Riveting `Why Towers Fell' carries viewers into tragedy: These are among the searing sights and sounds of a riveting Nova show, "Why the Towers Fell," that will air at 10 p.m. Tuesday and repeat at 8 p.m. Thursday on WTTW-Ch. 11. Even if you've read newspaper or magazine stories about the collapse, this show is worth watching because it provides a "you are there" feeling that no print account can match.
Um ... you know, it's probably a minority opinion, but I don't want a "you are there" feeling. Especially given that the show is principally talking about architecture and structure, I certainly don't see the value in a "you are there" feeling. Nobody who was there wanted to be there.Posted by iain at 01:09 PM
A Fear is preventing a public dialogue over leading cause of black women contracting AIDS: "There are so many pressures that keep African-American men from coming out, pressures from family, pressures from the church," [Tyrone] said. "Many men, from all walks of life - ministers, doctors, lawyers - are on the down low." Living on the down low, however, is costing lives. While African-Americans make up only 12 percent of the nation's population, they account for 37 percent of all AIDS cases. The disease is the leading killer of African-Americans age 25 to 44. One in 50 black men and one in 160 black women are HIV-positive, compared with one in 250 white men and one in 3,000 white women, according to Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS, a local AIDS awareness organization.Posted by iain at 01:00 PM
Senate report blames high gasoline costs on mergers: A frenzy of oil company mergers has led to rising U.S. gasoline costs, and motorists should expect higher pump prices if the industry grows more concentrated, a U.S. congressional report said on Monday. The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, after a 10-month review of gasoline prices, alleged that Marathon Ashland Petroleum deliberately withheld supplies in early 2000 to keep fuel prices high. Several other big oil firms failed to have adequate gasoline supplies on hand to meet demand, it said.
My, my, my. It will be fascinating to see what the administration does in response to this. After all, Shrubya and Cheney are both old oil hands. They want to open ANWR and the intermountain West to drilling because we Need More Oil! And here it comes out that the reason that we lack supply may be that not only has the industry grown more concentrated, but the concentrated industry has engaged in just a bit of price fixing. The oil industry, of course, has denied any such illegal activity, but there appears to be the matter of a little memo from BP Amoco outlining steps to keep prices high. (They say it was never implemented.)
Frankly, I don't expect anything to happen. There will be hearings, there will be sound and fury, and at some point, the administration will say, "OK, enough, end this," and that'll be all she wrote.
(Interesting conflict all these things reveal in the country: the people where the oil is mostly say, "Yes! Come! Drill! Bring your jobs and money here!" They don't really care about oil supplies as such; it's one of those bizarre niceties of the industry that oil seldom seems to stay where it's extracted. It's all the ancillary stuff that's important to them. Meanwhile, the rest of the country -- where the oil is not -- keeps saying, "Hey! Wilderness areas! Heritage! Important for the future! No drilling there!" It must be incredibly galling to live in Alaska or one of the other Western states and have public opinion in the rest of the country dictating what happens in your state. After all, it's not them dealing with the lack of jobs, now is it?)Posted by iain at 12:22 PM
.... OK, that's different.Posted by iain at 02:50 PM
An alleged victim is called negligent: In his first legal response to charges that the Rev. Paul R. Shanley began molesting a Newton boy when he was 6 years old, Cardinal Bernard F. Law has asserted that ''negligence'' by the boy and his parents contributed to the alleged abuse. [...] Carmen Durso, a Boston lawyer who represents others who say they are victims of abuse, said he found no legal fault with the language. But for Law to make use of it, Durso said, ''is dumb beyond belief. It is a stupid argument to make when you know that Catholics are already angry at you.'' Added Durso: ''From the start, the archdiocese has been incredibly stupid in the way they have handled this crisis. And as hard as it was to do, they have managed to make things worse.''
Last night, the parents of the boy, who was allegedly abused by Shanley between 1983 and 1989, said they are furious. ''To say my son is legally responsible for his own abuse at the hands of this monster Shanley when my son was only 6 years old is horrific,'' Rodney Ford, the father of Gregory Ford, said in an interview. In the lawsuit, the Fords charge that Law was negligent in overseeing Shanley, who he knew, or should have known, was a danger to children.
Law makes annual pitch for funds: On the eve of an annual fund-raising appeal that some are seeing as a barometer of his staying power, Cardinal Bernard F. Law yesterday made a televised pitch for Catholics to give money to fund the operations of the Archdiocese of Boston. Law is hoping to raise $16 million next weekend through the annual cardinal's appeal, which funds the basic operating budget of the church's central administration. That goal matches the total raised last year, but some priests have said parishioners seem hesitant to contribute this year because of anger over the cardinal's handling of clergy accused of sexual abuse.
... Good grief. On the same day, you accuse a six-year-old of negligence, and then you turn around and ask for money. At least some of the money is going to have to go for defense funds and settlement fees. The Church says that the Sunday collection money isn't going to these things, but the money must come from the congregation in some way, shape or form; that's the way the Church makes its money, after all. To say that the Sunday collection is really any different is just sleight-of-hand sophistry.
Most Catholics in Boston want Law to resign. To be sure, at the rate he's going, the Vatican may well need him to resign; between accusing six-year-olds of collusion in their own molestation, and telling lay Catholics that they're not allowed to organize, he's so thoroughly and comprehensively alienating Catholics in that city that there may be nothing left if he doesn't resign.
