Friday, February 28, 2003

No thanks, I couldn't eat one ethnic cleansing more

I paid $1.93 a gallon for gasoline today and so am now wholly behind a war for oil.

A Times article says that kindergarteners in Britain have been playing war games a lot more lately. Also, building towers and ramming planes into them.

170 nations have agreed an international treaty on tobacco, including bans on advertising, attempts to stop smuggling, and putting warning labels in big print, covering 30% of a cigarette pack. Now who could object to that? You guessed it.

By coincidence, a guy convicted in the US of smuggling cigarettes and giving a full $3,500 of the proceeds to Hezbollah is sentenced to 155 years (and yes, that’s really all he did).

Speaking of over-reaction, PETA’s latest campaign compares the eating of animals to Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. “A Holocaust on Your Plate,” the campaign is called. Mmmm, says Homer Simpson, Holocaust on Your Plate. Can I have a side of Freedom Fries with that?

The US response to Iraq’s decision to destroy those missiles is that it is “too late.” The logic of that position is that Iraq is not obligated to do it. If it is too late, then the US is already committed to war and no one could expect Iraq to continue disarming.

You can't even die in this country

So according to the one Iraqi defector the admin loves to cite as proof that only defectors rather than inspections get at the truth, and that Iraq covered up its early weapons program, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law & weapons chief, all WMDs were destroyed in 1991. Only the UN never told anyone that he said this (in 1995). (This is from Newsweek, which downplayed it, but see the report).

A businessman is planning a theme park on the outskirts of Berlin: Ossiworld, for those feeling nostalgic for the GDR. Actually, the East Berlin they’re talking about--snarling dogs, random searches, etc.--is nothing like the one I remember, with polite helpful officials and a Wall less heavily guarded than the Tuilleries Gardens in Paris. Also, and no one ever talks about reproducing this, there was that propaganda lecture you had to go through before entering the East--the one given by an American.

President Niyazov, Great Hero of the Nation and True Father of all Turkmen, had his 63rd birthday today, and seems to have passed up the opportunity to rename something else, like the planets maybe. [Oh Christ, I wrote that before reading the rest of the article; actually, he has a meteor named after himself.] Here’s one I missed: the People’s Assembly (whose members come from the one legal party), recently demanded that Niyazov’s enemies be drawn and quartered and their organs left for the vultures in the Karakum Desert (which I believe is also one of the provisions in John Ashcroft’s draft Patriot II Act).

I didn’t know that inter-faith marriages are banned in Israel.

The House of Representatives voted today to ban human cloning. They obviously haven’t been watching the McNeil-Lehrer interviews with Democratic candidates for president.

According to the Georges Bush and Will, if the Senate doesn’t vote on Miguel Estrada’s nomination, it will be tantamount to a coup against the Constitution. Will then undermines his case a tad by saying it would be as if the Democrats wielded power without having won a presidential election.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Stand by your man

At yesterday’s press briefing, Ari Fleischer denied that the US is buying support for the war from other nations. From the official transcript: “But think about the implications of what you're saying. You're saying that the leaders of other nations are buyable. And that is not an acceptable proposition. (Laughter.)” That’s not Ari laughing, that’s the entire press corps literally laughing him out of the room.

A German police force decides to torture a kidnapping suspect (although the threat alone proves enough to get him to confess, they were really going to do it).

A judge in, where else, Texas, sentences a man who abused his 11-year old stepson by, among other things, hitting him in the genitals with a car antenna and throwing him out of the house, to sleep in a doghouse for 30 days (and pay a fine). So instead of putting him in jail where he belongs, he gets to go camping for a month.

Speaking of brilliant judges, Bush is still fighting for Miguel Estrada’s honor, which is more than Miguel Estrada ever did. Bush said, “I will stand by that man's side until he is sworn in as a judge.” That could get a little awkward in the shower, I suppose.

The Supreme Court rules that RICO can’t be used against demonstrators, which is exactly right, although I’d still like to see the courts force those Operation Rescue types to pay up the damages awarded against them.

As Bush is promising a miraculous spread of democracy in the Middle East if we have just one more war there, here’s a timely reminder of the results in Kuwait from the last War to Make the World Safe for Feudalism.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Very unfriendly

My raccoon came back tonight. And left again, a little bit wetter.

Speaking of water fights, see this interview (ok, not really) with a sea lion being trained by the Navy for combat against Iraq (interestingly, the link in the article to the page on this program in the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command website does not work).

The Fox affiliate in Tampa, under pressure from Monsanto, tried to get 2 reporters to broadcast false reports related to the presence of Monsanto’s synthetic bovine growth hormone in milk. They refused and threatened to report the station to the FCC; they were fired, filed suit, and the court ruled that the station had deliberately falsified news. The decision has been reversed because it’s not illegal to lie in a news report. Which is as it should be, but that shouldn’t mean you can fire whistleblowers.

An American professional snowboarder (!) dies after trying to slide down the handrail of the fifth floor staircase in his hotel, then falling 15 meters. Alcohol is believed to have been involved.

And in Philadelphia a man responds to his daughter being hit with a snowball by shooting into a group of children, hitting one in the head. Which is the same principle US foreign policy is based on.

Speaking of shooting people in the head, see this on US assassination policy.

Forget the virtual march on Washington (that’s today). Instead, join the fast for GeeDubya’s holiness: “Our goal is to have 1,000 people fasting for the President each day. That will greatly encourage him and keep him accountable when the Evil One [Donald Rumsfeld?] seeks to sidetrack him from his commitment to the Lord.”

Do you know what the CIA hq is named? Neither did I, but it would explain a lot.

Here’s a nice gross story. A man beats his baby, then 3 months old (this was December 2001) to brain-death, but it’s been on a ventilator since then, with the mother going to court to get him removed, the father trying to prevent that happening and, coincidentally, his subsequent trial for murder. A court just sided with the mother.

North Korea conducted a missile test just before the inauguration of a new prime minister in S Korea. Ari Fleischer says N Korea will not be rewarded for bad behaviour. Also today, Colin Powell says the US will resume food shipments to N Korea. Obviously they’re not coordinating. I’m not sure I understand the absolute US refusal to talk bilaterally with the N Koreans and its insistence that any talks be regional. Japan isn’t the one with 40,000 troops stationed in S Korea, we are.

From the Telegraph: A woman spent a night in jail for trying "to help" a 6ft long alligator she had run over in her car. Leslie Strickland, 49, took the animal to her home in Florida but when neighbours said it was illegal to possess an alligator she panicked, and drove off to find a pond in which to release it. But the animal thrashed its tail causing her to crash. She faces motoring offences. The animal died.

