.

Reenacting one of the oldest clichés, an Israeli man in a hotel orders up a call girl and its... his own daughter! He has a heart attack. And his wife is going to divorce him.

How many Congresscritters, especially D’s, just voted for a war they didn’t believe in, in order to get reelected. Remember what Madeleine Albright said about Iraqi children killed by US sanctions, that it was a price worth paying? Maybe that should be Congress’s new motto. Maybe we should put it on the money, in place of In God We Trust.

Bush told Chirac, “If you want to avoid war, vote for a strong resolution.” You know, a resolution for war.

Here’s a depressing sentence, from the Post: “House members, too, declared they had discussed the issue long enough. Rep. J.C. Watts (Okla.), the Republican caucus chairman, said the two days of debate were ‘more than we debated Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo combined.’” That’s enough democracy, now back to the imperial presidency, already in progress. Of course Bush failed to ask for network time because even he would rather watch Drew Carey than his own speech. Now it’s all over and Bush can get on with two solid weeks of fund-raising, as can the rest of them. Remember how everyone made fun of Jimmy Carter for the “Rose Garden strategy in 1980,” where he refused to campaign because there was a “national crisis?”

I heard at least one member of Congress say we were not just “liberating” Iraq, but giving them democracy. If this is the best we can do (and our great ally Tony Blair is about to suspend representative democracy in Northern Ireland, by the way), and I’m not even gonna mention Florida again, why would they want it?

Speaking of which, the Republican running for Senate against Max Baucus of Montana just dropped out because Baucus ran commercials depicting him as gay and corrupt and gay, or at any rate as a former owner of beauty shops who used to give beauty tips on tv in Denver. I can’t find this commercial at Baucus’s website, although I sat through 3 of them. If anyone has any ideas...

The Washington Post has an article about the Missouri Senate race, which is evidently dead even, without mentioning its significance: if the R beats Jean Carnahan (the widow of the dead man that beat John Ashcroft in 2000), he takes over the office in November, not January, and the Senate shifts back from D to R.

Speaking of dead men running for office, here in the gubernatorial election, in Monday’s debate, the Republican with two first names accused the Democratic governor with two last names of breaking the law by taking campaign donations in his Lite Gov office nearly 5 years ago, and Simon had the pictures to prove it. Except the guy handing him the check denied it. And it didn’t look anything like the Lt Gov office. And it was a Saturday so the building was closed. And Davis’s schedule, which was in the public realm, showed him in another part of the state. Simon took several days even to admit he got it wrong, without of course apologizing, because no one in politics ever apologizes. After denying he ever called the photo “proof,” this is what he said: "To the extent to which I should have said 'purported,' I accept that." (which is as close as he gets to an apology, which isn’t very close). This guy used to be a prosecutor. But under Guiliani, which explains it. Actually, the charge originated in one of those fake organizations purporting to be cops, whose purpose is to take donations in order to endorse candidates.

Simon’s most recent commercial actually praises his great business skill, and how he created many jobs (mostly lawyers trying to keep him out of jail for exercising his great business skill) (actually he did create jobs; but none of them are still around), and says that he isn’t perfect. The last California candidate who said he wasn’t perfect was Gary Condit.

The number of police car chases in LA has gone up 40% in the last 3 years, and down in the rest of the state. In other words, those people are just trying to get on tv. But what they really want to do, is direct.

Trying to find people to vote for tonight, reading websites. The Libertarians, by the way, have fired their gubernatorial candidate and are running a write-in. I’d hoped to be able to vote for a Libertarian for Congress, as Ellen Tauscher just supported the war on Iraq after saying she wasn’t really sure about it but what the hell, and there is only a Libbie against her. Who’s one of those who believe that the income tax amendment wasn’t properly ratified, yadda yadda yadda, and we should go back to gold and silver money. And whose website spawned several pop-up ads, which I suppose is Libertarianism in action. I’ve also found out why the Libbie Lite Gov candidate’s ferret was euthanasized: he took it to a rally for legalizing ferret ownership--and it bit a tv cameraman.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Quantum arcology

Dick Armey, who blames the Dallas Morning News for the failure of his son’s attempt to get into Congress, secretly inserted a provision into a military spending bill that would have forced its parent company to sell it (or a tv station in Dallas).

A list of the top 10 US mistakes of the Afghan War.

North Korea will kindly allow the 5 Japanese citizens it kidnapped (excluding all the mysteriously “dead” ones and the ones they won’t admit to) to visit Japan. It will hold their children as hostages in the meanwhile.