But frankly, I hope he doesn't. He made this situation, let him fix as much as can be fixed. It's manifestly unfair to pull someone in from outside while this is still in early stages and expect him to fix this disaster.Posted by iain at 11:51 AM
Shock poll lifts lid on racist Scots: LARGE numbers of Scots hold racist views which could lead to a rise in the fortunes of far-right politicians north of the Border, a disturbing new opinion poll reveals. Almost half of all Scots would back moves to return immigrants to their country of origin, according to the exclusive Scotland on Sunday/Scottish Opinion poll. The survey - conducted in the wake of National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen%u2019s success in the French presidential race - also reveals that only 46% of Scots believe immigrants make a positive contribution to society.
So why should Scotland be any different from any other Western country? (Or probably any other country, for that matter, but the West seems to be the only part of the world that regularly runs this sort of poll.)
It is always amusing to see the shock from Europeans when this sort of result appears. Especially in difficult economic times -- and Europe's economy hasn't been as robust as ours for some time -- this sort of division appears.
In any event, I expect we will see more and more people like Le Pen appearing in politics all over Europe. Most European countries have lacked a viable center-right party for so long that it's only the far right that's managed to make itself heard, unfortunately.
(Don'tcha just love the fact that Fortuyn is distinguishing himself from Le Pen? There's not all that much difference, aside from the obvious. And the obvious has baffled me about Fortuyn from the beginning, frankly. I mean, I don't expect that all gays will be rampageously left-wing everywhere; that would be silly. But seriously, given his politics, you almost expect Fortuyn to propose putting himself into a concentration camp. Which would probably make many in Europe quite happy, actually.)Posted by iain at 11:34 AM
Gay-rights group gets OK to help with teacher training: A controversial gay-rights advocacy group has won the right to help design diversity training for Broward teachers and administrators. At an emotional meeting that drew about 200 on Tuesday, the Broward School Board voted 6-3 to work with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, six months after rejecting a similar partnership.
How the Broward School Board Voted: Beverly Gallagher -- Yes. "Some of the e-mails that we received, and the words they used and the beliefs that were shared with me, are exactly the kind of behavior that children learn and that I am hoping, through tolerance, we will stop them from continuing. I am in favor of this because I do not like bullying, harassing, teasing, name-calling of any kind.''
They made case for other side: ... when the Broward School Board met Tuesday, I was plenty ready to be convinced by opponents of a diversity training program for teachers and administrators, designed by a gay rights advocacy group. Nothing worse than getting cornered by a self-righteous someone from an advocacy group. Doesn't matter if they're obsessed with guns or abortion or doggie vivisection, it's like getting stranded in a broken elevator with an insurance salesman.
I was convinced by the opponents. Just as they convinced board members Carole Andrews and Beverly Gallagher, both of whom joined the majority and voted in favor of the deal with Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
It was those homophobic railings, more than anything the pro-GLSEN crowd said, that testified to what gay students must endure in school from the offspring of these frothing lunatics who hit the School Board with faxes, telephone calls and 4,000 e-mails. It was the very tenor of those communications, Andrews and Gallagher said, that buttressed their ''yes'' votes. [...] But School Board member Darla Carter, voting no, was the most convincing opponent. If we let in GLSEN, she asked, "Should we not allow the skinheads, the KKK and also, maybe, the Nazis to come in?'' When Carter equated gay kids to Nazis, she crushed any arguments against the need for more sensitivity in the Broward schools.
Foes of school system alliance with gay group say they'll sue: Opponents of the Broward School District's new partnership with a gay and lesbian advocacy group say they will sue the School Board to end the partnership and prevent development of a curriculum for diversity training of teachers. Miami attorney Jack Thompson, who has crusaded against pornography, including the rap band 2 Live Crew in the late 1980s, contends the partnership with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network violates a state law that says school districts should teach ''the benefits of monogamous, heterosexual marriage'' when teaching students about the dangers of the AIDS virus.
Sigh. Just ... sigh.
You know the fun part? I'm sure that if asked, these people would deny that they felt that anyone was inherently better than anyone else, that homosexual students should be harrassed and beaten down and raped.
And yet, they do this.Posted by iain at 04:15 PM
Lawyers for man accused of terrorism conspiracy assail government's request for death penalty: In unusually harsh language, lawyers for the man indicted as an accomplice in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks contended Friday that the government wants to execute Zacarias Moussaoui because no one else is available.
And I believe the appropriate expression here is: DUH.
You know, the signs are already present that this trial and associated proceedings will last until I am a very very old man. Whichever side wins this first round -- and the equities are clearly on Moussaoui's side, at least in terms of construing the statutes -- the losing side will appeal. And the issue, not of the conviction, but of whether or not the government has the right to seek the death penalty for a man accused of joining a conspiracy while he was being held incommunicado in jail, will wander up to the Supreme Court. (A Court which is badly divided over the death penalty in the first place, and which would dearly love to avoid notorious high-profile cases in the second place. Yeah, that ought to be a fun oral argument.) The Court will make its decision, and then the actual trial will get underway.
And, of course, once Moussaoui is found guilty, another set of appeals will begin. (Although I believe he's opted for a bench trial, so there's even a mild chance that he won't be found guilty. Or at least, there was before he decided to mount his own defense. His best chance now is to be found incompetent to conduct his defense ... which would also torpedo the government's chances at the death penalty.) So we won't hear the end of this for many many MANY years to come.Posted by iain at 03:53 PM
Big Brother NHS trusts to spy on workers: NEW policies which allow Scottish health boards to spy on staff at work and in their homes were last night denounced as "Big Brother" tactics. The legislation allows the chief executives of public bodies to give the go-ahead for secret surveillance of any worker suspected of carrying out activities against the interests of the organisation. In extreme cases, they can request police to install bugging devices in a member of staff’s home or car. They can also order the use of "covert human intelligence sources" - people who form a relationship with an individual in order to obtain information from them.