I thought this crap had stopped: Slovakia is still coercing gypsies into being sterilized.

Sharon adds another party to his coalition, one opposed to any Palestinian state. And some tiny parties which support ethnic cleansing get some positions too.

That Palestinian film, “Jenin Jenin,” that the Israelis banned? Some reservists who took part in the Massacre of Jenin have sued the director for libel. Incidentally, one cinema defied the ban and showed it.

Tom Toles’s political cartoons have been pretty good lately. On the Yahoo site is probably the easiest way to view them (well, second easiest: I have them sent to me as email).

The Bushies have been emphasizing more that the war in Iraq will lead to a wave of democratization all over the Middle East, what Bush calls a “battle for the future of the Muslim world.” (Oh good, a rabid Christian gets to decide that future.) That is, democratization unless you count the places like Jordan and Egypt that are putting anti-war protesters in prison (see the Amnesty International reports), or Turkey, which is about to defy 96% of its population (or as low as 94%, if you read other polls) and give support to the war, or... The Post talks about a credibility gap on this issue among those with long memories. What, like when we abandoned the Afghans to warlordism and a puppet government a few months ago?

The army chief of staff told a Senate committee that occupying Iraq would take hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Rumsfeld later said that he had “misspoken.”

The American ambassador to France says that the US would view a French veto of its war resolution as “very unfriendly.” I don’t know, I think friends don’t let friends do genocidal wars. Speaking of friends, a member of the Kurdish Parliament in northern Iraq says that if the US lets Turkish troops into Kurdistan, “the United States will lose its best friend.” I don’t know about best, but certainly most consistently gullible.

Incidentally, the Post article, under the haven’t-we-seen-this-before headline “Bush Firm Warning on Iraq,” says that the US draft resolution “recalls the council's November warning that Baghdad would face ‘serious consequences’ if it did not [disarm], language that the United States and its allies in the chamber view as an explicit authorization to use force.” Explicit? In what dictionary?

A Post article on possible ethics charges being filed against a Republican Congresscritter says that this would break a “six-year ethics truce,” but doesn’t elaborate. Sounds like there was an agreement to ignore all the ethics rules by not filing charges against each other. How cosy.

I mentioned the admiral who was removed from a battle group on the way to the Gulf for having sex with a subordinate. Evidently, that was the USS Kitty Hawk battle group. That’s “kitty hawk,” admiral, kitty, not...

No, no, I guess that joke isn’t really my style.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Prime Minister of garbage cans

The US keeps encouraging Iraq to resist the UN inspectors. For example, here’s Ari Fleischer today: “If Saddam Hussein destroys the missiles that he said he never had ... you've got to wonder what other weapons does he have?” No, Ari, you really don’t. They must be chortling over Iraq’s current Catch-22: give up missiles it needs to fight an inevitable war, or give the US the excuse it needs to start the war immediately. Although, as I said last week, the US keeps bombing sites in Iraq, with less and less justification (a story in the Independent since then makes the same point), so really the war is now in its, what, 13th year.

Hussein wants to debate GeeDubya. Wouldn’t that be hilarious?

The Farc rebels in Colombia say they will treat the 3 CIA employees as prisoners of war. Hey, that’s more than we’d do for them. In fact, if they are CIA employees, or indeed civilian contractors like the gov says, the Geneva Conventions do not apply to them. A story on NPR today I only heard the headline for comments on this aspect of the increasing employment by the Pentagon of (armed) outside contractors, which is a way to avoid Congress or the press noticing just how many of them there are spread out over Colombia, the Philippines and god knows where else.

A Kentucky grand jury refuses to indict a white cop who shot a black prisoner, who was in handcuffs, 11 times. Since June 2000 Louisville cops have shot 6 men to death. Five were black, no charges have been brought.

Sharon will exclude Shas from government. Its “spiritual leader,” a rabbi, calls Sharon “Prime Minister of garbage cans,” whatever that might mean.

Which reminds me. The next Austrian coalition gov, which is taking even longer to put together than Israel’s, will include the party of the gay neo-fascist Jorg Haider.

Jonathan Steele in the Guardian says that the risk that Blair et al are taking in going to war in defiance of public opinion requires that there be tv images of Iraqis dancing in the streets, just as the invasion of Afghanistan was retroactively justified by women throwing off their burquas. Never mind what happened after that, it’s those first images that matter. This is why the US’s seesawing plans for post-invasion governance matter so much. The British, who have some experience of this, seem to think that Viceroy Tommy Franks is not going to be good PR. And what after that? If the UN gives permission for this war, it gives up the right to send peacekeepers in later, as it could in Kosovo (4 years after the Yugoslavs were kicked out, the UN special representative rules by decree as absolute dictator, the Albanians having no more self-determination than they did under Milosevic). Anyway, why should the UN discredit itself by picking up the wreckage left by the US, because the US “only does war”? The Afghan model won’t work, because there are no warlords to bribe. Fortunately for the US, it won’t matter, because we will have forgotten about Iraq by the end of this year, just like Afghanistan.

Saw Gephardt on McNeil-Lehrer. He drones on worse than Gore.

The parents of the 9-year old pregnant rape victim in Nicaragua say fuck it and get her an abortion illegally. The medical board that is required to approve an abortion had said that she faced the same risks from either abortion or pregnancy (a 9-year old? bullshit!).

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Not so much running, as speed-walking

Good (but long) Joan Didion article on various aspects of life after 9/11.

Obit of the day: Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador to Britain who barely survived an assassination attempt in 1982, giving Israel the excuse to invade Lebanon. As a reminder of the human cost of these things, Argov was in the hospital for the last 21 years, blind and mostly paralyzed. Oh, and he strongly opposed the invasion of Lebanon and the fact that it was made in his name.

The White House denies that the 3 CIA employees kidnapped in Colombia last week were in fact CIA employees. Whatever happened to the thing about never confirming if people are in the CIA? That’s supposed to be policy. Whether these people really are or not (and of course they are), the policy is obviously now to lie, since what would they have said if the 3 were CIA? They’d never admit it, so they’d either lie, or do the neither-confirm-nor-deny thing, which if they’re only doing it for actual CIA employees and denying it for the rest, would be the same as admitting it. So, if you follow my logic, the official policy is now to lie.

