Saturday, January 31, 2004

A buzzword that causes a lot of negative reaction

Dress George W. Bush, just like Laura does every morning.

Latest rules for Californian voters re “open primaries”: they’ve changed yet again, this time some of the way in the direction demanded by voters at 2 elections. If you are not registered with any party, you may request a Democratic or Republican ballot on March 2nd. Oddly enough, the R’s will let you vote for any elected office except president.

Sharpton in the most recent debate: “As far as Mr. Bush saying that he doesn't need a permission slip from the U.N., he doesn't think he needs votes from the American people to be president.” You’ll miss him Reverend Al when he’s gone, you know you will.

The Post says that Bush’s drug prescription plan will cost, according to the White House, 1/3 more than they said it would just 2 months ago. Well, what a surprise, and if this country had an opposition, they’d be pointing out that nothing Bush says before a vote in Congress ever turns out to be true. The reasons he gives are always false, the price-tag is always a lie.

Which reminds me that I forgot to send the link to an op-ed piece in the NYT 2 days ago, in the style of the Harper’s Index. Favorite bit:
Average elderly American's drug costs in 2002: $2,400

Portion of his drug costs covered by the new Medicare drug
benefit: 45 percent

Average markup on United States drug prices relative to
Canadian drug prices: 45 percent

Nailing the Bushies to the wall, using only Google.

One of the effects of the Gropenführer’s refusal to raise state income taxes while piling on “fees,” is to increase the degree to which California is screwed at the federal level, paying much more in federal taxes than it gets back. See, state income taxes are deductible, but not the fees. So he’s keeping one set of our taxes artificially low, while effectively increasing our federal taxes.

That comes from a discussion somewhere online of an op-ed NYT piece which notes that states that receive more money from the federal government than they pay it in taxes voted for Bush in 2000 (78% of his electoral votes), while the Giver states voted Gore (76%). (Florida is a Taker state).

Also a good Paul Krugman column Friday on how “nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong” while others are punished for telling inconvenient truths, and attempts to check on Bush performance are thwarted, stonewalled and intimidated.

AP: “The Bush administration is moving to replace safety requirements at federal nuclear facilities with standards written by contractors, according to a draft regulation.”

The German cannibal was sentenced to prison. You know the saying: a minute on the lips, 8½ years in the pokey. I believe they got through the entire trial without anyone asking him what human tastes like.

The last British soldier who won a bravery medal in World War I dies, at 104.

Israel has finally conducted its little prisoner exchange, releasing 429 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners & 59 Hezbollah corpses in exchange for 3 dead Israelis and one live Israeli drug dealer. The Lebanese were held without trial as hostages, pursuant to a 1994 Israeli Supreme Court decision that the Geneva Accords could be so violated. (There is another story about the drug dealer, that he is actually a Mossad operative who had been kicked out of Switzerland after a botched assassination attempt on 2 Hezbollahites on the condition that he never return; when he was sent back, the Swiss shopped him to Hezbollah).

It’s not just evolution: Georgia’s history curriculum starts world history in 1500 AD, and American history does the founding of the country and then skips to 1876. Picture Basil Fawlty with a Southern accent: Don’t mention the Civil War. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Though teachers supposedly have no time to discuss topics essential to understanding our heritage, the curriculum suggests they have their students write a 1920s radio drama. Teachers are also encouraged to assign essays about dating in the Jazz Age and to show segments from "All in the Family," "Good Times" and "Chico and the Man."”

Suggested final exam question: would Freddie Prinze Sr have killed himself if he had known that one day his son would marry Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Anyway, the idiot schools supe says she removed the word evolution because it’s "a buzzword that causes a lot of negative reaction." At the same press conference, she advocated the “theory” of “intelligent design,” which she called a scientific theory appropriate for science classes. Jimmy Carter has denounced her.

I missed this week’s debate, in which immoderator Tom Brokaw said “there is a great war going on in the world between the West and the Nation of Islam.”

Just read a really interesting article from the Nov-Dec Mother Jones on religious programs in prisons. It’s worse than we thought. The Christians get their own wings, where they get many privileges unavailable to other prisoners. It’s the details that make this story (after a bit of a slow start).

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Biological changes over time

I don’t know if anyone here is really interested in a dissection of the Hutton Report (but I am, which is the important thing), which is being treated as Holy Writ across the pond for no reason that I can see, but below is a link to one that explains why it is a whitewash. Actually, I think the report is so one-sided that its reputation can’t last long, I hope, because I’d hate to see the damage to the BBC that could arise. Best bit: The term "sexed up", as Lord Hutton explained yesterday, with wonderfully understated, under-sexed distaste, is "a slang expression, the meaning of which lacks clarity in the context of the dossier". Hutton blames the BBC for only using one source in its story that the government knew its claim that Iraq’s WMDs could be launched in 45 minutes was false. Guess how many sources the government had for making that claim? (Later:) spoke too soon. The British public, according to 2 polls, think Hutton was a whitewash.

Astonishing half sentence in a WaPo report: “Although the drug industry's practice of suppressing data unfavorable to its products is legal...” The article, which suggests that antidepressants don’t work on children (because the drug companies did tests on children but didn’t report them), is an eye-opener on the drug industry in general.

The Senate 86-9 votes to let companies under-fund their pensions.

And House Republicans are planning to hold up bankruptcy help for farmers, tying it to their awful bankruptcy bill and a provision allowing abortion protesters to get out of paying their fines through bankruptcy.

A new, rather well-paid profession in Denmark: substitutes for rich people sent to prison. Evidently when you show up to prison in Denmark, you don’t have to show a photo id.

AP story: “Statue of Yoda Worth $20,000 Is Stolen.” Folks, there exists a $20,000 statute...of Yoda.

Bushies are responding to David Kay and the absence of WMDs by calling for more time to investigate, and patience. But want the 9/11 commission to wrap it up, pronto, with no extensions. If there were an opposition party in this country, that little contradiction could be used quite effectively. Hell, if there were an opposition party in this country (or an independent-minded media), the Bushies couldn’t get away with uttering blatant inconsistencies like that.

The Daily Show had clips of every losing candidate in NH claiming some sort of victory, including 5th place Joe Lieberman saying he was in a 3-way tie for 3rd place. Jon Stewart asked when the primaries became the Special Olympics. And there’s a good parody of this (“when I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money for things like tracking polls and negative advertising”) at Slate.

Speaking of spin, Governor Ahnuuuuuld says that the court decision that he illegally loaned his campaign $4.5m is “fantastic news.”

The 11th Circuit allows Florida to ban gays from adopting. Jeb Bush, one of whose brothers is an alcoholic with a history of driving drunk with minors in the car, and another of whose brothers frequents prostitutes and fathered a child with a woman while both were married to other people, welcomed the decision: “The decision validates Florida's conclusion that it is in the best interest of adopted children, many of whom come from troubled and unstable backgrounds, to be placed in a home anchored both by a father and a mother.” Well, actually single people can adopt in Florida. If they’re straight. This law was pushed in the ‘70s by Anita Bryant, another parent of the year.

Not surprisingly, Bush is reneging on his promise-related program activity to increase AIDS spending in the 3rd World.

We are moving towards elections here. I received a newspaper today entitled Contra Costa Voter, with the headline “Uilkema in Clear Lead for County Board of Supervisors.” Oddly this newspaper is funded entirely by, well I think you can guess. Who does this sort of thing fool?

Another initiative on the March ballot is to change the budget process, including not paying legislators and the governor, excuse me, governator, their salaries when the budget is late.

The US has quietly emptied out the juvenile wing of Stalag Guantanamo, having determined that the 3 under-aged inmates “no longer posed a threat to our nation.” Funny, it’s when they hit puberty that teenagers usually become a threat.

Speaking of biological changes over time, Georgia’s new Republican schools superintendent plans to replace references to “evolution” in school science standards with “biological changes over time.” The superintendent described the new curriculum as “world-class,” but did not say whether she considers that world to be flat.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

A grave and gathering storm-related program activity

Ted Koppel compared New Hampshire to the musical Brigadoon, evidently under the impression that NH doesn’t actually exist except every four years when ABC cameras go there.

Which for all I know is true.

John Kerry (aka Kaptain Ketchup) won something over 80,000 votes in NH, so he’s obviously the front-runner in a nation of, what, 300 million. He won because he is the tallest candidate, which is a great advantage in New Hampshire, because more of him was visible sticking out of the vast snow drift that is New Hampshire. Joe Lieberman’s campaign staff is still poking sticks into snow banks trying to locate him. Al Sharpton might have had a lock on the visibility thing, but he didn’t compete in the state, possibly believing it would be ungentlemanly to take advantage of the fact, and my god when will I stop digging myself deeper into this hole.

Brigadoon indeed.

As I write, Kerry is on Nightline, giving a really boring interview, just like his droning speech after Iowa. All that attention newly focused on him, and he throws away the opportunity. I think Dean really could lose to Bush by fewer votes than Kerry would. Oh dear christ, Koppel is asking him how he’d explain this process to Martians. He does not answer that he doesn’t speak Martian, or, indeed, answer in Martian, but then Kerry has no sense of humor.