Maureen Dowd reports (leaving the question why it wasn’t in the main news section rather than the op-ed pages of the NY Times) on Bush’s choice to chair the FDA panel on women’s health policy. Ok, a man, I mean, that was a given. But also a Christian loon (one W. David Hager), who is against single women having sex because it’s a sin and has written a book on using the healing power of Christ to treat headaches, PMS and ungodly sex, thinks IUDs as well as abortions are evil, organized a Christian petition against RU-486, etc. Add to this the policy of abolishing or radically changing any scientific advisory panel likely to report inconvenient facts, say on global warming, and you have a policy of distorting the work of bodies that are supposed to be producing objective information. Makes you wonder about the “intelligence” about the danger from Iraq, doesn’t it? Well, yes indeedy, there is “intense pressure” on the intelligence agencies, according to this Houston Chronicle story. Not a great story, but it includes discussion of the evidence Rumsfeld claims to have about Iraq-Al Qaida connections. Indeed, the claim that Iraq offered sanctuary to bin Laden and other Al Qaida leaders--turns out it was actually in 1998, and was rejected.
The Guardian on the same subject. Last 9/19/01, I myself asked this question: “And what is the standard of evidence applied by the Bushies, anyhow? If they're convinced that bin Laden is responsible, does that mean the evidence is better than that suggesting that arsenic in the drinking water is bad? better than the evidence for global warming? better or worse than the evidence that Star Wars will work?”

Oddly enough, Saddam Hussein is running for re-election next week. Theme song: Whitney Houston, “I Will Always Love You.” Evidently the first such fake referendum was sponsored by the British in the 1920s (after they invited an opposition leader to high tea with the High Commissioner, where they arrested him and exiled him to Ceylon. Which does admittedly have a lot of tea planations).

Monday, October 07, 2002

My name is Saddam, and I'm addicted to weapons of mass destruction

Something I hadn’t known: the R candidate in NJ who made such a fuss about deadlines when Toricelli dropped out himself filed a brief to get on the primary ballot after the then-frontrunner in his party dropped out after an FBI raid.

Saw the Cal. gubernatorial debate today. Don’t remember any of it, because it was just that dull, except that Davis was admonished for bringing a prop (a government report), which was against the rules. When Simon tried to invite the Green candidate as his guest, the Davis people accused him of trying to use a prop. The debate was at noon, because god forbid anyone should be able to see it. In the same way, Bush tonight failed to ask for network time, because that would have pre-empted King of Queens.

So what really happened in Yemen? The French are blaming Al Qaida for the tanker blowing up, although if they have any evidence, they aren’t showing it. If true, it indicates that Qaida is going after the oil biz. Which is actually a pretty damned good target, if not as showy as their usual style. Imagine the cost of oil if they have to terrorist-proof every port, tanker, refinery, etc.

The US is compiling files for war crimes charges against Iraqi leaders. Remember: one rule for the rest of the world, no rules for the US. Imagine the conversation when someone from the US government approaches Cambodia, say, to try to get them to promise never to extradite any American to the International Court. War crimes charges, indeed, while Henry Kissinger still walks free and talks pompously. And while we’re at it, let’s say this clearly: the US cannot demand that Iraq submit to the will of a (bought and paid for) majority of the UN Security Council, when the US would not abide by a Security Council decision against such a war. And as long as we’re stating the obvious about how pseudo-governmental bodies are supposed to work, let me repeat, since no one else is even saying it: the UN cannot issue a resolution directed against Iraq, and delegate the interpretation of whether that resolution has been followed to the US.

Here’s a kind of bizarre sentence from the Guardian: “At a Republican fundraising event at the weekend, the president described President Saddam as a "cold-blooded killer" and challenging him to honour his pledge to allow unfettered weapons inspections.” ‘Cuz he’d hate to be called a welsher as well as a cold-blooded killer.

Bush tomorrow (or whenever in relation to when I mail this) will give his first televised speech in favor of his little war. Look, let’s ignore the opinion polls, the subjective tests of opinion tell the real truth: every newspaper, every Congresscritter, is getting mail running several to one against the war. The polls that suggest the opposite fail to measure that support for the war is a centimeter deep. This also suggests that any serious argument against it would be well received; too bad the D’s are too spineless to attempt it.