Wait ... the National Health Service can do this? Not a police agency, no court oversight, just the NHS saying, "Hey, let's stick a camera into someone's house!"
Good grief. And the Brits think we're neurotic.
Can you just imagine ... well, the closest thing we have to an equivalent is the Veterans Administration hospitals, I suppose. Can you imagine them getting the right to spy on workers at home, just because they wanna? I mean, the way it's written up, it doesn't sound like you need any real sort of evidence. (I like the part where you can use covert surveillance to get evidence so that you can use covert surveillance. I mean ... what?) All it takes is a request from a department head. Can you imagine the brouhaha here if someone even tried that? (Mind ... I should imagine that our Lord High Minister of Injustice is looking at it and thinking, "Hey ... they may be onto something there.")
I like the little throwaway bit about phone tapping being done all the time, but the products aren't admissable in court. I mean, why on earth would you bother?Posted by iain at 10:23 AM
Counsel to probe torture by police: After years of claims that Chicago police detectives under former Cmdr. Jon Burge had tortured suspects, Cook County's chief Criminal Court judge took the first step Wednesday toward resolving the issue by appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations. Judge Paul Biebel said a special prosecutor was needed because State's Atty. Richard Devine has a conflict that threatens to leave an "appearance of impropriety." Devine, whose office had argued against the appointment of a special prosecutor, once was a partner in the law firm that defended Burge against torture charges, and on one occasion he appeared in court to represent Burge.
I do wonder what they'll do, though. I mean, granted that the statute of limitations has run out, so they can't prosecute Burge himself. What they will almost certaily be required to do, at a minimum, is retry cases in which torture was alleged, and which involved Burge and friends during the time he was on staff. That's ... one hell of a lot of cases. An investigation in which the perpetrators can't be punished will, one hopes, free the innocent (given the way that the states attorney's office fights even when they've got conclusive proof of innocence, these fights ought to be grim), but also stands to expose the city and county to just loads of civil liability. I wonder if their insurance will cover?
(The Chicago Reader has an ongoing irregular series about Burge and police torture in the city. Unfortunately, they've moved it into a pay archive -- it used to be the only set of stories they made a point of putting onto the web. I kept hoping they'd get a content management system, because so much good stuff kept getting missed, and now I see that you should be careful what you wish for. Mother Jones also ran a story about it a few years ago.)
Unfortunately for many people, what's been happening is that the city has been settling cases and plea bargaining through the years to keep these cases out of the public eye -- a lighter sentence in exchange for dropping claims of torture. Thus, many people who committed no crimes take a guilty plea in exchange for getting out of jail during their lifetimes.
The case of Aaron Patterson makes for interesting and illustrative reading. (For legal reasons, his own version of the story can't include the allegations of torture. Ah, irony. Weirdly, the Chicago Reader version of the story is still available online; I suspect that they just cleared index pages without clearing files, so that if one knew how to reach the stories, they'd still all be there.)Posted by iain at 03:42 PM
Saudi to Warn Bush of Rupture Over Israel Policy: ... "It is a mistake to think that our people will not do what is necessary to survive," the person close to the crown prince said, "and if that means we move to the right of bin Laden, so be it; to the left of Qaddafi, so be it; or fly to Baghdad and embrace Saddam like a brother, so be it. It's damned lonely in our part of the world, and we can no longer defend our relationship to our people."
Interestingly, from context, they would not appear to be talking about preserving their country, but preserving themselves, the Saudi royal family. Which explains much about that country, really.
That said, they're certainly not wrong about Bush and Israel's policies -- although I don't imagine that he sees the divide between Sharon's and Israel's policies that Abdullah does. Since our administration has not cut off aid to Israel, they are certainly sponsoring policies. (That said, they haven't cut off aid to the Palestinians, either.)
In the meantime, apparently Israel agreeing to an investigation of Jenin was a result of miscommunications. Frankly, I'm baffled as to what was miscommunicated. The UN was absolutely clear that it was investigating allegations of war crimes. Even if they hadn't been, how could an investigation of what happened at Jenin -- and it seems clear that everyone knew that, at least, was what the UN wanted, if not exactly why -- lead back to the peace process? Where in Jenin is there the least sign of anything that could head to peace? In any event, the Bethlehem document itself is extraordinarily cynical, if in general accurate. (I do like the concept that charges would be upheld on "poor reasoning". I'm guessing that soldiers admitting to the press that they've committed war crimes must constitute "poor reasoning", but ... whatever.)Posted by iain at 01:09 PM
Just ... hmm. All I have to say about it at the moment.
Except that his travel itinerary is insane, to put it mildly. Afghanistan, followed by Chechnya, then Colombia, then Yemen. I understand that people need information about these places, but man, the guy is trying to get himself dead.Posted by iain at 12:50 PM
For once, the loopy lawsuit comes from someone else's legal system; Germany, to wit:
Sweet Tooth Judge Loses Suit: A regional court in the western German city of Mönchengladbach on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Judge Hans-Josef Brinkmann of the city of Neubrandenburg in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania against the manufacturer of the chocolate bars Mars and Snickers. [...] The presiding judge at the civil court, Wilfried Woltz, found that although the lawsuit was admissible, it was completely unfounded. Mr. Brinkmann might have won if it had been possible to demonstrate a direct causal link between diabetes and the consumption of sugar, the judge said, but his lawsuit failed to provide proof of that connection.