The NYT notes that even voters opposed to the war went with Kerry over Dean (their poll says 70% of D voters there oppose the war, but half voted for Kerry, who voted for the war), which suggests a) voters are stupid, b) voters don’t care about foreigners, c) they don’t think a, what, $200 billion war will impact their lives, but d), and I’ve said this before, Bush won’t get much help from the war either, just like his father. Quick historical pop quiz: It’s the blank, stupid.

So anyway, did you know that Thomas Jefferson suggested in 1777 when he was revising Virginia’s laws, that “sodomitical” women be punished by halving half-inch holes cut through the cartilage in their noses?

SJ Merc article on the divisions among the Bushies over how to pretend to hand power over to Iraq. Cheney and Rumsfeld evidently want to do it even earlier, in April, to an expanded version of the appointed puppet council. Meanwhile, the UN has acquiesced with Bush’s plan to “study” the feasibility of direct elections until it is too late for direct elections to be feasible.

Meanwhile, the White House plans to hire an ad agency to sell the Iraqis on its hopeless plan for caucus-related program activities, because what the plan really needs is a “branding symbol.” Oddly enough, this contract would be open, so presumably even the French could bid on it.

Note to WashPost re article on Lieberman: if he only got 9%, maybe optimistic is not the word you’re looking for. Innumerate, pollyannaish, deluded....

In a war that is almost as overlooked as the Republican primaries (newsflash: Bush won in New Hampshire), the US is planning a spring offensive in Afghanistan, in which suicide bombings and roadside booby traps are increasing, showing that at least someone is learning something from Iraq.

Whitewash week continues, with David Kay, who can’t give the same story two days in a row, claiming that it was all the fault of the intelligence services that Bush is a lying sack of shit, a practitioner of lying-sack-of-shit-related program activities, and Lord Hutton doing the same for Blair.

The Hutton thing will be misquoted by the White House, who will count on American ignorance, which has always served them well in the past (like Bush repeatedly saying recently that Hussein refused to allow inspectors into Iraq). Hutton, wrongly, denies a BBC claim that the Blairites sexed up an intelligence dossier, but doesn’t address the fact that everything in the dossier was wrong in the first place. (Also, the government wasn’t required to provide Hutton with all relevant documents, which should be all you need to before completely dismissing anything he has to say).

Bush this week keeps using the phrase that Saddam Hussein was a “grave and gathering threat,” whatever that means (it’s intended to invoke the 1st volume of Churchill’s history of WW II, The Gathering Storm, and so continue the Hitlerization of Hussein). What threat? They couldn’t drop bioweapons on London in 45 minutes, the smoking gun was not going to be a mushroom cloud, so what gathering threat?

Amelia sent me this amusing link from a Republican site (go to the home page, too) attacking Kerry as anti-American for parodying the Iwo Jima statue and being against the Vietnam War.

And finally, for the best exploding whale story of the week.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The illiteracy level of our children are appalling

In news of the American justice system, a kid sentenced to life without parole at the age 13 (12 when he killed a 6-year old imitating tv wrestlers) has been released at 16 (although to a year of house arrest and then 10 with an electronic tag). And a 92-year old recidivist (unarmed) bank robber, who robbed his first bank at 80, has been sentenced to 12 years.

Bush: “The illiteracy level of our children are appalling.” Yes it am.

BBC story on fat-farms in Mauritania, that is, places where girls are force fed until they are really obese and, hence, attractive.

Tony Blair, who staked his career on his policy of screwing college students and increasing social inequality, has won in Parliament, barely, by a margin of 5 votes, down from 161.

Nat Hentoff explains McCain-Feingold’s obvious unconstitutionality.

The Justice Department has thoroughly examined its use of the Patriot Act and found not a single abuse of power. Not one. Really. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.-fatter than me), said that finding by JOD exonerating itself should undercut "those who are intent on skewering the Patriot Act with misinformation."

Finally, some important research out of the University of Colorado.

From the Miami Herald: “White criminal offenders in Florida are nearly 50 percent more likely than blacks to get a ''withhold of adjudication,'' a plea deal that blocks their felony convictions even though they plead to the crime. White Hispanics are 31 percent more likely than blacks to get a withhold. The disparity in outcomes has cost thousands of black offenders their civil rights, including the right to vote, serve on juries, hold public office, own a firearm. And the convictions carry an economic penalty: Felons can't be hired for many government jobs, and they can't apply for some student loans.”

Fortunately, lots of black people being disfranchised in Florida can’t possibly have any wider implications.

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show predicts the outcome of the 2004 elections: “It ends with Howard Dean in a white Bronco being chased down the Santa Monica Freeway.”

“Bush 2004 Campaign Pledges To Restore Honor And Dignity To White House.”

The exit poll used in New Hampshire by the consortium feeding the 3 networks, CNN, Fox & AP asked not just the usual questions--who voted for, age, sex, etc--but also “Regardless of how you voted today, do you think Howard Dean has the temperament to serve effectively as president?” No questions about any other candidate. The Columbia Journalism School’s site says “Simply by tossing that stink bomb into the official exit poll, the networks and their consortium have blatantly inserted themselves as players, rather than reporters”. Yeah, enough already. I think Dean should only give interviews in the future to Fox, because no one who works with Bill O’Reilly could possibly raise questions about anybody else being “angry.”

Monday, January 26, 2004

Evil chemistry and evil biology

Holy cow, indeed: “A diamond trader in India's western state of Gujarat has been feeding a cow for three weeks to retrieve the 1,722 gemstones it swallowed after he dropped his bag in the street. Mohabbatsinh Gohil has been sifting daily through the cow's dung. He has recovered 555 stones so far and has vowed to collect them all.”

Kerry defends his vote for war as a vote only to threaten war. He says he believed Bush would only use force as a last resort.

I’m sorry, I had to type that out to see if I could do it without laughing. No, no I couldn’t.

Anyway, he says Bush misled him. Outwitted by a half-wit, what a recommendation.

The story about R Senate Judiciary Committee staffers spying on Ds and leaking to Robert Novak has yet to appear in the WaPo, and nothing in the NYT in 3 days either. It’s always interesting to see which potentially major scandals go nowhere in the press (although if the blogs weren’t so distracted by the horse-race now being won by horse-face Kerry, they might be able to force the story on the mainstream media, like Trent Lott and the Strom Thurmond thing). Nor is anyone mainstream taking the opportunity of Peter Jenning’s stern but ignorant dressing down of Wesley Clark/Michael Moore to reopen the issue of Bush’s National Guard service, although I’ve heard that Jamie Rubin, asked a question about it by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, responded that he hadn’t looked into it, have you, Wolf? at which point Wolf went rapidly to commercial.

A last comment on the State of the Union address, swear to Jebus: he mentioned his little aircraft carrier stunt but he failed to acknowledge in any way the more than 500 US soldiers killed since his previous SOTU speech.

Also, how much of the $1.5b to help people with their marriages will go to help his brother Neil--who is planning to marry his mistress once both their divorces go through--stay away from the hookers, even if they are free?

John Ashcroft: “Weapons of mass destruction including evil chemistry and evil biology are all matters of great concern.” Ashcroft also thinks dancing is evil, which may or may not be relevant, but I always like to remind you of it whenever Ashcroft’s name comes up. Also: lost an election to a dead guy (now, THAT’S evil biology!).

Got my supplementary voter’s pamphlet--not the main guide yet, of course, that would make sense. More than ever you have to ask how they choose the people who write the arguments, which in the case of Der Arnold’s pet initiatives, are entirely an intramural Republican affair. Both are attacked from Arnie’s right: the argument against the $15b bond initiative (the Economic Recovery Bond Act, it’s called; evidently they circumvented the usual rule against biased titles and summaries) is written by Tom McClintock, the one against the balanced budget initiative by Howard Jarvis-type loons who think it has too many loopholes and doesn’t strangle the last bureaucrat with the guts of the last public school teacher. The range of argument in these guides bears less and less resemblance to the range in which the views of most Californians actually fall.

With Iran’s “Guardian Council” refusing to back off from disqualifying most reformers from election, the government is talking about refusing to organize any election, which seems to me the right response.

1971 Doonesbury about John Kerry.

Daily Telegraph: “A white teenager who moved from South Africa to America six years ago was suspended from school after nominating himself for a "Distinguished African-American Student of the Year" prize. Trevor Richards, 16, was accused of "showing disrespect" to black pupils at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. It is thought he is the only pupil to have lived in Africa.”

Israeli rabbinical authorities give permission for bigamy to the husband of a woman who has been declared brain dead.

Remember how in the 1980s we first heard about the Medellin cartel? And then in the 1990s the Cali cartel? Or possibly the other way around. Well, evidently it is now the Northern Valley cartel responsible for 60% of the cocaine and heroin in the US. Why have you never heard of it? Because for years it has been manipulating the US & Colombian governments into attacking its rivals. Some of its leaders are former narco-cops decorated by the DEA for their services in the war on drugs.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Potentially unacceptable consequences

I must interrupt the flow of insightful political analysis to talk about something really important: hot chocolate.