London Times headlines, world in brief section: Struggle to Name Dead in Club Fire. Gee, isn’t that a bit late to be naming them, shouldn’t that have happened when they were, like, born? And a cop chasing thieves in his SUV (what else?) ran over 2 French sisters sunbathing. One is dead, one critical.

Sharon, still putting together a coalition, is giving housing over to a party representing the settlers. That can’t be good.

Some BBC headlines: “Blair: time running out for Iraq” (February 1, 2003); “Bush: time running out for Iraq” (January 14, 2003); “Straw: time running out for Iraq” (15 September, 2002); “Time is running out, UK warns Iraq” (November 9, 1998?)

Maybe it’s like one of those stores that always has a going out of business sale?

The Thai crackdown on drugs is up to 600 dead. is sponsoring a “Virtual March on Washington” Wednesday. Something about spamming Senators. Still, I’m picturing millions of people all over the country, sitting in front of their computers wearing those Virtual Reality gloves and glasses. Martin Luther King may have had a dream, but did it have kick-ass state-of-the-art digitized special effects, just like in Matrix? I thought not.

Satan for breakfast?

Crap I can’t make up: the “What Would Jesus Eat Cookbook.”

Bush: “if we are incapable of guaranteeing this peace, international peace would become senseless rhetoric.”

Choosing the next leader of Iraq, the American way.

Coffins are exploding

Crematorium workers in Sweden are complaining about a rise in exploding coffins caused by pacemakers and breast implants, and relatives placing liquor, bullets and fireworks in caskets.
Evidently Tom Ridge is recommending "Have a good communications plan for your family." Or, to paraphrase Tom Lehrer, if you don’t have a good communications plan for your family, the very least you can do is to shut up.

His Fraudulency GeeDubya’s radio address today was on the subject of stealth judicial candidate Miguel Estrada, who neither Chris nor I can hear about without thinking of the actor in the 1970s gay cop show Chips (which is especially odd because I’ve only seen the show once). Anyway, Bush says the D’s “are stalling Miguel Estrada's nomination, while they search in vain for a reason to reject him.” I just want to point out that UN weapons inspectors have also been looking, mostly in vain, for reasons to reject Saddam Hussein. However, in that case, Bush cites that as reason to assume the worst, whereas after stonewalling the Judiciary Committee for 21 months, he expects the Senate to assume the best about Estrada. The point in common is that he wants his way, and he wants it NOW, dammit! Also, he referred to the Bar Association’s rating of Estrada; although he has refused to cooperate with the ABA in assessing his nominees, he is willing to cite them when they agree with him. As with his attitude towards going to the UN for resolutions on Iraq, it’s heads he wins, tails he loses.

WashPost headline: “Columbia Panel Focuses on Foam.” That’s what every committee needs: a latte machine.

The Post has an editorial on something I’ve been meaning to talk about. On the 15th I sent a link from the NY Times about Bush’s AIDS in Africa policy. I said, and I quote myself, “So Bush’s AIDS-in-Africa policy is also an attempt to stop abortion. What a surprise.” Imagine my surprise when the same story was run (even elsewhere in the Times) under headlines which suggested that Bush was in fact liberalizing his policy by working on AIDS with groups that also do abortions, when in fact it was clear that he was trying to hamstring them and extend the gag rule. The Post has it right, although they give Bush too much credit for his Potemkin policy. They do note that while he promised $10 billion, he’s only increased the budget this year by 1/20 of that. And guess what, it’s stolen from child poverty programs (and run through religious groups and US pharmaceutical businesses, as I’ve already said, while the UN AIDS program goes bankrupt).

Friday, February 21, 2003


Click here. The bit about not running if you catch fire. But really, what do you make of #11, "account for your family members," which seems like it would take more counselling sessions than I'm really prepared to engage in, or #12, "Do not go back into a burning building and carefully supervise small children." Yes, a burning building is
probably not the best place to supervise small children.

Pardon my freedom

The Daily Show points out that the Dept of Homeland Security’s website has this useful piece of advice: if you are on fire, don’t run.

If you’re looking for parodies of the site, see this, this, and especially this. But to fully appreciate them, you must first experience the hilarious graphics and duct-and-cover advice on offer at the government site. For example, here we see how a simple door can block the blast, firestorm and radiation of a nuclear blast.

Speaking of stuff that’s already most of the way to being a satire of itself, there is a restaurant in NC that has renamed French Fries “freedom fries.” suggests some other changes: “Freedom kissing”, “Pardon my freedom.”

The Serbian prime minister threatens to sponsor a breakaway Serb province in Kosovo if the west doesn’t let Serbia’s troops return to “protect Serbs’ rights.” Well, it’s worked so well in the past.

The sharia courts in Nigeria are getting creative. A thief has been sentenced to “cross-amputation”: right hand and left leg.

Sexism rears its ugly head in the Russian space program, which during the current crisis will not be sending any more woman cosmonauts up.

8 foot ceiling. Fireworks. What could go wrong?

After arresting the Palestinian professor in Florida, the Justice Dept is now going after academics elsewhere, including accusing a lecturer at Birbeck College in London, producing this gulp-inspiring headline in the Telegraph: “Don Denies Terror Claims.”

In more random censorship news, Russian authorities shut down a newspaper for running a parody of Putin’s growing personality cult, and Spain orders a Basque paper closed for supporting independence (it appeared anyway today under a different name).

Creepy religious item of the day (only $20).

Thursday, February 20, 2003

A little snip is a small price to pay for such a splendid machine

Rumsfeld wants to change the law preventing the deployment of weapons systems (i.e., Star Wars) that don’t actually work.

350 or so American Special Forces troops (and support staff--actually a suspiciously high number of support staff) will join the Philippines government in active combat against rebels. I must have missed the Congressional debate on that one. You’ll remember this started off as a “training mission.”

Saw John Ashcroft on McNeil-Lehrer saying that the Patriot Act was what allowed him to arrest that South Florida professor today. And charge him with things that took place before that Act was passed.

Pakistan’s air force commander dies in an air crash. That reminds me, I’m thinking of forming a charity to bring much-needed irony to irony-deprived nations. Ironie Sans Frontièrs, maybe.

Hey if those prisoners being kept forever in Guantanamo are such dangerous, highly-trained terrorists, how come none of the 19 who have tried to commit suicide actually succeeded?

Evidently, private mobile phones are banned in Iraq. OK, it’s to prevent them contacting the outside world, but still, isn’t that a great idea?