Even if it had been able to provide proof of the connection ... don't you kind of have to eat the things for that to work? I mean, what did Mars, Inc., do? Come to his chambers, hold him down, and forcefeed chocolate bars to him until his pancreas gave up the ghost? And how is it that Coke, Inc., managed not to get sued when you'd think that a liter of soft drinks per day would load up with at least as much refined sugar as the candy bars, if not several times that? Didn't Coke come to his office right after Mars and give him intravenous soft drinks? (OK, maybe not that, as the carbon dioxide bubbles in his blood would have given him the bends and gone pop! in his brain, and that would have been, you know, icky. So they must have stuck a funnel in his mouth and a tube down his throat and just poured it all in, right?)
(Just in case you couldn't guess, I do have one or two problems with many of the various cigarette product suits on similar grounds.)
Two ethereal bits to anyone who can guess where I got my title for this piece.Posted by iain at 12:40 PM
Mosley: My husband would have hated Le Pen: DIANA Mosley, whose friendship with Hitler led to her disgrace and imprisonment in Holloway Prison in 1940, has surprisingly joined the growing criticism of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front party. In her first interview since Le Pen's poll success, she told The Scotsman the far Right politician was "just a crusty, old, Eurosceptic, Tory backbencher".
So ... apparently, it's OK to be racist and anti-immigrant, but not to be anti-European and entirely uncharismatic.
Well, all-righty, then!
Mind, Hitler's version of a united Europe is substantially different from the current version, what with the armies and the bombing and the signal lack of anything resembling consent outside Germany. But I guess, if I understand Ms Mosley, any path to a united Europe must be an acceptable one.
In any event, Slate proposes that the reason that Le Pen did as well as he did is that current French political orthodoxy doesn't allow discussion of important issues. In the country that "invented nationalism", you're not allowed to discuss the fact that control most of French national policy has been ceded to Europe. In a country absorbing a fair number of immigrants, you're not allowed to discuss immigration policy. Therefore, the person who defies these taboos and talks about them incessantly does well and makes it onto the ballot. Essentially, a protest vote that protested just a bit more than the people casting it intended.
So by that logic, since discussing race and its effects, or actual immigration policy for that matter, in the US is something that Is Just Not Done by mainstream politicians, then almost the only people who will raise the issue are the ones on the left and right fringe, right? Oh, now, really, that's just ... oh. Oh, wait.
Let me say that I am truly -- truly -- impressed that Mr Goldblatt, a white professor of all things, would be baffled as to why it would be considered, at the very least, a bad idea in this society for him to satirize blacks. Or at least an idea that would be met with some resistance. Seriously, that is just some spectacular density. That said ... I'm surprised he didn't get more push from it. It surely should have been considered a cause celebre by the conservative right; censorship in the marketplace of ideas. You'd think the Buchanans, our own little neo-Nazi family, would be all over the airwaves, talking about how this book had been kept off the shelves. Of course, technically speaking, it isn't censorship. The book is available -- you can order it from Permanent Press yourself, if you like. It got reviewed in Kirkus and Publishers' Weekly, so it's almost certainly available in some libraries here and there. (And in fact, checking a national catalog, I see that it's currently available from 99 different libraries or library systems, so it's not as if people can't get to his book.) I'm vaguely tempted to pick it up, just to see what on earth it could be.
Vaguely.Posted by iain at 12:10 PM
Lawyers for an American who fought for the Taliban say prosecutors are trying to prevent disclosure of Taliban and al-Qaida interview reports that may help his defense. John Walker Lindh's lawyers on Tuesday challenged the government's proposal for a secrecy order to protect unclassified information obtained from detainees held in Cuba.
The government is just not doing well on all this secrecy stuff, are they?
It'll be interesting to see what happens. After all, the defense has a point: after all the publicity about things that point to his guilt, surely he's entitled to publicity about all the things that point to his innocence. I'm not sure how helpful it would be -- the jury pool is relentlessly contaminated at this point, I should think, if he goes that route -- but it surely couldn't hurt.
(I still think the government should have just stripped him of his citizenship and sent him through the tribunal process. He's admitted that he went to fight with the Taliban -- although, to be sure, in a confession that seems as though it may be tainted -- which is on its face a citizenship revocation offense. Then again, given the "class action" mess they're trying to put over on the judiciary, it's likely that if they'd gone that route, he'd have wound up without his citizenship, but not convicted of anything because the government will clearly be unable to sustain those charges. Pfaugh.)Posted by iain at 04:01 PM
Where the Brain Makes Decisions: ... Using a revolutionary method of imaging the brain, researchers from the Open University (OU) and the London Business School say they have identified the brain region that becomes active as the shopper reaches to the supermarket shelf to make their final choice.
You know ... I just suddenly had this vision of the future. And it was dark and distressing.
The future looks something like this: The researchers will continue to explore and do their thing, and shortly, they'll discover the exact frequency or bandwidth of the portion of the brain that becomes active during decision making. (Given the way they imaged the information, they may even already know!) You know those little things in the market that flash and spit coupons at you as you walk by? They'll put little teeny broadcasting things inside. As you walk past, it'll beam, "Buy me!" directly into your brain, for whatever is on that shelf. And you'll get to the checkout counter, and discover that you've got hundreds of dollars worth of stuff that you never meant to buy, just because your decision-making switch was tripped for you. Oh, sure, the manufacturers and store owners will say that they'd never do any such thing, that it would be unethical. But we know better, don't we .....Posted by iain at 01:43 PM
Oh, not much more, really, thanks.
