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.

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