Speaking of fascist dictatorships, at the Georgia high school where Bush spoke today, students were warned that any protest against the war to make the world safe for democracy would not be tolerated. See, this is what I’m saying, we in the US have more irony than we could ever possibly use, and there are countries where children go to bed each night hungry for it. We are only 5% of the world’s population, and we use 23% of the world’s supply of irony.

According to Al Kamen at the Post, the founder of the largest duct tape company in the US is a major contributor to the Republican Party. Kamen also mentions the wart thing, if you didn’t believe me.

Israel has looked over the US “roadmap” towards Palestinian independence, and has over 100 changes it wants to make, including that there be no timetable, and that Palestinians have to jump through many hoops before Israel does anything at all, and that Palestine would have no military, control over its borders or airspace, or diplomatic relations with anyone Israel doesn’t approve.

From the Daily Telegraph: “Samoa's government has decreed that a new national uniform, complete with coconut shell buttons, must be worn by everyone attending a state function. The uniform - suits for men and the neck-to-ankle puletasi for women - can be made out of any material as long as it features traditional designs. These should include the teuila, the national flower, on the left side of the shirt with the word "Samoa" printed in small letters underneath it.”

Evidently at some point Samoa was taken over by gay men.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

What would Jesus litigate?

Nicholas Kristof in the Times says roughly what I said last week about Bush’s frightening optimism.

It got no particular coverage, but police in Colorado Springs shot anti-war protesters with rubber bullets.

It’s kind of fun to watch the US and Turkey haggling about the size of the bribe Turkey’s going to get. We all know they’re going to come to a deal, but there’s all that bazaar bargaining to be gotten through first--“Sooner would I cut off my own left testicle than accept such a measly offer as $15 billion.” Hope they’re gonna pass some of the extortion money around; the last opinion poll showed 96% of Turks opposing this war, which may be higher than in Iraq itself. Actually, even with the bribe, Turkey is expecting to be really badly hit economically (unless of course it can find that map it says shows that the northern Iraqi oil fields are actually theirs), which should mean plenty of discontent, which I’m sure the Muslim extremists are much too ethical to exploit. No, no way this could go horribly horribly wrong.

Another possible political casualty is the EU. Chirac may be on the right side of the war issue (or he may be playing the Turkish game a little more subtly: God knows it’s not like he hasn’t taken a bribe or ten in his time), but he’s still a major prick, and way overplayed his hand when he told the Eastern (“new”) European states that now was a good time to shut up. Usually it takes an Israeli leader to come down from a moral height so quickly. Still, he may have a point: the US is using the former Warsaw Pact countries’ allegiance to NATO as a way of subverting their allegiance to a European community, or perhaps more accurately as part of an attempt at a hostile takeover of the EU by the US.

Have you noticed that the US bombing of Iraqi military sites, which is now a daily occurrence, no longer comes with any justification whatsoever (they fired a missile at us, they turned their radar on, they looked at us funny)?

Salon has an interview with Molly Ivins. They make you watch a commercial first, except they’re also failing economically and no one much wants to advertise, so sometimes you can’t read anything, like yesterday when it first ran.

Evidently part of the reason the GAO abandoned its efforts to get the names of Cheney’s energy advisors is that the R’s threatened to cut its budget.

Colin Powell, showing why generals make crappy diplomats, accuses the French--excuse me, “some nations”--of being “afraid of stepping up to the responsibility of imposing the will of the international community”. Oooo, now he’s calling them ‘fraidy cats. That should work--if they’re six.

Also, what’s “will of the international community” when it’s at home? The Holy Ghost?

A study shows that the majority of AIDS cases in Africa before 1988 were caused by unsterilized needles. This may or not be true, but there’s certainly been something of a cover-up of unsafe medical practices, for fear that Africans will give up on Western medicine altogether.

Another creepy medical story: a pregnant woman goes into the hospital in Sardinia to give birth, but instead for some reason decides to jump out the window, killing herself. A caesarian is performed successfully on her dead body.

Here’s a story of truly French thieves: they broke into a cheese cellar in eastern and stole one ton of something called comte (like gruyere, the article says), worth about $10,000.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Down with this sort of thing

You know what else duct tape is good for? Removing warts, evidently.

More signs from the London anti-war rally: “Stop Mad Cowboy Disease", "Down With This Sort Of Thing", "Peace Not Slogans". It occurs to me that y’all probably thought my reference to grass in Hyde Park was a joke. If it was, it was that of the government, which initially tried to ban the rally from the park on that basis (mow down Iraqis, not grass). They had to back down, unlike the NY City government, which got away with trying to stop anti-war protests in NYC, with, as it turns out, a friend-of-the-court brief by the Bushies (which I’m hoping someone will put online).

What the fuck just happened in the Cyprus elections?

Sharon, anxious to increase Israel’s Jewish population, has decided to import some 20,000 Ethiopians who may or may not have once been Jewish.

Chirac today said that war is always the worst resolution. It’s too bad he was unaware that that is the motto of the Bush administration: “Always the Worst Resolution, since 2001.”

The Nicaraguan government is mulling over whether to allow a 9-year old rape victim to have an abortion. Cardinal Obando y Bravo (remember him?) naturally thinks she should be forced to carry it to term.

Remember when Shrub went to Spain and got Prime Minister Aznar’s name and title wrong? Well, his brother is there now, promoting trade, and referred to the “Republic of Spain.” The king is not happy. Fortunately, the Aznar problem may not plague Shrub long, since Aznar’s support for Bush’s war has caused his support, like Tony Blair’s, to plummet.

Thailand’s crackdown on drug use has somehow wound up with 397 dead, and counting.

As the FCC considers relaxing rules against media monopolies yet further, read this on the Venezuelan media’s onslaught against Hugo Chavez. This is a must read.

N Korea threatens to tear up the armistice agreement ending the Korean War, or more accurately says that US actions have already abrogated it.

The last New Zealand veteran of World War I has died.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

One Two Three Four...

Looking back on old emails, I find I forgot, when discussing Powell’s UN speech, to use a fact which I was holding for an apposite moment. Actually, I’m wondering how many of you were aware of this: in 1969 Powell wrote the first report on the My Lai massacre, which he said based on no investigation did not happen, and added that in fact the American soldiers had great relations with the Vietnamese people.

The US expels an Iraqi journalist covering the UN. Hopefully the UN will protest. But I’m guessing the point was to make sure that Iraq would respond and kick US journos out, so there will be fewer pictures of the coming carnage broadcast in the US. And sure enough, some Fox News reporters are kicked out. Or possibly Iraq is just taking seriously the Fox slogan “We report, you decide,” and made the decision the rest of us would like to make--to deport all employees of Fox.