... A personal flamethrower? How ... quaint. Or something.
"You can't worry about money or women or family when you're working on something like that," says Schneeveis, who designs specialized tools for neurobiological research at Stanford. "Luckily, I live alone, my children are grown, and my house is almost paid off. And, since my kids are showing no signs of producing grandchildren, this is it. Actually, it would take less time and money to make a real human, and babies teach themselves to walk. But they can't pull your houseboat across the desert, now can they?"
Well, no, but what is the houseboat doing there? I mean, isn't water normally involved in the houseboat concept?
If nothing else, the Power Tool Drag Races are a tribute to the inventiveness of some people, and their truly disturbing devotion to their power tools.Posted by iain at 11:02 AM
You know ... if this is cheap, it could actually work to help ebooks become more popular. Lightweight, easy to carry as a limited purpose computer device ... it could work. As currently envisioned, however, it's just the sort of thing that makes you scratch your head. Why would you connect to the internet to read an online novel on that thing? Why wouldn't you just read it on your regular computer screen, which is better designed, bigger and, you know, not green?... Because people don't like reading novels online. Which, you know, is a lesson you'd think manufacturers would have gotten by now. You put big blocks of text online, people print it off and carry it away; they only read online if they don't have a printer. Most computers are multiple purpose, so nobody will buy the thing just as a display. (Although that said, if they can make it portable and combine it with PDA functions and give it more memory via compact flash cards or whatever, then they'll have a killer appliance. People will be willing to work with it then.)Posted by iain at 10:38 AM
Handgun giveaway aimed at city's ban: A gun-rights group that called on supporters to attend Taste of Chicago with handguns concealed in fanny packs is planning another controversial promotion--giving away one handgun a month to a resident of Chicago, where handgun possession is illegal. [...] Birch said the city's ban would fail under court scrutiny. That belief is part of the motivation behind the gun giveaway, he said.
So despite the fact that banning classes of weapons and restricting the circumstances under which weapons may be carried has been approved by the Supreme Court, these yobbos think that the city's ban is unconstitutional. And they'll invite people to break the law to prove it! How nice of them! do they plan to pay the legal bills and fines for all these people to prove their point? (Actually, I rather suspect that they're hoping that at least one person would get caught, so that they could convince the person -- or perhaps get people certified as a class -- to challenge the law. Which would be moderately sophisticated if the issue hadn't generally been settled already. And, of course, says nothing about whether or not they plan to pay the legal costs of said person, if class certification failed.)
Also ... could someone explain to me exactly what good a gun in a fanny pack would do? Leave aside the fact that carrying it at an outdoor festival at which alcohol was being served would be, perhaps, not entirely the brightest thing one could do. It would be on your butt, right? I mean, the whole fanny pack concept involves ... well, fannies. So there it is, literally fanny-bound. (OK, bound to your waist, if we're being strictly accurate.) Presumably, the fanny pack is closed, because brandishing a gun in public is illegal, and besides, if your fanny pack is open, someone could just reach in and pluck it out without your knowledge. So. It's resting on your fanny, nicely tucked away. Lo! There's a lone gunman terrorizing the festivalgoing crowd! O no! Whatever shall you do? Why, pull out your trusty gun, of course! So you reach around behind your back, fumble with the zipper for a sec, get it open, whip out the gun, look down and get it into the right position in your hand ... and then said Lone Gunman shoots you dead.
OK, that doesn't work. So, instead, you keep your fanny pack on your opposite hip, like a holster. Lone Gunman, terrorizing, brandishing, yadda-yadda. You reach over, unzip, get a good grip on your gun, whip it out ... by which point the Gunman has, again, shot you dead, because it would take too long and be too noticeable.
OK, granted, there are circumstances in which this might work -- if the Lone Gunman doesn't happen to see you, if you can hide so that you have time to get things out of the fannypack wherever it be -- but surely they would be outweighed, outnumbered by the ones in which it wouldn't. Besides, would you really want to be taking potshots in and amongst tens of thousands of city residents? On July 3, attendance at the Taste typically runs anywhere from 0.5-1.5 million people. You really want to try shooting in the middle of that mess? (If you would ... please give me your name and your schedule for ... well, the rest of your life, really, because I want to stay far far FAR away from the likes of you.)Posted by iain at 04:38 PM
I'm guessing that the man is being pressed by Congress to produce some sorts of results, as well as being pressed by the media and the public because the "random checks" used by the airlines are so sincerely pointless. I say this because his "trusted fliers" program is, on the whole, a bunch of hooey.
First, how do you get to be on this list? Pay a fee and go through a background check. OK, fine (well, not really, considering as most of the stuff on a thorough background check is none of an airline's business, but let's run with it), but ... most of the terrorists would have gotten through a background check. In fact, as far as the US was concerned, most of them didn't have a background. Limit the program only to frequent fliers? Most people don't fly all that frequently; you wouldn't be saving any time. Given the way things have happened, it's entirely likely that anyone with an Arabic or Turkish or even vaguely foreign name and brown skin would automatically be considered a risk, and blocked from receiving any such card -- which would be blatantly unconstitutional.Posted by iain at 03:12 PM
Sequential Tart: Queer Characters:
Damn them. God damn them.
The Midnighter is dead. Half of the first gay male superhero couple ever featured in one of the Big Two's mainstream comics -- you read that right, the first ever -- has been bumped off. And I don't know whether to be more enraged at DC, which publishes The Authority (the book in which the Midnighter and his lover Apollo appeared), or the creators who came up with the couple in the first place.