A few years ago, potato chip companies started putting fewer chips into the same size bag, but now it’s everywhere. Have you noticed that many brands of ice cream’s half gallon size is now slightly smaller than a half gallon? And toilet paper rolls contains the same number of squares, but they’re smaller (according to my mother). So I just bought a box of hot chocolate, and as I was putting the last packet from the old box in the new one (same brand), I realized that the new ones were smaller, 1/4 smaller according to the box. And the instructions (who reads instructions on hot chocolate?) recommend 6 ounces of water. If you have no life like me, you will immediately measure 6 ounces of water into your favorite mug and find that it doesn’t even come close to filling it.

They are fucking with my hot chocolate, and not one of the presidential candidates is addressing this issue.

An article on the new words of 2003: embeds, pre-emptive self-defense, metrosexual, manscaping, freedom fries, transfer tubes (body bags)...

Alarming story of the day, from the AP: “Amarillo, Texas, area workers dismantling an aging nuclear weapon improperly secured broken pieces of a highly explosive component by taping them together, federal investigators found. An explosion could have occurred, they said.” Also, “Last fall, workers taking apart another old warhead accidentally drilled into the warhead's radioactive core, forcing evacuation of the facility.” The chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said of the first incident that if dropped, there could be a violent reaction which could have, “potentially unacceptable consequences.” Depending on what you think of Amarillo, I suppose.

Penguin cricket. In a funny foreign language, but if I can figure out how it works, you can. My best score is 588.3.

Dave Barry is in NH now. He describes Dean’s little outburst (now available for answering machines, I’m guessing) as “a pitch-perfect imitation of a small-hipped woman giving birth to an upright piano. It was a heartfelt scream, no question about it, and it has received far more attention in this race than, say, Iraq. But somehow it did not come across as presidential. (``Four score and seven years ago, YEEEAAAAAARGGH.'')”

Also amusing campaign trail coverage here.

Excellent article on the evolution of the nominating process, and why primaries aren’t necessarily more democratic than smoke-filled rooms.

Article on the inevitable Screaming Howard Dean action figure. The silent version is, oddly enough, cheaper.

Colin Powell admits that Iraq may not have had WMD-RPAs. “But we had questions that needed to be answered. What was it: 500 tons, 100 tons or zero tons? Was it so many liters of anthrax, 10 times that amount, or nothing? What we demanded of Iraq was that they account for all of this and they prove the negative of our hypothesis.” The interviewer did not ask Powell how one proves a negative, which is just as well, because that’s the sort of thing we go to war over. The “All Thebans are liar” paradox could result in World War III with these guys.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Very fundamental

The Globe’s followup on R spinning of SenateJudiciaryCommitteeGate (what, not snappy enough?) notes that Rs are claiming nothing illegal was done and that people who use government computers have no expectation of privacy. Gee, that claim couldn’t come back to haunt the most secretive administration in American history, could it?

David Kay resigns as head of the search for Iraqi WMDs, excuse me, WMD-RPAs, saying there aren’t any and he no longer has the staff to look for them in the places they aren’t. His successor has already pre-given up, telling McNeil-Lehrer just 2 week ago, “The prospect of finding chemical weapons, biological weapons is close to nil at this point.” Not exactly the Saint Crispin Day’s speech, is it?

Dick Cheney, of course, just told NPR that Iraq had WMDs, citing the same mobile labs that were discredited decisively 7 months ago.

In one of the slimiest moments of the slimy history of immigration policy in Australia, it intercepted Afghan refugees’ boats and bribed the nation of Nauru to take them. After a couple of years, 45 or so began a hunger strike, severely stretching the capabilities of the island’s one hospital. The strike was called off after a team of Aussie medical specialists announced plans to inspect conditions there. Then Nauru, very clearly under threat from Australia, denied the team entry visas.

Wesley Clark keeps thinking that he has better Vietnam credentials than John Kerry because he was a general while Kerry was a lieutenant. He is of course wrong.

Somebody actually did a word count of yesterday’s debate. Peter Jennings spoke more (1,870 words) than some of the candidates (Clark 1619, Kucinich 1550, etc). And some of what he said was so stupid. Will the media be all over Jennings to prove that Bush did not go AWOL? Don’t think so.

In the battle of colossuses, Mike Rowe, 17-year old Canadian, has surrendered to Bill Gates, giving up the website name They’re giving him an Xbox.

Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, at the Davos international economic conference: “The fundamentals of our economy look very fundamental.” That’s the guy who they kept out of the State of the Union address so he could run the country if the Capitol was blown up. And Trent Lott to keep the Senate going. See, it could be worse. You all thought it couldn’t possibly get worse, didn’t you?

The Guardian carefully explains the US plan for re-establishing “sovereignty” in Iraq, which Bremer says is pretty much like the direct elections the Iraqis are calling for: “Bremer wants his Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to appoint the members of 18 regional organising committees. These will then choose delegates to form 18 selection caucuses. These will then select representatives to a transitional national assembly. The assembly will have an internal vote to select an executive and ministers, who will form the new government. Got that? Iraqi sovereignty will be established by appointees appointing appointees to select appointees to select appointees. Add the fact that Bremer was appointed to his post by President Bush and Bush to his by the US Supreme Court, and you have the glorious new democratic tradition of the appointocracy: rule by an appointee's appointee's appointees' appointees' appointees' selectees.” The author suggests that what the Bushies want is for the 18-month transition period from when we “turn over power” until general elections to be the time when a fake Iraqi government ratifies what the US wants for the long term: long-term military occupation and the sell-off of national assets to foreign corporations. “Only after these key decisions have been made will Iraqis be invited to have their say. The White House calls this "self-rule". It is, in fact, the very definition of outside-rule, occupation through outsourcing.”

Bush is opening 9m. acres of Alaska, next to the National Wildlife Refuge, to oil exploration. Hopefully, it will be blocked.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

I have shat myself

The Boston Globe report about Senate Judiciary Committee Republican staffers hacking into the D staffers’ email and leaking it to the press, which has been all over the leftie blog sites today, doesn’t seem to be spreading very widely yet. The NYT has a story that underplays it considerably, and a literally parenthetic comment in Krugman’s column. The Post has nothing. This is the same sort of activity involved in Watergate, only without the overt break-in because you don’t need that sort of thing in the cyber age. It’s not just the one staffer who was fired (and promptly hired by Bill “Kitty Killer” Frist), but every R staffer who read one of these emails, who should be prosecuted, and any senator who knew or should have known should be kicked off the committee.

In the ongoing list of really stupid ideas to come out of Hollywood, there’s this: a movie version of The Dukes of Hazzard, with Britney Spears.

Australian newspaper The Age says that Aussie troops attacked Iraqi positions prematurely last March, before Bush’s 48-hour ultimatum had expired.

The Texas D’s believe that the Justice Dept’s non-political appointees recommended an objection to Tom DeLay’s redistricting coup as violating the Voting Rights Act, but were over-ruled. The JOD is refusing to release the legal opinion prepared for the department.

The R’s are pushing a Fetus Protection Bill, or some such name, to make killing a fetus a separate crime, part of the not-terribly-subtle strategy of giving more and more “rights” to the unborn. By the end of a second Bush term, fetus’s will have the vote. Their mothers won’t.

Russian prosecutors are trying to figure out how to prosecute the organizers of a vodka-drinking contest. Most of the contestants wound up in the hospital. The winner triumphantly yelled out “I have shat myself,” and dropped dead.

After a businessman is indicted for having bribed Ariel Sharon, Sharon himself insists he won’t resign as PM even if he’s indicted. Prosecutors are still trying to figure out if there’s enough evidence for that, although how could there be enough for one but not the other?

How time passes. In October 1996 I reported on the first conviction in Britain on the basis of earprint evidence. That man was just released, because earprint evidence turns out to be nonsense (and DNA evidence clears the guy).

The Log Cabin Republicans, the gay R’s, do have a breaking point after all! They’re not happy with Bush’s almost-support of the const. amend. banning gay marriage.

Rep. Bill Janklow gets only 100 days for running over and killing someone. After 30 days, he’ll be allowed out during the day. Janklow had a long record of reckless driving, and had used the claim that he had to swerve to avoid another car on three prior cases, in none of which was evidence adduced for the claim.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Armageddon cuts and WMD-RPAs

From the Telegraph, a story with a hilarious 1st paragraph, whose effect is completely destroyed by the 2nd paragraph:
“A New Zealand train driver is on indefinite leave suffering from stress after running over a garden gnome.

“The gnome was apparently placed on rail tracks in the North Island city of Tauranga, south-east of Auckland, as a practical joke, police said. But when the driver's train struck the pottery figure in the early hours of yesterday, he believed he had killed a child.”

Morocco has passed the most progressive, pro-woman family code in the Arab world, including equal powers within marriage and a virtual ban on polygamy.

Evidently the proposition on the CA. March ballot for $15b in borrowing is linked (as in, if one fails they both fail) to one for a balanced budget. Governor Ahnuuld warns that if they fail, there will be “Armageddon cuts” in services. Nice to have an action movie star to explain these things to us.