Given that Turkey is trying to extort a bribe of something like $25 billion to aid the war effort, it’s hard to get too worked up over France and Germany holding up deploying weaponry there.

Well over a million people marched to Hyde Park against the war, doing the grass simply no good at all. One person protested in support of war outside the Iraqi embassy. Protesters included the Eton George Orwell Society, Archaeologists Against War, the Swaffham Women's Choir and Notts County Supporters Say Make Love Not War (And a Home Win against Bristol would be Nice). “Make Tea Not War,” and the slightly cleaner and infinitely more British version of an old American standard: “One Two Three Four, We Don’t Want Your Bloody War.” One man walking a poodle had a sign “Stop insulting poodles.” The astonishing thing is that no one is chanting the equivalent of Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh. No one actually supports Saddam; the protest is purely anti-war. Tony Blair does not have the British people behind him, nor his own party, but he does have proxy control over the royal prerogative and a willingness to substitute his personal judgment for that of the nation.

Here’s a paragraph from a Mary Riddell column in the Observer:
Political leaders hate crowds. Mass meetings have been supplanted by leaks and soundbites. In the fractious build-up to war, lonely societies are encouraged to become more solipsistic. A fearful population, hiding behind its anthrax-proofed windows, is also tractable. There is nothing threatening to government about citizens bickering over the last roll of duct tape in Wal-Mart.
So Bush’s AIDS-in-Africa policy is also an attempt to stop abortion. What a surprise.

The American ambassador to Venezuela, where the US has supported a coup and really should shut up now, says that elections aren’t the answer. “Elections divide people. Elections don't bring people together ... Either you're on this side or you're on that side”. Or to put it another way, the elected president, Chavez, should give in to the rich people holding his country hostage.

Incidentally, Iraq rejected the Franco-German peace plan (which involved UN soldiers, for no obvious reason since there has been no resistance to inspections). Doesn’t seem to have gotten much play yet, only saw it in one paper.

Friday, February 14, 2003

A mad Martian come to live on Earth

WashPost headline: “Shuttle Probably Was Pierced.” Last time it was the O rings, now it’s evidently the belly button rings.

NY Times headline: “Survey Shows Majority Backs Delaying a War.” How ‘bout this one: “Survey Shows Majority Backs Whatever the Last Person They Heard Call Into Talk Radio Said.” The poll also says 42% think Saddam was involved in 9/11.

Doonesbury joins the chorus pointing out that Bush has never asked for sacrifice in the war on terror. That’s ok, we’re sacrificing quite enough for tax cuts for the rich.

Bush: “The decision is this for the United Nations: When you say something does it mean anything?” We’ve been wondering the same thing about you for years now, George. for the 2/14 front page.

Saddam issues a decree banning weapons of mass destruction. So that’s ok then.

AP headline: “Boston Priest Reinstated After Probe.” No comment.

The US Navy, showing that sense of priorities for which it is famous, removed the Admiral in charge of a battle group that is literally heading for the Gulf right now, because he had sex with a (female) subordinate.

A little late, some Valentine’s Day cards. My favorites: “You’ll do.” “I love you blah blah blah hearts & flowers yadda yadda yadda cupid etc.”

Here’s a British Valentine’s Day story: a juror in a fraud case sent a card to the prosecutor, asking him out. She was bounced off the jury and the other 11 quizzed about whether they also wanted to have sex with the prosecutor. None did. He won the case.

Russia’s tax police are going to start questioning the *children* of suspected tax cheats--using lie detectors.

Not really sure what this is about (from the Daily Telegraph): Einars Repse, Latvia's prime minister, told critics of his first 100 days in office that he was a "mad Martian come to live on Earth".

Yet another “old” European country makes Rummy’s hit-list. Austria is refusing to let the US transport troops through the country. Austria is not, of course, a member of NATO, but no one knows if the Secretary of War knew that. Or cared.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Duct tape, plastic sheeting, and other Valentine's Day accessories

The fake bin Laden suggests in that tape that Iraqis fight the Americans by digging ditches and camouflaging them. Presumably this involves plastic sheeting and duct tape, as recommended by Tom Ridge and Jeffrey Daumer (possibly for different reasons).

The Congressional hearings on the Columbia accident have already begun, and a commission set up. Meanwhile any investigation of the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, 17 months ago, remain stalled.

Here’s another ironic contrast: North Korea has a new ballistic missile capable of reaching California, which the Bushies will no doubt soft-pedal, while Iraq has been found to have a missile capable of traveling 183 kilometers, breaking the limits placed on its missile capacity by a full twenty miles, which means it can reach a bit more of Kuwait than it could before, and I’m just guessing that Powell and Rumsfeld will explain how that is a reason why we need to go to war with Iraq.

Speaking of double standards, the perceived need to prepare for war is so strong that we’re threatening trade sanctions on Germany and France for preventing NATO moving weaponry into Turkey, why isn’t Iraq allowed to prepare for the same war. We’re calling up reserves, moving troops into place, bombing defensive sites in Iraq every day, even operating militarily inside Iraq according to today’s WashPost, etc., but if Iraq made any of these preparations, it would be, you guessed it, another reason why we need to go to war with Iraq.

In Parliament today, Jack Straw accused the Iraqis of giving inspectors nothing but a “reprint of earlier documents.” He should talk. He also accused Saddam of tyranny, while refusing to let Parl vote on going to war.

In the British census, 390,000 people designated themselves Jedis. They will not officially be counted, although they outnumber newer religions (depending on how long ago “a long time ago (in a galaxy etc)” actually is) like Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists. The registrar general, asked if he was being presumptuous in deciding what constituted a religion, said that he had acted “with immense consultation and remarkable concentration"”--like Yoda.

Ooh, are the Israelis pissed off at Belgium, whose supreme court ruled that Ariel Sharon can be tried for war crimes in the 1982 Sabra/Shatila massacres after he leaves office. Netanyahu calls it a “blood libel,” although the charge is neither a collective charge against the Jews, nor is the massacre false. The Israeli justice minister astonishingly says, "Legally, this is practically a world precedent, a law which allows for the prosecution of a person for alleged actions in the past. It has a clear retroactive nature to it and is, therefore, unprecedented." I can’t see any reason why the Israeli justice minister would ever have heard of the Nuremberg trials, can you? Or indeed, Adolf Eichmann’s trial. Unprecedented, indeed.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Highest moral traditions

At a religious broadcasters’ event, Bush says war with Iraq would be “in the highest moral traditions of our country.” Do you think when Shrub uses the word “moral” he has in mind a different definition than the rest of us?