Let me explain.
You know, on the one hand, I'm tempted to say, "Jeez, it's just comics"
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual readers are starved for role models, ravenous to see depicted in pop culture people we can identify with. Even today, decades later, I can tell you the titles and stars, and describe some of the key scenes, of every TV movie broadcast during my teenage years that dealt with gay or lesbian characters — because I was just realizing that I was a lesbian, and was glued to the tube for every one of those movies. Not only that; I can still recite the dialogue and describe the art from numerous gay-related parodies in Mad magazine and National Lampoon. Why? Because that material, whether pro-gay or anti-gay, was so important to me that the details were seared into my memory.
I'm not alone, and the urgency of having gay and lesbian role models hasn't lessened since my teen years. That's why the TV coming-out of Ellen DeGeneres (and her fictional alter-ego, Ellen Morgan) a few years ago was so newsworthy, and so applauded by the gay and lesbian community and its allies. That's also, at least in part, why DeGeneres decided to use the show to depict her character's sweet and tentative courtship of, and eventual relationship with, another woman — because images of healthy same-sex relationships are so rare. The same is true in comics, particularly mainstream superhero comics.
And then again ... maybe it's not just comics.Posted by iain at 11:29 AM
I hadn't realized that the drought in the West had, in various ways, continued for nearly a decade.Posted by iain at 04:15 PM
Religious group, state senator call for outlawing of planned `hotel sex bash': ... Joey Davis, the state head of Concerned Women for America, appeared with [Republican state Sen. John Loudon] oon Sunday and said guests at the sex conference would release bodily fluids that pose a health risk.
... Apparently, ejaculation is illegal in Missouri. Or at least they want it to be. Who knew? I mean, if the "release of bodily fluids" is considered a health risk, that means that any and all ejaculations must be considered health risks; location is meaningless when it comes to the release of bodily fluids, after all. Whether in hotel room, sex seminar, or the privacy of your own bedroom, with or without a partner, Your Ejaculation Is A Public Health Risk! (That is the only logical inference.) In that case, I wonder where all the little Missourans come from? Does that mean that any time you have sex in Missouri, the men are subject to arrest? I mean, clearly, coitus interruptus would be a bad bad bad idea, but does it count if the ejaculation is ... er, contained, so to speak, in your partner du jour/moment/life/whatever?
Does it seem to anyone else that the entire midsection of the country is developing an entirely warranted reputation as total and complete yahoos?Posted by iain at 01:23 PM
Terror Questioning Brings Limited Results: A prosecution strategy under consideration by the administration would charge senior al Qaeda members simply for being part of a unit known to participate in war crimes, sources in the administration said.
You know, this is alternately thoroughly amusing, and amazingly sad. The problem is, courts in this country have long held that you can't be tried for being part of a group that did something. Absent specific knowledge that you yourself participated in the planning or execution of a crime, the government cannot sustain a case against you.
The fun part is, they're looking to set up cases that will survive Supreme Court appeal. (They can't, but that's another issue.) This means that despite the fact that tribunals have been designed so that theoretically no appeal is possible, they know perfectly well that in the past, when people have appealed tribunal-type military decisions to the federal courts, the cases are generally accepted. (The courts tend to say, "YOU say we have no jurisdiction? Who are you to decide this? Absent a specific declaration by Congress, amending the Judiciary Act to exclude us from this type of case, WE decide our jurisdiction." We have allowed the courts to arrogate quite a lot of power to themselves, haven't we?) And the federal courts will toss these cases with blinding speed.Posted by iain at 11:46 AM
Returning to the Underground (washingtonpost.com): ...Already, Fatah operatives are meeting and plotting across the West Bank, even in towns where Israeli tanks, armored personnel carriers, snipers and patrols enforce strict curfews, Palestinians say. But al-Aqsa Brigades members, the action-oriented gunmen who number in the thousands, are on the run. They are among the main targets of Israeli military sweeps and have less opportunity to reorganize.
So attacks are likely to be more hit and run than before. Which is saying something, really. It will be fascinating to see what the response of the US and Israel will be if/when Fatah officially returns to terrorism as modus vivendi. To say nothing of what the other Arab countries will do in response to the response, so to speak.
Her nails manicured and hair pulled from her face, the Palestinian woman asks that she be called by an Arabic name for a faint star — Suha. She talks about her decision to be a suicide bomber. "About the explosive belt," she says, leaning forward, "when you want to carry out such an attack, whether you are a man or a woman, you don't think about the explosive belt or about your body being ripped into pieces. We are suffering. We are dying while we are still alive." Israelis suspect they will see "more female suicide bombers than male." [...] Escorted into the room by a grim-looking bodyguard, Suha pauses to exchange giggling pleasantries with two Palestinian women who are there to greet her as she enters. Nervous about the interview and a bit self-conscious, she plops down in an overstuffed easy chair and leans forward with her elbows on her knees to begin answering questions. She says she was born in Kuwait, but she and her family now live in the West Bank. She declines to say where. She says she is the eldest of nine children, has an undergraduate degree in social science from An-Najah University in Nablus and did clerical work for a media research company. She says she never married and has no children.
You know, it's fascinating how consistently, across cultures, revolutionaries tend to be middle and upper class educated individuals, doing things in the name of the lower-class poorer People!
In the meantime, it appears as though Sharon may have been involved in election campaign fraud. How very .... petty. I wonder how long it will be before the Palestinians and the Israeli opposition raise the concept that this punitive expedition into the West Bank was meant as a sort of distraction, something to keep people from noticing that the investigation had landed on him.