Bush said (quotes from different sections of the SOTU speech): “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people” and “it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers,” and “no one can now doubt the word of America.” I’m telling you, it’s clear as day: George Bush does not know how to read. He sneers at written forms of speech like permission slips and legal papers, but is ok with the oral “word of America.” Can’t read. Clear as day.

(See David Corn’s take on what “America’s word” is now worth after all the lies about Iraq).

NBC offered to kill a documentary about Michael Jackson on Dateline if he gave an interview, for which they’d also have paid him $5m. That’s the second network willing to sell out its journalistic integrity to Michael Jackson.

You know the problem with celebrating the Chinese Year of the Monkey? An hour later, you feel like throwing your feces again.

Oh, like you weren’t all thinking that too.

Joe Conason is using an acronym derived from the SOTU address, that I’d like to see widely used: WMD-RPA (weapons of mass destruction-related program activities).

The French, trying to be even-handed in banning manifestations of religion, started with headscarves and “conspicuous” crucifixes, is now realizing it will have to include bandanas, Sikh turbans, beards if they have a religious significance...

On the other hand, there’s this good news for French women: “Frequent underarm shaving could play a key role in a suggested link between breast cancer and deodorant use, according to a scientist.”

American entrepreneurialism at its finest: “Local tourism officials cheered the news that San Mateo County in California will host the trial of Scott Peterson, right, charged with murdering his wife, Laci, and unborn child in 2002.”

A Belgian Catholic cardinal says: “I am prepared to sign here in my blood that of all those who say they are lesbian or gay, at most five to 10 per cent are effectively lesbian or gay. All the rest are sexual perverts.” I don’t know about that, but they should definitely take him up on the blood thing. He went on to attack democracy and endorsed men who really need sex going to brothels (although he says they won’t be happy).

Boris Yeltsin, who is amazingly still alive, admits that he had 5 heart attacks while in office.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Ashley Pearson believes in you

Just one subject this time. Random thoughts on the State of the Union address:

Bush came out against steroids. I’m hoping some enterprising reporter asks my governor about this. And oh for fuck’s sake $23m for drug testing students. And he wants athletes to pee into cups to show children that there is “no short-cut to accomplishments.” Bush’s entire resume consists of short-cuts to accomplishments.

No Child Left Behind is “common sense.” Isn’t common sense what ignorant people like Bush claim to have?

He says when we next see someone in uniform, we should say thank you. A stripper in a cop uniform, for example. A member of the Village People. Hello sailor.

The D response, going on as I write this, is so tame that you have to wonder why Dean’s “anger” has been so castigated.

No mention of Osama, of course. Afghanistan is mostly mentioned in terms of women’s rights, which we know are fast going into the toilet. And WMDs? “We are seeking all the facts - already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day.” A bit of a step down from previous claims, but still claiming too much.

Speaking of programs that won’t go anywhere, he didn’t mention Mars. He did mention the immigration thing. Maybe they can work on building those hydrogen cars he promised in the last State of the Union message.

He wants all the tax cuts made permanent, of course. If not, “millions of families will be charged $300 more in Federal taxes for every child.” I didn’t even know there was a tax on children, is that like a dog license? Similarly, the semi-fictitious “marriage penalty” morphs in this speech into a “tax on marriage.”

When Bush talked about marriage being “one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization,” CNN’s cameras went to a nun. “The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight.” Unless you count excluding gays from “one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization.”

Presumably they’re also excluded from fucking. Shrub wants to double abstinence spending “so schools can teach this fact of life: abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.” I like the phrase “this fact of life,” which admits the programs will ignore the actual facts of life. Also, it’s not even a fact, unless rape has been magically eliminated. Just sayin’. “All of us - parents, schools, government - must work together to counter the negative influence of the culture, and to send the right messages to our children.” So “the culture” has nothing to do with parents, schools and government?

He will “unleash the compassion” of religious institutions, which may not have known that they were actually leashed (not that that would be a bad idea).

The NYT transcript is wrong about the closing, which is actually his usual, creepy, expanded version: may god continue to bless the USA. And a whole paragraph before about the greater power who guides the unfolding of the years. Dick Clark? Altogether, I think even more religious stuff than usual. And he used the word “character” an awful lot.

A known bad-guy site

The NY City Dept of Transportation has turned down the request of the Brooklyn borough president for a sign on the Williamsburg Bridge reading, “Leaving Brooklyn: Oy Vey!” An earlier request for a sign on the the Verazzano Narrows Bridge reading “Leaving Brooklyn: Fuhgeddaboudit!” was also turned down, for “a lack of directional information.” Which reminds me of the NY joke ending “Can you tell me how to get to City Hall, or should I just go fuck myself?”

A US bombing run in Afghanistan kills 11 civilians including children, which the US denies. A US military spokesman, a lt. colonel yet, says “They were running away from a known bad-guy site.” That’s a US military spokesman, no doubt chosen for his command of the English language.

Assuming that Iowa (a known doughy white-guy site) means anything (and when has it ever?), some pundits are saying that Dean’s “anger” against the war is now a dead issue. If so, doesn’t that mean that the war is also a dead issue as far as helping Bush?

Fortunately for Dean, Bush expected him to win Iowa, and so scheduled the State of the Union address to undercut news coverage of his victory. Instead, it will undercut coverage of his defeat. Oops.

The Indy has a good Harper’s-Index-type state of the American union. Figures include:
58 million: Number of acres of public lands Bush has opened to road building, logging and drilling

29,000: Number of American troops - which is close to the total of a whole army division - to have either been killed, wounded, injured or become so ill as to require evacuation from Iraq, according to the Pentagon

88%: Percentage of American citizens who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes

$42,000: Average savings members of Bush's cabinet are expected to enjoy this year as a result in the cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes

$42,228: Median household income in the US in 2001

$116,000: Amount Vice-President Cheney is expected to save each year in taxes

And this one:
0: Number of American combat deaths in Germany after the Nazi surrender to the Allies in May 1945

With Conrad Black’s little financial embarrassment, the Daily Telegraph may cease to be a crappy right-wing newspaper, but will it still have stories like this one?: “A Finnish taxman dropped dead at his desk - and nobody noticed for two days. The newspaper Ilta-Sanomat reported that none of the 30 people who were in the same department as the 60-year-old auditor realised that he was not just silently poring over papers in the Helsinki office.”

The Supreme Court will hear the case about secrecy and Cheney’s Energy Commission. So last week Cheney and Antonin “Fat Tony” Scalia went duck hunting. Scalia, asked whether this might not be a conflict of interest, said, “I do not think my impartiality could reasonably be questioned.”

Challenging that for most asinine quote of the week is one from Cheney himself, to the LA Times. On whether Iraq had WMDs, he says “the jury’s still out.” If so, that’s only because the jury was shackled, blindfolded, and flown to Guantanamo, never to be seen again.

Another State of the Union drinking game. My favorite bit: if Bush says “don’t mess with Texas,” Locate the nearest Texan; mess with him/her; then drink

Monday, January 19, 2004

A wartime....visionary?

UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT: Pakistani dictator Musharaf calls for a holy war against extremism.

Another bit of dissonance in the Sunday WaPo: one article says Bush will present himself in the State of the Union speech as being above politics, “a wartime visionary who stands above the fray of politics -- the commander in chief, not a candidate.”
And then there’s this article, saying that Bush plans to run attack ads in support of Congressional candidates, quite possibly illegal under campaign finance laws, calling their opponents soft on national security.

Presumably Bush means that anything he does is by definition above politics and above criticism. It’s gonna be a long election year.

Has anyone seen pictures of the art installation in Stockholm that the Israeli ambassador attacked? A suicide bomber as Snow White. O....K.... There exists footage of the incident, but I haven’t seen that either.

More details on last week’s female suicide bomber: her husband drove her to the scene. She thought that if he also blew himself up at a later date, she’d be one of the 70 nymphs greeting him in paradise. I can understand wanting to have 70 nymphs, but wanting to be one of them?

The move to ban Muslim female pupils wearing the hijab is spreading throughout Europe. Belgium and I forget which German state (Bavaria?) are talking about it.

Your State of the Union speech drinking game, sort of.

According to the Sunday Times, one of the candidates in Russia’s presidential elections, owner of the largest drug company in Russia, admits he doesn’t want to be president and will vote for Putin himself, and his only purpose is to help increase turnout to 50%. “I am running just because, without candidates other than Putin, this election could not take place.” Makes you feel warm all over about Russian democracy, doesn’t it? Of course, he’s just exhibiting the sort of attitude that Shrub thinks his own opponents should (and too often do).

Scientists say there is a reason Russians get so drunk. They metabolize alcohol differently, getting drunk faster, staying drunk longer, and becoming more depressed and aggressive when drunk. They inherited the gene for this from the Mongolians, who developed an enzyme to break down alcohol from fermented mare’s milk rather than grape- and grain-based alcohol.

Friday, January 16, 2004

No word for caucus

Even by Bush administration standards, this photo breaks the irony-ometer. (I’ve replaced a link to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, which had a similar picture, but without the soldier-looking guy--sniper?--standing on top of the bus. Why did they go with the weaker picture?).