Speaking of our moral war, the US ambassador to the Vatican last week flew a conservative theologian to Rome to try to persuade the pope that this is a just war. Your tax dollars at work.

Still speaking of a moral war, an article in the New Statesman 1/20/03 issue by John Gray suggests that the problem with American foreign policy is that Bush believes evil can be eradicated from the world by an act of will (an unforgiving moral optimism, he calls it), while Europeans, say, know better. Countries that have had experience of endemic violence (Northern Ireland, the Basques, Cyprus) know that dealing with it is a process, not a single event--while the Bushies expect to be out of Iraq within 18 months. Gray thinks that such rhetoric stops the US admitting that international relations is often about a choice among evils, and inhibits honesty about mundane interests, like oil. “But if Bush talks so insistently of evil, it is because he belongs in a tradition of American piety that does not finally believe in it. Like Woodrow Wilson before him, he does not doubt that once the world has accepted American values, it will enjoy everlasting peace and prosperity.”

The reference to Wilson is apt. Somehow with the eclipse of Kissingerian Machiavellianism in the American right by the, yes, unforgiving moral optimism of the Reagan-Shrubite wing, the optimist/pessimist view of human nature has switched between the right and left wings. The Jefferson-Adams, Paine-Burke debate is still being fought out, but the left has become institutionally conservative, advocating restraints on power such as the UN and the Bill of Rights, while the right wing has become scarily optimistic about the use of power--on the side of the angels--without any constraints, such as international treaties, the UN, or, domestically, the Bill of Rights and Congressional oversight. I mean, look at Ashcroft’s draft of the “Patriot II” Act (This time it’s personal). This isn’t actually a traditional rightist use of power; it’s not the Palmer raids or McCarthyism, it’s the French or Russian Revolutions, it’s the electronic equivalent of the Jacobin clubs and those little old ladies who used to sit in chairs in the stairwells of apartment buildings in Moscow, taking note of who came and went. And if you think the left wing was dangerous when it sought absolute power in the pursuit of creating heaven on earth, imagine Dubya exercising absolute power in “the highest moral traditions of our country.”

I trust you’ve all bought your duct tape, to defend against the next terrorist attack. Remember, we are at Condition Orange because of specific information of terrorist threats, although Tom Ridge admits that specific information does not include “time or place or methods or means.” With that definition of specific, Ridge would not have done well in journalism school.

The Pentagon has ordered 77,000 body bags.

The Guardian says that the British government is working on plans for establishing democracy in Iraq--one plan would have it fully functioning within six months. The Iraqi people would just go off to polling booths in the rubble of their nearest school or city hall.

The Bushies have successfully muddied the waters, convincing the great unwashed, but totally brainwashed, American public that Iraq is somehow linked to 9/11, that Powell was authenticating a tape of Osama bin Laden (that I predict will turn out not to be him) before he’d even heard it, and touting it as a reason to go to war with Iraq, although in a rational universe, a reminder of the existence of He Whose Name George Bush Is Not Allowed To Say Out Loud would be an embarrassing reminder of past unfinished business.

You know those commercials that people who use drugs are supporting terrorism? Yeah, but did you know they’re also not banned from joining the military? If you’re trying to enlist and you test positive for marijuana, why you can just come back in 45 days (a year if you fail a second time; or one year if you’re positive for cocaine). I assume if you have amphetamines in your system, the Air Force welcomes you with the keys to a bomber.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Tom Hanks (and that donkey) died for your sins

I said that the Franco-German plan on Iraqi inspection was sensible. It’s also invisible. OK, I expected it to be dismissed by the Bushies, but both the NY Times and McNeil-Lehrer today took their cues from them and neglected to provide the actual details of the plan, as if discussion of alternatives to war were irrelevant because Secretary of War Rumsfeld says so.

Rummy and Powell, increasingly reading off the same hymnal, both use the word “inexcusable” to describe Germany, France and Belgium’s refusal to act on the presumption of a war by sending weapons to Turkey. Well, we’ve already forgiven Germany for that whole Hitler thing and the Holocaust thing, but yes, this time they’ve finally done something inexcusable. And France--well, the NY Post’s front page shows a picture of graves in Normandy and the headline "They died for France but France has forgotten." Yeah, it’s like they haven’t seen Saving Private Ryan.

And by the way, 150 million people are not and cannot be “isolated.”

Israel has been replacing the old gas masks given out after the last Gulf War. Except for the Occupied Territories, of course.

FAIR has a good report ( on the numerous allegations the US has made against Iraq over the last few months subsequently disproved by UN inspectors or otherwise, and suggests that the media should have treated the Powell report with a touch more skepticism, whereas in fact his claims were often reported as if they were fact, without the usual distancing words like “claimed”, “alleged” that they’re supposed to make when reporting unverified assertions.

PETA’s president has written to Yasser Arafat, complaining about an attempt to blow up Israeli soldiers with explosives strapped to, gasp shock horror, a donkey. “We watched on television as stray cats in your own compound fled as best they could from the Israeli bulldozers. . . . If you have the opportunity, will you please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?” I looked at the PETA website, but could find nothing more on this, although there was a pop-up ad for Burger King. Veggie burgers, of course.

The 8th Circuit rules that an insane prisoner who is (usually) sane only when medicated can be executed. The court says that Arkansas has an interest in having sane inmates, so the side-effect of sanity should not impact his fate.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

Buy a slurpie--if you hate America

I got a paper cut today from a bagel. How is that possible? Not from the knife, either, from the actual bagel.

Click here. Just do it (except people receiving email from Kevin, who had the same idea, but whose mail server, unlike mine, was working this morning).

The exec director of the New Hampshire Republican Party just resigned. It seems he hired a telemarketing firm to jam the lines of the Democratic party’s get-out-the-vote operation with 5-second hang-up calls last election days.

The Franco-German plan on Iraq is nicely sensible. So of course it is rejected out of hand by the US. Powell has joined Rummy in condescending to the Europeans, telling Germany and France to read UN resolution 1441 again.

Rummy, in a breathtaking interview with the Times of London, answers one of my questions, how he could say that if Saddam fled he could get amnesty. The Rumster says that the country he goes to could simply say that it wasn’t going to extradite him. See, I was wondering how the US could legally give him world-wide asylum, but the man who discredits my first name says, just ignore international law altogether. Hell, the judges on the International Court are just a bunch of girls. Probably on the same menstrual cycle. (There, I’ve finally figured how to use that joke without being accused of sexism--I’ve attributed it to Rocket Rummy.)