OK, I’ve seen the speech. First, it was singularly inappropriate for this speech to have been anything other than an address to the nation from the White House. You don’t give a speech in support of war in front of an audience, with pauses for applause and so on. Bush says Hussein is addicted to weapons of mass destruction; he himself is an alcoholic and former cocaine user. We refuse to live in fear; on the other hand a ranch in the middle of the Texas desert gets pretty darned hot too. He said that America should speak with one voice; he’s thinking everyone should start talking like Jack Nicholson, cuz that’d be pretty cool; also, everybody should start mis-pronouncing nuclear, like he does (Bush, not Jack). There was a scary line about there being a “unified Iraq” after the American conquest, scary that is to every ethnic and religious minority in the country. Also he said something about Iraq sharing in the growing prosperity of the world, a coded reference to the lifting of the punitive sanctions now on the Iraqi people; still, a year after the bombing started in Afghanistan, with international pledges to rebuild that country almost entirely unfulfilled, and most of the money being spent in Kabul, and most of that just to pay aid workers ($250,000 to support each UN employee in Afghanistan for a year), Iraqis might be pardoned for being sceptical about such claims.

William Saletan notes that Bush needed to connect the war against terrorism to the war against Iraq and failed to do so, except in one crucial way: “The link between them is subjective: The events of Sept. 11 lowered our standards for using force.” Lack of knowledge becomes a reason to attack, the default position is now violence rather than waiting, the toleration of risk is now zero.

The current pope has created 468 saints, more than all previous popes put together.

A member of the newly elected German parliament is 19.

A longish story about Jeb Bush’s business deals, which is the usual collection of slimy insider stuff you expect from a Bush.

In Iran a guy suffers a non-fatal heart attack just as they’re prepared to execute him (publicly), with the noose literally around his neck. They’ll try again when he’s feeling better. I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for this.

I’m not sure what it means that this year’s Project Censored list isn’t on its own website, but here’s a link. So how did *I* do, in these dispatches? I mentioned the FCC’s loosening of rules on media ownership (by the way, evil radio monopoly Clear Air is getting around the rules limiting ownership to 8 stations in one market in San Diego by using transmitters located just over the border). And I think I’ve mentioned the efforts of US companies like Bechtel, backed by the government, IMF etc, to privatize water supplies in 3rd world countries. I’ve gone on at some length about Colombian death squads, and US support thereof. Efforts at producing small nuclear weapons, check. HMOs as a model for education? No. Small farms disappear under the NAFTA regime? No. Actually, the workings of NAFTA in general are pretty much a mystery to the US press, not helped by the fact that the NAFTA courts that can strike down state and federal regulations operate in secret; there’s loads of interesting stuff in Jim Hightower’s book If the Gods Had Wanted Us to Vote etc. Crisis in US housing. Actually, the write-up neglects to mention that it’s not just a failure of public housing, but that developers in the last couple of years have moved very decisively from cheap housing to the high-end of the market. #10 is about the CIA’s alleged efforts to install a US- and Exxon-friendly government in Macedonia (neither link to this one works).

A Department Store in Sharon, PA, throws $2 bills (remember those?) and coupons from its roof to a crowd below. There were no survivors. Oh ok, no one got actually killed, but it wasn’t pretty.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

What'd he do after seeing "She's Gotta Have It"?

I thought the US draft UN resolution on Iraqi inspections sounded familiar. It’s the Kosovo demands of 1999 all over again: under it, Iraq/Serbia loses control over its airspace, roads, foreign troops go wherever they want. How’s that for regime change?

William Saletan of Slate observes that Senators were arguing for the Iraqi resolution by saying that if we showed resolve, we could scare Hussein into surrendering without a war, so let’s hope he doesn’t actually hear about us saying that.

The only Senator to vote no was Robert Byrd, who is making all the right arguments (well, some of them) while at the same time sounding cranky and senile, which is a little dispiriting.

The Catholic Church names a new saint, Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, who has had many miracles attributed him, including making people forget he was a Fascist supporter of Francisco Franco and curing someone of a disease called radiodermititus, which I believe is the ability to receive AM radio through the skin. He founded Opus Dei, an extreme right-wing secret society the pope likes, which I believe advocates the belief that Bloom County’s Opus the penguin is God. Members joined Franco’s government. Today a Vatican spokesman, without a trace of irony, said that this was because Opus Dei allows its members freedom.

Those kidnapped Japanese in N Korea? Without exception, they say they don’t want to go home. Their relatives are not best pleased.

Someone suggested that before Ari Fleischer advocates assassination again, he consult with one of his predecessors as White House press secretary, James Brady.