Oddly, even while reporting elsewhere that the Secret Service told a local group of people who knew ML King to wrap up their tribute early so the Boy in the Bubble could get his photo op, the WashPost insisted on titling another article “Bush Courts Black Voters.” Thing is, if you read the article, Bush talked about giving federal money to religious groups. Read it; there is nothing specifically for blacks. Does the Post, or Bush, think that black is synonymous with Christian? Although I suppose it does imply that, all appearances to the contrary, black people do have a prayer under Bush.

Oh, and while he didn’t want to see any protesters, he went on to a $2,000 a plate fundraiser. No word on how many of those people were black (waiters don’t count).

(Later): oh for fuck’s sake, and today he tops off his King celebrations by putting racist shithead Charles Pickering on the 5th Circuit by a recess appointment, which is itself a procedure that should never ever be used for a judicial appointment. And he tried to sneak it through on the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, not even having the courage of his contempt for constitutional checks and balances.

The Post explains why recess appointments for judges undermine judicial independence.

Haven’t explored the site yet, but this link is to 5.5 million aerial reconnaissance pictures of Europe taken by the British during World War II.

Israel announces plans to assassinate the quadriplegic founder of Hamas. Isn’t that special? The deputy defense minister said “Sheik Yassin is marked for death, and he should hide himself deep underground where he won't know the difference between day and night. And we will find him in the tunnels, and we will eliminate him.” Sure, follow the wheelchair tire tracks.

Speaking of annoying Muslim clerics, the London Times has this rather delightful headline: “US Baffled by Shia Leader Who Refuses to Cut a Deal.” What is he, some sort of communist? Actually, he must be, since his last fatwa was against the black market in gasoline (worked, too), and the one before was against revenge attacks against Hussein officials. I’m looking forward to watching Bushies denounce Sistani for demanding democracy, which is our current retrospective rationale for the war, since the WMD thing has been so thoroughly debunked.

(Later:) gosh, it’s actually more insulting than that; the Post, obviously (and lazily) taking dictation from someone in the US government, says “On substance, the United States is not even sure how well Sistani understands the complicated U.S. plan to hold 18 regional caucuses to select a national assembly, which would pick a government to assume power when the occupation ends. Complicating the problem is the fact that there is no precise equivalent in Arabic for "caucus" nor any history of caucuses in the Arab world, U.S. officials say.” So...Sistani is against this plan because it’s complicated and opaque and alien to Arab political culture. Um, aren’t those all reasons why the plan is a bad idea which won’t lead to a legitimate government, even setting aside the condescension? The Post goes on to say that the US is looking for someone who can explain Sistani’s thinking to them. In other words, Sistani can’t understand their hideously complicated plan, but neither can they understand his remarkably simple plan.

Sistani also wants a vote on whether US troops will remain in the country.

The US wants to get the UN involved in endorsing this travesty. Since it involves one country picking the people who pick the rulers of another, the UN needs to stay the hell out.

Left I
quotes the Post, “The United States...says security is too poor and voter records too incomplete for fair elections." and comments, “So...unfair elections it is!”

Speaking of unfair elections, the Supreme Court is allowing the redistricting of Texas to go ahead. The D’s should have stayed in New Mexico.

Tony Blair said of yesterday’s massive demonstration in Iraq, “They now have the freedom to demonstrate. They never had it under Saddam.” US troops have fired far too often into crowds of demonstrators for anyone to claim credibly that there is a freedom to demonstrate. And he said, “The demonstrators are a small minority of the local Iraqi population.” Gee, now how would you go about demonstrating what the majority thinks? How about through democratic elections, the very things those Iraqis were calling for?

Speaking of the majority of Iraqis, the “governing council” has voted (Dec. 29, why didn’t we hear about it before? although the vote was behind closed doors) to destroy the rights women had under Hussein, opting instead to expose them to the tender mercies of sharia. Bremer had damned well better veto this, and should have done it immediately.

Yesterday I wondered which leaders besides Berlusconi have had plastic surgery done. According to the Times, Carlos Menem of Argentina (hairline, cheekbones). And it reminds us that Gerhard Schröder sued a news agency which pointed out his rather obvious dye-job.

On BBC World News today, I saw an orchestra practicing for a radio performance of John Cage’s 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Silence. Practicing. It was originally written for solo piano. Click here to listen.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Pro leonibus exhortemur

Bush’s alleged plan to go to Mars, what the NYT editorial page calls his “space vision thing,” won’t happen any more than when his father proposed the same thing 15 years ago, but it will succeed in starving the funds of other NASA projects that might actually be implemented.

In Britain, the Iraq war looks like it will take a scalp, Defense Minister Geoff Hoon. The first British soldier to die in Iraq had been ordered a couple of days before to give up his body armor to someone else--there wasn’t enough to go around.

Afghanistan re-bans performances by women on tv. The Supreme Court, which as I’ve said is more religious than legal in composition, rules that the constitution’s provision for equal rights is trumped by its provision that all laws are subordinated to Islam.

Silvio Berlusconi, no doubt wishing to look his best for his bribery trial, has had plastic surgery (around the eyes). And not for the first time, I’d think. How many other world rulers have had plastic surgery, do you think?

A website just starting, is from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, dedicated to analyzing bad press coverage of the 2004 election. Might be worth keeping an eye on.

A Spanish socialist leader calls Tony Blair a dickhead. For those wishing to expand their vocabulary: un gilipollas integral.

Want more? Rori-kon, Japanese for sexual obsession with schoolgirls (Tokyo is thinking about banning the sale of used underwear from girls under 16).

Finally in today’s lessons: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in Latin:

Aufer me ad arenam.
Aufer me cum turba.
Da mihi glires sparsos melle.
Reditum domum non curo velle.
Pro leonibus exhortemur.
Nil refert hominum.
Duo, tria membra edent

Actually, it’s culturally specific: Take me to the arena / Take me out with the crowd / Buy me some dormice in honeycomb / I don't care if I never go home / So let's root, root, root for the lions / Not the humans they maim / Munching two, three more body parts / at our Caesar's game!]

Parts of my body can fly all over

A good piece on what Paul O’Neill’s book reveals about Bush and the Bush White House.

Oh, and it says the publishers will post all 19,000 documents to the internet.

Michael Powell, Colin’s pro-media-monopoly son, wants the FCC to crack down on dirty words. I missed this, but during the Golden Globes Awards, Bono said that something or other was “fucking brilliant.” The FCC ruled that the word was an adjective, not describing a sex act, so it wasn’t obscene. (Also, wouldn’t that have been a live broadcast?) Powell wants to overturn that, and increase the fine for dirty words ten times.

Like every other “discovery” of Iraqi WMDs, last week’s claim that trace liquids in old shells might be poison gas turned out to be false.

According to the video message left by the Hamas suicide bomber and mother of two (aged 2 and 3), “I always wanted to be the first woman to carry out a martyr attack, where parts of my body can fly all over. That is the only wish I can ask God for.” Dare to dream, Reem al-Riashi, dare to dream.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Mustache Patrol

A Japanese judge rules that comic books can be pornography. Says the Telegraph, “Even the popular schoolchildren's comic Shonen Jump, which has an English language edition, has had such bizarre characters as "Weirdo Mask," a schoolboy who acquires special powers when wearing women's knickers on his face.” Well who doesn’t?

According to Newsweek, the White House is still opposing extension of the 9/11 investigating committee after its impossible May deadline. It had thought about extending it only if its report weren’t released until after the election, but has reverted to its previous strategy of playing out the clock, delaying giving the commission access to personnel and paperwork. One might almost think they had something to hide.

Speaking of something to hide, the president of Kenya turns out to have a second wife no one knew about (which is legal, and no, he isn’t Muslim, just horny).

The Italian constitutional court rules that a law passed expressly to stop PM Berlusconi’s corruption/bribery trial was unconstitutional, so the trial is back on. That’s one for the rule of law.

Speaking of corruption, Bush at the Summit of the Americas wanted countries with corruption to be excluded from the OAS. No one pointed out his refusal to release information on which companies participated in the formulation of his energy policy, or indeed his brother Neil getting money and free call girls from foreign companies. (Later:) and one of you just sent this story about the Bush dynasty’s financial dealings over the years and the conflicts of interest they create in US foreign policy.

The NYT says the Bush admin is talking about $1.5 billion in programs to promote marriages and train couples in marriage skills. No one pointed out that Bush spent the first, what, 10 years or so? of his marriage in bars sniffing cocaine off prostitutes’ backsides. It’s interesting that the religious right is pushing this, but not training in parenting skills.

From the Daily Telegraph: “Police in northern India are being paid an extra 30 rupees (35p) a month to grow a moustache to give them more authority. Mayank Jain, a superintendent with the Madhya Pradesh state police, told The Asian Age that research showed that police with moustaches were taken more seriously. But the shape and style of police moustaches would be monitored to ensure they did not take on a mean look, he said.” Sipowitz?

Bush in the Diane Sawyer interview: “The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger.” Yeah and if he had ham, he could have ham and eggs, if he had eggs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

No president has ever done more for what now?