Sue Myrick, the NC Congresscritter who I mentioned made comments about all 7-11 owners being Arabs, explains that she simply wanted to remind people of the dangers of terrorism, including "the illegal trafficking of food stamps through convenience stores for the purpose of laundering money to countries known to harbor terrorists."

The new Union of Serbia and Montenegro is going along smoothly. The prime minister of Montenegro refused to attend celebrations of the new forced marriage and accused the EU of forcing Montenegro into it, and promises a referendum on real independence in 3 years. (I just read for the first time that the US may be encouraging them, because it wants a new vassal state--and a nice new naval base). Montenegro has been called a Mafia state by the Italians, of all countries, and a bunch of its leaders are implicated in a scandal in which the deputy state prosecutor bought a sex slave from Moldova and passed her around. And they just failed, again, to elect a president. No one has noticed or cares that Kosovo was forced into the same country without any pretense that anyone cares what Kosovans want.

The US is making a deal with Turkey allowing it to occupy Iraqi Kurdistan. No, no, *first* you get the Kurds to fight for you, *then* you betray them; it’s worked so well in the past.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

A poison factory is a term of art

Evidently the US tabloids have been calling the French what Le Monde has translated as primates capitulards et tou-jours en quête de fromages (cheese-eating surrender monkeys). It comes from Les Simpsons. There is also a column against France in the Sunday NY Times by Tom Friedman, whose IQ drops a point per day as we approach war. Yes, the French aren’t convinced of the need to fry the children of Baghdad, they must be stopped. Rumsfeld says that European governments that don’t support the war will be rejected by their own people. Meanwhile, his own German relatives told him to go to hell.

A British story, but it’s bound to be happening here too, says that bullied children are turning to steroids.

Colin Powell showed a satellite picture of what he called “terrorist chemicals and poisons factory” in northern Iraq. An Observer reporter has gone there, and it is no such thing, although there is a bakery. The NY Times also reports on this. Defending the lie, a State Dept spokesmodel says, “A poison factory is a term of art.”

Also in the Observer, a bit more about the British citizen Texas executed this week. I had missed the fact that the real murderer didn’t serve even a day of jail time. And that all 12 jurors signed a petition asking for DNA testing, which was never done.

The Bush admin threatens public schools with loss of federal funds if they don’t allow students and teachers to pray, loudly and openly, although not with each other.

The GAO gives up on its attempt to get the records of Cheney’s energy task force. Wimps. And in the Senate, James Inhofe hired a mining industry lobbyist to oversee clean air legislation.

6 of 7 of the judges on the new International Criminal Court will be women.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Good cop

I’ve finished reading Powell’s speech, and the impression of intellectual dishonesty grows. Here’s my favorite: “in the history of chemical warfare, no country has had more battlefield experience with chemical weapons since World War I than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.” What he means by battlefield experience is that Iraq was subject to chemical warfare by Britain in 1920 (1921?). Also, I didn’t know Hussein had been in power for 85 years.

He also used the “dual-use” argument, that the chemical weapons “infrastructure” was embedded within civilian industry, so deeply that no one, including experts (UN inspectors, say) could tell. He offered no proof of this, of course.

Does anyone remember Reagan showing grainy satellite footage of that runway being constructed in Grenada, implying that it was a huge secret, when anyone could, and did, just walk in and take all the photos they wanted, as some smartass reporters could, and did? Well, Powell says that, while Iraq will argue that various equipment is being used for legitimate purposes, “But if that is true, why did we have to learn about them by intercepting communications and risking the lives of human agents?” Because you and your little friends like playing spies?

Incidentally, if Powell is good cop to Rumsfeld’s bad cop, has anyone considered that the police tactic of good-cop-bad-cop is actually a piece of play-acting? Is it possible that all that posing as a “dove” was just a prelude for this week’s little morality play, wherein honest and not-at-all-warlike General Powell finds himself persuaded all against his will of the necessity for war?

Bad cop Rummy Rumsfeld (played by Dennis Franz) says that Germany won’t help us--just like Libya and Cuba.

The picture of an Iraqi plane spraying chemical agents wasn’t actual footage, by the way, although news channels didn’t necessarily label it as a Pentagon art project.

And what do you suppose was actually in that vial of anthrax?

It turns out that the British “dossier” on how bad Saddam is, which Powell praised in his speech, was plagiarized to a large extent, right down to the typographical errors, from published articles, some of them years old. So much for MI6, whose sources turn out to be a subscription to Jane’s Intelligence Review.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

These horrible agents

I meant to direct your attention to a N Korean propaganda poster featured on the front page of the NY Times Saturday, but forgot. Fortunately, here it is, and several others.

I saw an SUV outside Trader Joe’s last week, with a Ralph Nader bumper sticker. I took it for post-modern irony. Or possibly delusion: it was parked in a compact space, so maybe the owner thought they were driving a Sentra. Anyway, I’ve got a modest proposal: since SUVs are only purchased to drive your kids to a soccer game on a butte and such, I say let’s ban them from paved roads altogether. They’ll get good use out of their 4-wheel drives, and the rest of us will get faster, safer commutes.

Interview with Kurt Vonnegut on the war and such.

On why we should send the Statue of Liberty back to the frog-eaters.

Symbolism of the week: when Colin Powell went to the UN today, the staff covered up Picasso’s Guernica.

Said Powell: “Clearly, Saddam will stop at nothing until something stops him.” Clearly.

He also said (clearly) that when Resolution 1441 passed, “No Council member present...had any illusion...what serious consequences meant.” In other words, he is again saying that the French (etc) actually voted to let the US go to war with Iraq, and just either forgot or are lying about it.

Well, Powell successfully made the case that Iraq isn’t being very cooperative with the inspectors, and that neither is the United States. Imagine how much more effective the inspectors would be if the US hadn’t saved up its alleged intelligence for this day. Yes, the Iraqis are trying to hide weapons. But, as Powell himself said a few days ago, just because there’s a UN doesn’t mean that nations give up their sovereign right to defend themselves. How much more so for Iraq, which is being asked to give up all its weapons more dangerous than a pointy stick, when it is faced with certain war. Powell’s actual evidence was semi-convincing, though most of it depended on relying on him to be right and telling the truth about what those buildings were (although those satellite pictures were great, weren’t they? And that’s after being deliberate fuzzed up to hide our capabilities. Certainly good enough that you’d have to ask why we need U-2 flights), who those people were, and for god’s sake, how seriously are we expected to take this line: “Stop talking about it. They are listening to us. Don't give any evidence that we have these horrible agents.” These horrible agents? You mean your agent Maury who got you this gig, telling you it was an episode of Law & Order? Horrible agents indeed. Who writes this dialog?