John Walker Lindh gets 20 years for going to the wrong summer camp. He says his spiritual journey began when he saw Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. Personally I haven’t been able to walk by a pizza shop since Do The Right Thing without throwing a garbage can through its window.

Putin’s 50th birthday is Monday. He’s getting a crown, an exact replica (including the jewels) of the crown used by tsars at their coronations. Can we have the sloppy drunk back, please?

Friday, October 04, 2002

Patient fires are extremely rare

So, according to the Post, earlier this year Pat Robertson opposed Bush’s “faith-based” initiative, saying it could finance cults that brainwash people. You already know the punch-line to this one, don’t you?

At the Labour Party convention, Clinton finally mentioned the great unmentionable of American politics, the 2000 elections, saying that Bush won fair and square, 5 votes to 4 in the Supreme Court. What’ll be the reaction here, shitstorm or ignored completely?

(Later): it wasn’t mentioned in the NY Times story on the speech.

The EPA has given up trying to require the chemical industry to safeguard itself against terrorist attacks. Did I mention last week that these are the people who won’t tell the poisoned thousands in Bhopal what they were poisoned with? Because without chemical companies, evil itself would be impossible.

The Iraqi VP says that Bush and Hussein should fight a duel. Ok by me. I’m thinking something like the fish-slapping dance in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The US succeeds in stopping UN inspections of Iraq going ahead under the old rules. Since when does one country get the UN to stop enforcing its own resolutions under its own rules, which have not been changed? UN policy keeps melding seamlessly into US implementation, with no sense that there are any rules at all governing its operation. How does one take the UN seriously?

Speaking of inspection of weapons of mass destruction, this week marks the 16th anniversary of Israel’s kidnapping of Mordechai Vanunu. Israel has refused to sign any international agreement regulating the use of nuclear weapons, non-proliferation, the test ban treaty, etc, but gets $3 billion in US aid per year despite the Symington Accord which outlaws aid to countries developing nuclear weapons outside of international agreements.

I thought the Libertarian listed on the Calif. ballot as “ferret legalization coordinator” was good, but in Montana, their candidate for Senate is blue, which is what happens when you drink colloidal silver (and it’s permanent). If you’re wondering, there is also a Green candidate.

Pyongyang has no traffic lights, according to the News Hour. So forget about the axis of evil, it’s the intersections that’ll get you.

American soldiers in Afghanistan have been given laminated cards, helpfully suggesting responses to journalists’ questions. For example:

"How do you feel about what you're doing in Afghanistan"?

Answer: "We're united in our purpose and committed to achieving our goals."

"How long do you think that will take?" Answer: "We will stay here as long as it takes to get the job done - sir!"

Israel stages a practice drill for kidnapping Arafat and dumping him in the Libyan desert.

Finally, Republicans who care about the right of every vote to be counted. In NJ, they are complaining that replacing Torricelli on the ballot would affect the rights of military servicemen who have already voted by absentee ballot. Of course that would only affect those who voted for Torricelli, so the R’s are actually supporting the rights of D’s to vote, isn’t that self-sacrificing of them?

If you’ve spent any time on the web at all this week, you’ve seen what a study claims is the world’s funniest joke, which isn’t especially funny and you’ve all heard it before, so here’s the world’s lamest joke, according to the same study:

“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Boo who?”
“Don’t cry!”

The study indicates that in animal jokes, ducks are the funniest animals. Here are some more jokes, by nation:


I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror like his passengers.


Why do ducks have webbed feet? To stamp out fires. Why do elephants have flat feet? To stamp out burning ducks.

Germany (no, really)

A general noticed one of his soldiers behaving oddly. The soldier would pick up any piece of paper he found, frown and say: “That’s not it” and put it down again. This went on for some time, until the general arranged to have the soldier psychologically tested. The psychologist concluded that the soldier was deranged, and wrote out his discharge from the army. The soldier picked it up, smiled and said: “That’s it.”


An alsatian went to a telegram office, took out a blank form and wrote: “Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof.”

The clerk examined the paper and politely told the dog: “There are only nine words here. You could send another ‘Woof’ for the same price.” “But,” the dog replied, “that would make no sense at all.”

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Going the extra kilometer on Iraq

There’s a story in the NY Times on how Ted Turner is no longer happy with his partners at AOL Time Warner because his personal fortune has gone down from its previous $9 billion. Here’s the pathetic part: it says he checks the stock price every hour.