George W. Bush to the New Yorker: “No President has ever done more for human rights than I have.” I don’t know the context, but Chimp Boy is now officially the most self-deluded person on the planet.

The Supreme Court has decided to allow the government to keep the names and other details of Guantanamo detainees secret. Can you say “un-person”? Of course last week the government grounded a flight because it mistook a 75-year old Chinese woman for an Arab terrorist, so for all we know all the Guantanamo detainees are 75-year old Chinese women.

The TSA--which already has separate screening lines at some airports for 1st-class passengers, who may pay airlines more money for better service, but why should that affect a government service?--is planning to offer faster screening to passengers who allow the government access to their personal information. Which do you think Americans are most willing to give up, their convenience or their privacy? Me too.

Contra Costa county’s electoral politics continue to be dominated by Measure L, to zone out Wal-Mart. Today’s mailer says that old people benefit from lower drug prices at Wal-Mart, working parents benefit from doing all their shopping at one place at low prices, and these evil, heartless people want to take that away from them, and possible tie them to the railroad tracks. I must be one of the evil, heartless people, because I’ll be sending back their postage-paid envelope empty, forcing them to raise prices for their poor, elderly customers. Bwaa ha ha [evil laughter]. There is a questionnaire. Sample question: What do you think is the most important problem facing CC County? Education, crime, property taxes, jobs, growth, big box stores, other.

A judge ordered a woman convicted of vehicular homicide to place flowers on her victim’s grave and carry his picture in her wallet for 5 years. She is not happy: the victim’s mother is insisting that it be a picture of him taken after his death, in his coffin.

CON MAN OF THE WEEK: A decade ago, three British college students had to go on the run to escape an IRA hit squad. Actually, the MI5 agent who told them they’d been targeted was really a car salesman (a darned good one, I’m sure), who took hundreds of thousands of pounds off them while they hid out for years.

In our continuing World War I vet death watch: the last (British, at least) survivor of the Battle of Jutland is dead at 103.

The King of Swaziland, presiding over a poor country with the second-highest HIV rate in the world (39%!!!), decides that what the country really needs is for each of his 11 wives to get her own palace.

I feel like I should say something about Haiti, whose parliament just went out of existence, but I really haven’t been following it. When Aristide was deposed a decade ago, the choice between democracy and military dictatorship wasn’t a hard one, whatever my misgivings about the tiny turbulent priest, but now?

The US cover-up/apology for the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty continues. (Link no longer works)

Sunday, January 11, 2004

More about justifying his own opinions than looking at the reality

Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas)’s ex-wife plans to run against him for Congress. She’s working on a doctorate in marriage and family therapy, with a minor in irony.

For major irony, though, you need a Republican. White House spokesmodel Scott McClellan says that Paul O’Neill is “more about justifying his own opinions than looking at the reality.” About Iraq! Iraq!! Tom Tomorrow says that by the end of the week, O’Neill’s grandchildren will think his first name is “Disgruntled.”

There was supposed to be a peace conference of Israeli and Palestinian legislators in Ireland under the auspices of the Irish government, but Shin Bet decided to prevent a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council leaving the country, calling him a security threat.

In the interests of balance, I must also report that the Jordanian fencing association has banned Israeli fencers from the world fencing championship.

The Saudi government has set up a news channel to compete with Al-Jazeera, which is banned from the country. To attract viewers, it is using scantily-dressed anchorwomen, wearing only “a jacket, a white blouse and a black head cover.” Interestingly, according to the Guardian, “Female TV presenters in Saudi Arabia do not have to wear the black cloaks that women must wear in public in the kingdom.” The sluts.

And the US is transferring control over Iraqi state broadcasters from a defense contractor (!) to the Harris Corp., Lebanese broadcasting, and a publishing house from Kuwait, of all places. The sluts.

So Howard Dean never appointed a single black or Latino to his cabinet as governor during 12 years in that office.

The mullahs in Iran make another bid for power at the expense of the electoral system, banning hundreds of reformists from running for parliament, including dozens of incumbents (the exact number is not yet known, but one figure is 80, out of 210 reformists and 290 total seats). The right-wing is pissed that the government, trying to improve relations with Egypt, renamed a street named after the guy who assassinated Sadat. In theory the government could decide that the council had no power to exclude candidates without good cause, and keep them on the ballot. Or cancel the elections.

Belfast is turning into the racism capital of Europe. Loyalist paramilitaries have been trying to ethnically cleanse the city of blacks and Asians. Northern Ireland is only 99.15% white, so you could see why they’d be concerned.

As I said would happen, several of the candidates running against Putin were told to run by Putin in order to bring turnout over the 50% hurdle. There are no serious candidates running, although Vladimir Zhirinovsky did send his bodyguard to run.

This Modern World
(for Jan. 11, scroll down to it if necessary) has a screen-shot from Fox News, featuring a “Fox News Alert: Howard Dean Loses His Temper on the Campaign Trail.”

The puppet Afghan government admits to 3,000 soldiers having deserted the new army after finishing their training (30% of the total). It says if they don’t return, they’ll have to pay for their training. Unclear how many just thought $70 a month was insufficient pay, how many worried about being hopelessly outnumbered by the warlords, and how many took their training to those warlords. Basically the same situation as in Iraq.

A Saudi teacher has been forced to retire. He is 100.

The smallest country in the world is about to give up. Niue, pop. 2,100, was just hit by a cyclone, and everyone’s leaving. It is the only nation in the world with nationwide wireless internet access. And coconuts, it’s got coconuts. And it sells webnames with a .nu domain.

NATO forces make the 934th failed attempt to arrest Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic. This could get embarrassing.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

The tradition of fair play across the aisles

Wesley Clark defends his several decades as a Republican by saying, “We won the Cold War.” Sigh. That’s all, just...sigh.

Actually, the page on which that quote appeared, A9 of the Saturday NYT, is just full of depressing stuff about the D’s. Tom Harkin endorses Dean as “our best shot,” a truly ringing (ask not for whom the bell tolls...) endorsement. And an article on how Holy Joe is doing very well among voters, but Republican voters, with a bizarre photo of him shot from below, laughing maniacally, with light radiating out of his head from a lamp you can’t see behind his head, like a really Jewish, casually dressed, medieval saint (the picture is not on the website, sadly). By the time you get to the article on Nader below the fold, you can really see his point about the wimpiness of the Democratic party.

Viagra celebrates its 1 billionth customer. I guess we know how it celebrated.

Paul O’Neill, the moron who was Bush’s first treasury secretary, is saying that planning for the invasion of Iraq began at the very start of the Bush admin, well before 9/11. No kidding. But will it ever be mentioned again?

A federal court, voting along party lines, approves the Texas redistricting plan. At one point, one of the R judges mocked a D lawyer by saying that when D’s held power, “You rewarded your friends and punished your enemies. When did this tradition of fair play across the aisles come to Texas?” When indeed.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Doodles of mass destruction

On the absence of WMDs in Iraq, if you need to read more.

Here is how close they were--this is all the evidence there is, from the very pen of a top Iraqi engineer:

Tasmania, Australia, where homosexuality was illegal until 1997, has granted full legal rights for same-sex partners.

The US released some Iraqi prisoners today. They’d promised 100 but actually let out 60. Actually, they put them in trucks, then raced them right past their waiting relatives and dumped them under a bridge a mile away, in a childish attempt to keep them away from the world press.

(Later:) evidently those were entirely different prisoners. They will only release the others if they are vouched for by local leaders, who are no doubt still trying to figure out how much to charge for this service.

The last surviving American wounded (by mustard gas) veteran of World War I dies at 108. He said the secret to long life is to keep breathing. 108 years and that was the best he could come up with.

While continuing to keep Palestinians in refugee camps, Israel will take the last Falasha from Ethiopia, deciding that they are in fact Jews after all, although they haven’t actually been Jews since the 19th century. Since that was a convert-or-die situation, Israel figures it doesn’t count, and anyway they need people to scrub their toilets who don’t want to kill them. Israel, losing the demographic battle, has decided to purchase these people from the Ethiopian government. And I use the term advisedly, although both governments are keeping the precise payment secret.

The Palestinian PM says that if Sharon goes through with his threat to impose a unilateral solution, Palestine will give up on the two-state solution and go for a single state, demanding equal rights for Palestinians within Israel. Touché, Mr. Qureia, touché!

Next week Bush will announce plans for a manned station on the Moon, and then on to Mars, where he hopes to find Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, possibly ray guns. For some reason, Bush is referring to the Mars mission as “regime change”...

5 of the candidates removed their name from the ballot for the District of Columbia primary (which is Tuesday). Why?

Tony Blair will refuse to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits Britain. The timing of this announcement could have been better: the episode of The Simpsons Blair was in has just aired over there. So Blair was willing to meet Homer Simpson but not the Dalai Lama. Which would be my preference, too, but then I’m not the prime minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Not yet, anyway.