And Amnesty International is accusing Israel of war crimes ... most of which have already been admitted, in one way or another. For example, since Israel was after terrorists hiding among the civilians, they most certainly didn't give civilians any chance to flee; the "degrading treatment" was entered into with great enthusiasm, and is in fact more or less ongoing; they couldn't very well have "protected" the people they were, in fact, attacking, and the soldiers have already admitted to the press and public that they used Palestinians as human shields. (I note that apparently trying to kill the press is not a war crime. The press will not be amused.) Of course, nothing will come of this. The concept that Israel would, at this point in time, submit any of its soldiers to be tried by that bright shiny new International Criminal Court is utterly laughable. The Palestinian propaganda coup will be incalculable.Posted by iain at 11:22 AM
If you're a gay person in Texas .... what the hell are you doing there? Get out! Now! (But don't go to Kansas, because it's worse.)
Don't believe me? Well, let's peruse a couple of recent headlines about the Lone Star State, shall we? Let's shall.
Inmate sues prison system over fate as a 'sex slave': "Prison officials knew that gangs made Roderick Johnson their sex slave and did nothing to help him," said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU's National Prison Project. "Our lawsuit shows that Texas prison officials think black men can't be victims and believe gay men always want sex -- so they threw our client to the wolves." According to the complaint, Johnson appeared before the prison unit's all-white classification committee seven times asking to be placed in safe keeping from predatory prisoners. Instead of protecting Johnson, the lawsuit charges, the committee members taunted him and told him he needed to learn to fight.
More regarding Mr Johnson's case: [Margaret Winter, Johnson's attorney] said that some members of the Allred's classification committee appeared to take sadistic pleasure in Johnson's complaints. During one hearing in December 2001, Johnson was allegedly forced by a prison gang member to appear before the committee in makeup. This invited the alleged derision of the classification committee members. One member, the complaint says, allegedly told Johnson, "If you want to be a ho, you'll be treated like a ho." Another member allegedly said, "You ain't nothing but a dirty tramp. Learn to fight or accept the f--king." [...] Winter said [Johnson] could have been out of prison or close to release, but he has deliberately acted out so that he could be separated from the general population.
He's also up for parole in August. Having sued the system. Hmm ... Somehow, I hear the sound of a quid pro quo bargain being offered to him. Drop this suit, and we'll make sure you get parole. Otherwise, we'll make sure you serve out your sentence. It would, after all, be entirely in character for the system. (But really, the cure for this inattention to prison rape in the Texas system would be to require all of the head honchos of the system -- the head of the corrections system, and the committee members and the heads of the individual prisons, anyone with direct power to do anything about the situation who thinks that things are just fine and dandy -- to spend a little time in the maximum security prisons of that great state. Not the prisons for which they are directly responsible and where they're known, oh no no no. Although the prisoners would be ... motivated, shall we say, to introduce them to the realities of prison life, the guards would be equally well motivated to actually, like, guard. And that would just not work. No, it would have to be a prison where they were not well known. After all, most of these people are -- comparatively -- well-educated, well-off ... relatively soft, in other words. They wouldn't stand a chance. But I digress.)
Criminal appeals court refuses to review sodomy law: [Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund] challenged the law after John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested at Lawrence's apartment on Sept. 17, 1998. Police entered the unlocked apartment after a third man, Robert Royce Eubanks, falsely reported an armed intruder was there. Officers found Lawrence and Garner having consensual sex. The men were arrested and charged with deviant homosexual conduct, a misdemeanor. Eubanks, who was Garner's roommate, was convicted of filing a false report and sentenced to 30 days in jail. Police said Garner and Eubanks had a history of filing false reports on each other.
For some reason, the story about this at PlanetOut indicates that the refusal of the Court of Criminal Appeals to take the case leaves the status of the law in question, but that is clearly not so. The refusal to take the case means that the Court of Appeals decision stands, and male homosexual conduct is now illegal in Texas once again. In any event, nothing on this earth would make the Supreme Court take this case; not only because a state's supreme court is considered the final arbiter of a state's constitution, but because they decline to see federal constitutional issues in these kinds of cases. It's perfectly all right for a state to make discriminatory laws against homosexual conduct, so the Supremes say.
And, should those two cases not be enough, leave us not forget that Texas is the land where they believe not only that executing a man whose lawyer slept through chunks of his trial, but that it's just fine for the prosecution lawyer to say, "sending a homosexual to
the penitentiary certainly isn't a very bad punishment for a homosexual."
BTW, Texas' state motto is: "Friendship". With friends like those ...
Texas: Land where men are manly, women have big hair, and gays should be raped and executed just because! Yee-haw!
(directly and indirectly via John)Posted by iain at 02:07 PM
Officials Are Told to Keep Detainee Information Secret: The Bush administration ordered state and local officials today not to release information about immigration detainees even as the government lost a crucial related battle in federal appeals court. [...] The regulation follows a ruling last month by a New Jersey judge that ordered two county jails to release the names of immigrants detained after Sept. 11. The order is part of the government effort to keep secret the names of people taken into custody after Sept. 11 and bar access to their immigration hearings. That effort was dealt a legal setback today when a federal appeals court in Cincinnati said the government must release transcripts of past immigration court hearings in the case of Rabih Haddad, a detainee and a co-founder of a Muslim charity whose assets the government has frozen.