Nicholas Kristof comments that Iraq is only the most oppressive place in the Middle East if you’re a man, whereas the women are doing pretty well, can drive and not wear burquas and everything. Indeed, the head of Iraq’s biological warfare program is a woman. You go, girl!

Of course a Palestinian in Gaza or in a refugee camp, or a Kurd anywhere in the Middle East, may take exception to the most oppressive place thing.

Rummy Rumsfeld yesterday was insisting that US pilots have been putting their lives at risk every day to enforce UN resolutions in Iraq, by which he meant the US-, not UN-imposed no-fly zones. Although he is now claiming, which the Wash Post reported and the Times did not, that those planes have been conducting “aerial inspections” all these years on behalf of the UN disarmament resolutions--presumably the government just forget to mention it before now. Or file reports with the UN, presumably. So all this proves that Iraq trying to shoot down our planes actually demonstrates their contempt for the UN, and therefore they can’t be trusted on inspections. Follow that? Also, he rejects, nay spits on, Russian claims that the stepped-up bombing in recent weeks creates obstacles. He called that criticism “nonsensical,” which is an odd term to use towards a country you’re counting on not to veto your resolution at the UN...

I see that Bush now wants to go to war with Iraq to enforce UN resolutions that have nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, like the return of Kuwaiti prisoners. That’s probably why we rejoined UNESCO last month: there’s probably a plan to switch to the metric system that Iraq isn’t fully in compliance with (yeah, we’re not on metric either, that’s the fuckin’ point).

It is believed that Iraqi commanders have been pre-authorized to use chemical and bio weapons, anticipating that US bombing will cut communications.

The Times’s science pages bring word of a company offering DNA tests to find out just what racial mixture you are. Perfect for improving your chances at college admissions or government contracts (that’s not me, that’s the company’s ad literature).

A study says that the Bushies aren’t enforcing environmental laws, are collecting 1/5 the fines that Clinton did over a comparable period, initiating fewer suits and going for smaller fines. And the Wall St Journal says that the FDA is sending out many fewer warning letters to drug companies about fraud & such.

The EU caved to the US on the International Criminal Court, allowing is members to give it a blanket exemption. Which Germany, amusingly enough, says it won’t.

The British MP for Grimsby has changed his name, in order to support the local fishing industry, from Austin Mitchell to Austin Haddock. Surprisingly, none of his four children have followed suit.

Bush signed a bill to require that Jerusalem be treated as the capital of Israel, including in the naming of nationality in passports (for US citizens born in Jerusalem). And then announced that he’d ignore the law he signed because it’s unconstitutional.

Here’s a sentence from an LA Times story that echoes what a lot of Bushies have been saying: “If the United Nations fails to back the United States, and Washington subsequently acts alone against Iraq, that would seriously erode the Security Council's role in world affairs and the influence of its member states, the analysts say.” An odd definition of influence, really. As Tony Blair has yet to realize, a lap dog is not the same as a guide dog. Indeed, the UN just negotiated details of the return of inspectors to Iraq, and the US is threatening to veto it (it would include the 1998 limitations on inspections of presidential palaces--and today Ari Fleischer said that a bullet in Saddam Hussein’s skull would settle things, so I can’t see any reason why no-notice armed inspections of his palaces would be a sticking point). I thought the US was supposed to be willing to compromise its original position, which I commented on the last 2 or 3 emails, but instead more details are coming out, like the suggestion of “no drive” zones around places being inspected.

Bill Clinton is at the Labour Party annual conference, along with Kevin Spacey (they went to a McDonald’s, it was in all the papers. From the Times: “The plastic seat used by Mr Clinton has already been renamed the McClinton chair.”). Here’s a quote: meld the cadence of the hymnal into political speech. “You were there when we turned back the tide of ethnic cleansing. You were there when the alliance turned back Saddam Hussein. When Saddam threw out the weapons inspectors, you were there. And when you were moving towards peace in Northern Ireland, we were there.” And wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy...

Norway has killed 634 whales this year.

Remember those Japanese the North Koreans admitted kidnapping, but the majority of them died? It seems that their bodies all washed out to sea in floods, as well.

Another result of the American refusal to fund family planning abroad: a shortage of condoms in the developing world, where they must be given away or the people can’t afford them. In 2000 950 million were sent, down from 1.5 billion in 1996, with an actual need of about 8 billion, which is an awful lot of sex in total, but doesn’t some like much per capita (that’s the little capita, and not the big capita, if you get my meaning).