The US program to shoot down planes involved in smuggling drugs, resumed after that little incident with the planeload carrying a condescension of missionaries (that’s the plural: school of fish, pride of lions, condescension of missionaries) shot down over Peru, scored another win. Which they succeeded in covering up for 4 months (no word in the NYT story on how it leaked out now). In September the Colombians forced down a plane and then strafed it. There were no drugs on the plane. They did not have or require American approval, and the Americans told them there was no proof the plane was smuggling drugs, but the Colombian military couldn’t have done it without information provided by the Americans.

According to the Guardian, this is the latest Bush plan for Iraq: Rather than direct elections, the US wants "caucuses" of handpicked "notables" in each of the 18 provinces to choose a transitional national assembly, which would then appoint a government.

A Tennessee appeals court upholds a judge who banned a divorced father from "taking the child around or otherwise exposing the child to his gay lover(s) and/or his gay lifestyle," although it did find that that order wasn’t so specific that the judge could then throw the father in jail (as he did, in Sept 2002; why didn’t we hear about this?) for simply telling his son that he was gay. The court doesn’t actually say it would have been wrong to ban that too. It would be nice to know the kid’s age.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I can't do it with Schröder

Singapore is considering lifting its ban on oral sex, which dates back to British colonial days. Plan your vacations accordingly.

More on the Afghan constitution: its “rights,” including those for women and ethnic minorities, are not rights, because they can be overridden by laws, and anyway the Supreme Court in practice has been packed with religious rather than legal types. It also specified that the national anthem, which has yet to be written, will be sung in Pashto (presumably not by women), but will mention all the other ethnic groups, and it will be “funkadelic.” I may have made up the last part. Since the regions (read: warlords) refuse to be ruled by the central government, the constitution avoids the issue and omits to spell out the relationship between them, like who gets to raise taxes, which you’d kinda think is the sort of thing that belongs in a constitution.

The NY Times has an article on Condi Rice. It begins thus: “Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, stood in front of Mr. Bush's desk in the Oval Office last summer and tried to coax the president into something he did not want to face. She suggested, carefully, that the White House begin repairing the rupture with the allies over Iraq by reaching out to Germany... "I can't do it with Schröder," Mr. Bush told Ms. Rice, according to a senior administration official who witnessed the exchange. Ms. Rice, who had not directly suggested that Mr. Bush meet with Mr. Schröder, rushed to reassure. "No, no, no, we won't make you do it with Schröder," she said. But Mr. Bush seemed to know what Ms. Rice had in mind. "Wait a minute, you'll get me back with Schröder, I know what you're trying to do," the president said, the official recounted.”

I’m reminded of my mother trying to get me to eat lima beans when I was a kid. Ultimately Condi got him to do what she wanted (which is why she’s national security adviser instead of my mother, who was less successful).

New York City settles with Amadou Diallo’s survivors for a measly $3m (or $73,170.73 for each bullet the cops fired at him, or $157,894.73 for each one that hit him). It would have been more, but there was no pain & suffering, because he was shot to death. Reminds me of an insurance policy I once had which would pay $500 if I lost one eye and $1,000 if I lost both, which is obviously exactly twice as bad.

The principal of that SC high school where the police came in with dogs and pointed guns at students while they looked for drugs (and found a high America...does not compute), last November (I linked to the video at the time), has resigned.

There’s a London Times story I didn’t feel obligated to actually read about the TSA’s requirement that crew on planes in US airspace must announce every two hours that passengers may not “congregate outside the toilets.” The Times headline: “BA Defends Rights to Queue for the Loo at 20,000ft.”

Speaking of which, I mentioned that Brazil had retaliated. I didn’t mention that this was ordered not by the government but by a judge, who first called the fingerprinting and photographing “absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis”--and then ordered the exact same horrors inflicted on Americans. And speaking of double standards, the US State Dept has asked Brazil to reverse this, because of the “inconvenience” to American travelers.

Next week Paris, the city of cafes, will get what it has no doubt been panting for: its first Starbucks. Maybe they can get Wonder Bread to supply them with bread.

And Iraq is about to get what it has no doubt been panting for: Pepsi, absent from the country since sanctions began in 1990. Well, semi-absent. Its former bottler put “home-made cola” in old Pepsi bottles and sold it (I’m reminded of the “Commie Coke” I drank in East Berlin in 1983). For some reason, the Arab world is boycotting Coke, which has therefore not been sold in Iraq since 1968.

Here’s a photo, well you’ll probably see it everywhere, of Saddam Hussein being taken out of his “spider hole” by a soldier with no face. Saddam has clearly been punched in the mouth.

One or two emails ago, I linked to Osama’s latest message, which the Guardian ran as an op-ed piece. Here is a response by Catherine Bennett to “My Fellow Columnist, Osama,” in which she notes that at least he takes the long view, comparing Arab rulers who cooperate with the US to “our forefathers, the Ghassanids.”

From the Daily Telegraph:
“A vet in Thailand claims to have fitted the world's first elephant false teeth, for a 60-year-old female in danger of starving to death. Somsak Jitniyom said his team had successfully supplied a denture made of stainless steel, silicone and plastic to Morakot, which had lost all its upper teeth and could not chew its diet of leaves, bamboo, sugar cane and bananas. Elephants have four sets of teeth in a lifetime, but after they lose the last they often die from malnutrition or starvation. Alex Spillius, Bangkok

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Some entrepreneurial US soldiers have set up tours of Iraq’s archaeological treasures--not because they’re archaeological treasures, of course, but because they were used in the opening sequence of The Exorcist. Hey, if people go all the way to New Zealand just to see where Lord of the Rings was filmed--and you know who you are--then surely Iraq could be the next big tourist destination.

Something I missed, last October: a member of the committee which “investigated” the USS Liberty incident in 1967 was ordered by LBJ and MacNamara to find that it was an accident.

Governor Ahnuuld’s State of the State address was today. I forgot about it. He said “Every governor proposes moving boxes around to reorganize government. I don’t want to move the boxes around. I want to blow them up.” The burly Neanderthal compared the executive branch to a “mastodon frozen in time.”

Some people have made fun of David Brooks’s column in today’s NYT for claiming that people who saw neocons as running the White House were conspiracy theorists and antisemites. Me, I’d like to make fun of him for his misuse of “awhile,” after the other conservative Times columnist, William Safire, wrote about the difference between “a while” and “awhile” in this week’s Sunday NY Times Magazine.

It'll take more than extreme anger

An Israeli official admits that the “fence” will effectively annex 6% of the West Bank.

“Jordan's parliament yesterday rejected a proposal to allow the state to ban parents from giving their children names such as Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.”

The US will start fingerprinting visitors to the US from all but 28 countries. This isn’t just security, of course, this is building up secret dossiers on everyone in the entire world.

Brazil has decided to fingerprint Americans. Not for security, just out of pique, in retaliation.

Did you know that Mussolini had a cyst the size of a potato on the back of his neck? Neither did I. Evidently he personally censored every photo taken of him, weeding out those that showed the cyst, or him smiling, or with a nun or priest (bad luck).

Is the D race nastier than previous ones, or have I just forgotten? I know it was Al Gore who first brought up Willie Horton, but this year we’ve got this gem from Wesley Clark: “I didn't have as much practice skiing as the governor did. He was out there skiing when I was recovering from my wounds in Vietnam.” He now says this was a joke. Ha fucking ha. And Kerry attacked Dean for suggesting that the rule of law applied even to Osama bin Laden (who he nevertheless says deserves the death penalty). Dean himself says that all the other candidates have been “coopted by the agenda of George Bush.” And yet he said, “If I was the president and the troops had Osama in their sights, we would shoot to kill,” suggesting he’d been coopted by the cowboy hat of George Bush.

Kucinich was asked this brilliant question (from the editor of the Des Moines Register): “Given your personal decision not to consume animal products, how can you assure livestock producers you will be an advocate for them as president?” I don’t know what the answer was, I couldn’t google me a transcript.

John Cleese is considering running (or silly-walking) for mayor of Santa Barbara.

The Afghan loya jirga has agreed a new constitution, and it has been hailed as probably good enough. Or at least the closest thing to a democracy you’re gonna get out of a body of warlords. Being a body of warlords, there were more death threats than occurred in Philadelphia in 1787 (although who knows, those proceedings were secret), but they may collectively own fewer slaves. George Bush, showing that enthusiasm for Jeffersonian democracy he is so well-known for, said the constitution would “help ensure that terror finds no further refuge” in Afghanistan. I believe that’s from the preamble. And the American ambassador, reaching for the most condescending thing he could say, called it “one of the most enlightened constitutions in the Islamic world.” In other words, it’s close to being an elective dictatorship, and will fall apart the second Karzai is assassinated--the NY Times notes that he took a helicopter to the assembly, not daring to drive the one mile from his office. The precise degree of American input into the document is unclear, although I assume reserving a quarter of the seats in the lower house for them was not an idea that the warlords came up with on their own (what does it even mean--can only women vote for those seats, in which case what about the other ones?). The lower house is the house of people, which hopefully is not a statement about building materials, and the upper house is the house of elders. I haven’t read how the latter is chosen, but I don’t suppose that many people get to be elders in Afghanistan, and I don’t suppose we want to know what they had to do to get that way.