Even William Safire, who has pretty much turned off his analytic skills for the duration, wonders why if we knew about an Al Qaida base in northern Iraq (an area not under Saddam’s control, but effectively an American protectorate anyway), we didn’t just bomb it into oblivion. The aluminum tubes were brought out again, and still prove nothing. Some defector testimony, which is always valueless, and stuff obtained by torture. The Iraqi-Al Qaida connections are laughable, of course (some of Powell’s claims have already been denied by British intelligence).

Speaking of intelligence, Guardian arcticle on previous American intelligence failures and/or lies: the Kuwaiti babies in the incubators, the Tonkin Gulf “incident,” the “chemical weapons” factory in Khartoum, etc.

Oh, and North Korea just threatened the US with a first strike. You’d think that would be news, but the good people at the NY Times evidently don’t.

2 Republican Congresscritters from NC have little problems with racism. Howard Coble, chair of the subcommittee on domestic security, says that FDR was right to intern Japanese, because weren’t a multicultural society then. And Sue Myrick also warns of the enemy within: “Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.”

Speaking of the enemy within, the World Court just ordered the US to stop executing Mexican nationals.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

To the president's recollection, he thinks he has been there

GeeDubya calls the US space program “a desire written in the human heart.” But he can’t remember whether or not he’s ever visited the Johnson Space Center. Which is in Houston. Says his spokesmodel, “To the president's recollection, he thinks he has been there.” In George Bush’s head, no one can hear you scream. Ari Fleischer also says Bush has never seen a NASA takeoff or landing because there are so many other beautiful things to see.

Speaking of beautiful things to see in Texas, the state executed that innocent guy today. The prosecution did release to the defense the documents it had previously withheld, a full 7 hours before the execution, so that’s fair enough. The DNA test was never performed.

All hail the Union of Serbia and Montenegro Until the Next Civil War, as the nation of Yugoslavia is voted out of existence. Farewell, Union of Southern Slavs, and don’t let the war crimes tribunal hit you in the ass on the way out.

From the Daily Telegraph (a story about Britain): “The Catholic Church is to appoint an education "tsar" to fight suggestions that Catholic schools are breeding grounds for sectarianism and religious bigotry.” Yes, to show how open and tolerant you are, you’re appointing a TSAR.

Speaking of tolerance, New Mexico’s state senate saves the proud sport of cock-fighting from being outlawed. Evidently it’s an important part of Hispanic culture, according to some assholes.

Evidently I failed to mention the Bush plan to let states reduce Medicaid payments, impose co-pays, throw people off, etc etc, without having to get federal permission. This would not only set off a race to the bottom, which we’ve already begun, but end Medicaid as an entitlement program, which is the idea.

Drinking pesticides for fun and profit

Here’s a subtle clue that your housekeeping might not be the best: after hearing a loud crash in my bedroom during one of Sunday’s earthquakes, I couldn’t figure out what had fallen down.

The fed gov is asking a court to dismiss a suit by a whistle blower who said that Star Wars doesn’t work, and was fired. The gov says that letting her have her day in court would let military secrets out (like the fact that Star Wars doesn’t work, I’m guessing).

Speaking of secrets, Chuck Hagel, Republican Senator of Nebraska, owned the company that ran the voting machines that counted the votes that put him into that office in 1996 in a surprise win (the company threatened to sue someone who found went public). Article on how computerized vote-counting is a black box that leaves no verifiable paper trail. The whole country is now Florida. The Hill reports (there’s a link to the story from the above link) that Hagel failed to disclose his interest in the company, as required by law. His company makes half the voting machines used in the US, and this is very paranoid-making.

So why is Tony Blair, whose pursuit of whatever the latest opinion poll tells him to pursue is legendary, following Bush’s line so assiduously when he can’t even bring the Labour party behind him, much less the British people? I’m thinking Shrub’s got pictures of him tied up and being whipped, possibly by Hillary Clinton. Today, Mr. Blur actually channeled Lyndon Johnson: "History points to this lesson: show weakness now and no one will ever believe us when we try to show strength in the future”.

Guardian on the US’s war in Colombia, and the legalization of new death squads in that country. For the spelling-challenged, this is the nation of Colombia, not the space shuttle Columbia. When Colombia falls apart in a mass of flaming debris, it will not be available at reasonable prices on Ebay.

Bayer paid college students, mostly in Edinburgh, to test out some pesticides. By drinking them. This actually violates the Nuremberg Code. Bayer is a subsidiary of IG Farben, which brought you Zyklon B.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Creationists are suing a Texas Tech professor who won’t write letters of recommendation for students who don’t believe in evolution.

The Catholic Church bans transsexuals from being priests.

I mentioned that Bush’s little initiative on AIDS in Africa mostly bypasses the UN AIDS fund. That fund ran out of money today.

The US is planning to use sea lions in the Iraq war.

You can now pass Florida’s high school PE requirements online. Now why didn’t they have that when I was in high school?

The Bush admin wants to keep using methyl bromide, a pesticide due to be banned under an international agreement to protect the ozone layer, because it is necessary to one of the American industries most beloved of Republicans: golf courses.

CanNOT make this shit up.

Speaking of poison gases, it seems that the gassing of the Kurds in Halabja was actually the work of Iran, not Iraq.

Britain is working on setting up new tests for aliens seeking citizenship. It includes how to use a telephone, what the cops can and can’t do, “etiquette of everyday life,” equality of the sexes, the funny name of that guy Mrs. Wallace Simpson was fucking, why Wales only gets a “National Assembly” while Scotland has a “Parliament,” etc etc. What it does not include, to much tut tutting, is British history. I believe the American system is that if you can correctly answer any historical questions (what decade did World War II occur in, that sort of thing), you are promptly expelled.

Well, there’s nothing like a little shuttle explosion to break the monotony of war coverage. Shrub, in a speech I thankfully missed, said, "The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today.” He added, “On the other hand, the joker who named Uranus...”

Observer on an innocent man Texas is due to execute this week. The police kept back evidence of his innocence, just brought to light. And the judge who is to decide whether to issue a stay, has evidently already made up his mind--if you count a letter to the pardons & parole board telling them they should fry the guy--but is willing to take new evidence, two days after the execution.