Here’s a piece you must read about the condition of women in Afghanistan. How did I miss the law banning women singing in public?

Lieberman has a new ad saying, “How do we defeat George Bush's extreme agenda? It'll take more than extreme anger.”

The US is going to privatize its military aid to Georgia, including security for the all-important oil pipeline.

If anyone’s interested in Osama’s latest missive, the Guardian runs it in the op-ed section.

From the AP: “The Labor Department is giving employers tips on how to avoid paying overtime to some of the 1.3 million low-income workers who would become eligible under new rules expected to be finalized early this year.” Tips include cutting salaries to make up the difference. “"We're not saying anybody should do any of this," said Labor Department spokesman Ed Frank.”

The British Parliament today discussed church insurance, leading one MP to ask whether churches insure against acts of God. The Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer writes
“But the Speaker used the poser to make another attack on MPs who ask overlong questions. His new guidelines are, I gather, that no one may ask a question that lasts longer than Britney Spears' marriage.

“Finally, the year began with a splendid new extended metaphor. Michael Ancram was giving a guarded welcome to the recent deal with Colonel Gadafy: "This pudding served up today shows promise, but the proof does not lie in the recipe, nor in the cooking, but in the eating, and it should be eaten with a very long spoon, accompanied by your choice of cream, ice cream or custard."

“I made the bit up after "spoon" but you get the idea.)”

Finally, some excerpts from George Monbiot’s latest column:
But foreign policy is also driven by commerce, and in particular by the needs of domestic exporters. Aid goes to countries that can buy our manufacturers' products. Sometimes it doesn't go to countries at all, but straight to the manufacturers. A US government website boasts that "the principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the US Agency for International Development's contracts and grants go directly to American firms."

A doctor working in Gondar hospital in Ethiopia wrote to me recently to spell out what this means. The hospital has none of the basic textbooks on tropical diseases it needs. But it does have 21 copies of an 800-page volume called Aesthetic Facial Surgery and 24 volumes of a book called Opthalmic Pathology. There is no opthalmic pathologist in training in Ethiopia. The poorest nation on Earth, unsurprisingly, has no aesthetic plastic surgeons. The US had spent $2m on medical textbooks that American publishers hadn't been able to sell at home, called them aid and dumped them in Ethiopia.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Bisexuality is the new black

The Telegraph says Dean and other D’s are now sprinkling Christ all over their speeches to appeal to the Southern vote. Also, something about think tanks offering seminars in religious imagery and rhetoric--the mind boggles.

(Later:) Oh good, a real paper has the story. Dean says he’s not used to wearing his religion on his sleeve. How would he know what his sleeves look like, he always rolls them up to show his dedication or something. I’ve really seen quite enough of Howard Dean’s lower arms.

Finally, a member of the British royal family will get psychoanalysis. Princess Anne’s dog, of course, the one that killed the queen’s corgi and bit a maid. Observer columnist Mary Riddell notes that the investigation to find out which of Anne’s vicious dogs was the Real Biter was rather more thorough than the investigation into one of Charles’s servants claims that he’d been raped in the palace. She adds, “The Buckingham Palace corgi makes Caligula's horse look under-promoted. .... Where else can they find companions who never fawn or curtsy and whose filthy tempers mesh so neatly with their own?”

According to the Observer, bisexuality is very in among American teenage girls. Actually, it’s creepier than that, since it sounds like they’re just making out at parties in order to get male attention. One step forward, two steps back, really.

The Plame Game investigators are asking White House officials to sign releases from their confidentiality agreements with reporters on the case. My first thought was that Bush should be pressed to fire anyone who doesn’t comply. Then sanity, sadly, reasserted itself. Even if they do sign, the reporters (if Bob Novak deserves the title) are honor-bound (if Bob Novak has such a thing) not to comply.

NYT: “President Bush, who regularly talks about nuclear dangers, has never mentioned Pakistan's laboratories or their proliferation in public”. The article explains why he should.

Actually, it’s not true. He was asked a question about the subject a couple of days ago, and said that Musharaf says Pakistan’s nukes are safe, so that’s that for that.

After one day, Florida stopped an insane new idea of having pharmacists decide whether Medicaid patients should pay for prescriptions or not.

Friday, January 02, 2004


When Ashcroft very belatedly recused himself from the Plame-gate inquiry, he was evidently scrambling to escape the blame for a decision that no actual crime was committed in releasing Valerie Plame’s name because Karl Rove or whomever didn’t know that she was an undercover operative, because that was classified. In other words Rove-or-whomever could escape because they were 1) stupid, 2) too lazy and/or careless and/or reckless of the consequences to check her out before they plastered her name all over Robert Novak’s column. Also, 3) the actual severity of the leak (the classified aspect) makes it less prosecutable by this theory.

The Israeli justice minister is investigating who in the government authorized a $1 million road to an illegal (even by Israeli standards) outpost in the West Bank, which features a seminary for followers of racist (even by Israeli standards [and American--the group is on the State Dept’s terrorist list]) Meir Kahane (remember him?).

Last month Sharon made a speech endorsing Bush’s “road map,” adding “based on President Bush's speech of June 2002.” Newspapers pretended it was a breakthrough. Thing is, the road map was in 2003. The June 2002 speech required nothing of Israel, but said that the Palestinians must forego terrorism “before the peace process can begin.”

The US keeps grounding other country’s planes. The Air France plane that started this, well, it was all a case of mistaken identity, of course. One of the suspected terrorists was 5 years old, another an elderly Chinese woman. How the latter’s name was mistaken for that of an Arab terrorist, they’re not saying.

Helen Thomas has the year in really stupid Bush administration quotes.

In 1953, Winston Churchill sent a frigate and marines in response to an invasion by Argentina of Deception Island, near the Falklands. When they got there, they found and swiftly routed the occupation force: one sergeant, and one corporal.

Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas, who neither you nor I have ever heard of, switches to the R’s. The reason he gave is that the R’s didn’t put pork for his district in a spending bill because he was (nominally) a D. It’s nice when politicians out and out admit that they have no principles and can be bought.

From the Indy: “In South Korea's society of lofty aspirations, mastery of the English language is so highly prized that ambitious parents are forcing their children to have painful tongue surgery in order to give them perfect pronunciation. The operation, which involves snipping the thin tissue under the tongue to make it longer and supposedly nimbler...” That’s called the frenulum by the way, and it’s your vocabulary word of the day. Worse, the surgery really doesn’t help (with that Asian thing with l’s and r’s, which is of course linguistic not biological)(which no doubt has something to do with why Chinese names sound like Arabic ones to the CIA). Evidently Koreans spend hours a day practicing English, and makes children’s lives hell, according to the weekly magazine Dong-A, which I quote only so that I can work that title in. Which was probably why the Indy quoted it, too.

Pat Robertson says God told him George Bush would win the 2004 elections in a “blowout.” Would God really use the word blowout? And does that prove He’s not Korean?

Australia enacted tough gun control laws in 1991. In the next 10 years, firearms deaths halved. Now Australians are forced to try to interest crocodiles in eating family members they want to get rid of.

The NYT did have a good op-ed piece about the take-over of Ag by beef and agribiz lobbyists, which almost takes away the foul taste from that WaPo thing, but why not an article in the actual news sections of the paper?

So what DID happen to all those Saddam doubles?

Thursday, January 01, 2004

An ordinary witch with an original business idea

George Bush talked about compassion today, after spending the morning shooting birds. Here’s what he said: “What we're doing in Iran is we're showing the Iranian people the American people care, that we've got great compassion for human suffering. And I eased restrictions in order to be able to get humanitarian aid into the country. The Iranian government must listen to the voices of those who long for freedom, must turn over al Qaeda that are in their custody and must abandon their nuclear weapons program.” Now re-read the first sentence and see if you can figure out what’s wrong with it. Go ahead, I’ll be waiting in the next paragraph.

See it’s not actual compassion, in Bush’s formulation, it’s a visible, fundamentally political, DISPLAY of compassion, a performance of compassion. And then he started issuing orders about what the Iranians had to do, a temptation which someone with real understanding of the human emotion of compassion would have resisted.

And then he told the reporters that he’d eaten beef today. And everybody else should too.

Incidentally, the US is asking other countries to resume accepting beef from us, unlike what we did to, say, Canada, in the past. Do what we say, not as we do--I’m telling you, we should just print that on the money.

A British radio show asked its listeners to suggest a piece of legislation to improve life, and Stephen Pound, MP (Lab.), would then try to enact it. 26,000 listeners voted, and they chose a bill to let homeowners kill burglars, no questions asked. Pound, quoting Mo Udall, said, “The people have spoken...the bastards.”

Is it just me, or when you see the WaPo headline “Gay Community Gave Dean Early Boost,” do you wonder whether you’d want all those gay people with their hands on your ass?

Speaking of laughable WaPo headlines, how’s about this one about Ag Sec Ann Veneman: “Secretary Puts Experience to Work in Mad Cow Case.” Nowhere in the puff piece does the word lobbyist appear.

Under new national rules, Swiss doctors will be able to charge $10 to $15 every 5 minutes, like a taxi, “including the time taken for a greeting and a parting handshake.”