Don't you just love the way Shrubya's government works? They've lost not one but TWO lawsuits on this principle so far, and directly after one loss, they turn around and say, "Don't pay any attention to what that judge said, do what we tell you to do." Apparently, the rule of law in Shrubya's country is not quite what we thought it was these past 230-odd years. Who knew?
It will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court does with this case. For one thing, it will bear on all the secret detention and secret charges cases that the government has tried very hard to keep away from the Supreme Court level -- usually by acceding to losses at lower levels. Clinton's administration -- which started this mess -- never won a decision at district or appellate panel levels on secret charges, and never appealed higher because they didn't want national precedent set. Assuming that Shrubya and Our Lord High Minister of Injustice appeal the Haddad case to the Supreme Court, one way or another, precedent will be set. Either the Court will refuse to hear the case -- which, to be honest, is what I would expect -- and the appeals court decision will stand, or they will hear the case and decide.
Frankly, it makes no sense for the government to allow the Haddad case to set this precedent. The information is already out there; there's no reason for the government to persist along this path. I suspect they're going on only because they fully expected secrecy to be upheld at lower levels, and for higher levels to simply refuse to hear the case at this time. Once a court actually decided to hear the case, that forced the facts into the public record, and the government was officially screwed.Posted by iain at 12:18 PM
OK, that's different. Even without paying attention to news, you think they'd notice the occasional bomb, bursts of gunfire, tanks everywhere ...Posted by iain at 11:27 AM
And now, an interesting counterpoint to the last article. I'm sure it means something. I have no idea what. But something.
The Rebel: "Did y'all know. . ." she asks, voice rising suddenly to a shriek, "that when black women didn't want their children to grow up and be slaves, they'd kill them?" Then: "That's what freedom means to us! That's who we are as a people! That's why we keep doing what we do!"
And that's when Nessa Johnson -- proud black woman, amateur black historian, descendant of slaves and, yes, slave owners -- announces that she wants to join the United Daughters of the Confederacy
[...] But here at Richmond's Sharon Baptist Church, in the middle of a Black History Month celebration, not even the pastor knows this is coming.
"You know," Nessa tells the congregation, "the Daughters of the Confederacy -- let me just tell y'all this -- invited me to be a member."
The congregation laughs. The gall!
"Yeah, they did," Johnson says, noting the laughter, but plunging on. "I started to call some black people and see what they thought, and I started to call some white people and see what they thought. But you know what my Jesus said? . . . I got to love my neighbor as myself. Who am I to say no?"
The congregation is utterly silent.
Who is Nessa Johnson to say no? Who is Nessa Johnson to say yes?
You know ... I can think out of the box on occasion myself, but I do not believe I could ever in this lifetime think that far out of the box. Making peace with the past is one thing, but making peace with a past whose current position is, "We were right" about the Civil War is not something that I believe I could do.Posted by iain at 12:33 AM
You know ... I will allow that the TIME magazine article above is neutral in presentation. All Time does is to present the facts, which are very simple: for women, having a child after age 40 is considerably more difficult than they thought it would be. Period.
But then look at the title of the column in Newsday: Baby Bust Among Elite Signals Social Crisis. And you look at his quote from Suzanne Fields in the Washington Times, and realize that he's also quoting Pat Buchanan on the same subject.
And then you look at the Census Bureau's fertility table of women by race, age, and marital status, and what they're all talking about -- and trying very hard not to talk about explicitly -- becomes quite clear:
White women aren't having babies.
Not as fast as everyone else, anyway.
To be sure, when the Census Bureau controls for income and education, fertility drops across the board as income and education increase (birth control choices increase with income, and professional responsibilities increase with income and education, and so on and so on and so on). But it doesn't drop quite unformly. In any event, between immigration and fertility patterns, the "browning" of America is suddenly plain to see.
The interesting thing is that fertility has always been lower at higher income and education levels. However, it's only with the advent of more effective birth control methods and the movement of upper and middle class women into the workplace that it's been either possible or desirable for women to control reproduction so rigidly and successfully. And such successful control means that the reproductive rates for "elites" have dropped sharply in recent decades, while the reproductive rates for minorities -- or, to use the terminology of the editorial, "nonelites" -- have not.
An aside -- The part in Pinkerton's column I find most illuminating is this: But conservatives should realize that if American babies disappear, America disappears, at least America as they have known it. So apparently nonwhites and immigrants really aren't Americans at all. If they were, then their babies would also be Americans, educated in America, and the country would just keep on clicking, however changed, right? Clearly, then, we're not Americans. So nice to have it writ plain like that. While more people than you would expect actually feel that way, it's rare that someone just comes out and says it.
It is true that changing demographics can change politics radically; minorities are, in general, hostile to both the extremes of left and right (more so to the right, which can use fairly racist rhetoric to prop up its agenda). It's entirely possible that the current trends will leave both right and left wings rather ... pale, shall we say, muddling about a more mixed center.
Unfortunately, I suspect we've seen only the beginnings of a prolonged racial and racist argument. People on both sides will be trying to figure out how to make an argument that, at its core, boils down to, "White women, it is your duty to go forth and BREED, dammit! Breed young and breed often!" without ever being that explicit. (Except for Buchanan, of course, who will consider it his duty to be that explicit. Say one thing for -- or at least about -- the ol' neo-Nazi: he's often not afraid to say things that other people would never in a million years even approach.)Posted by iain at 12:28 PM
Heh. That'll larn 'em, right?
Of course ... actually reproducing the letters is, in and of itself, a violation of copyright. Not, technically, by Google itself, but by Chillingeffects.com. This is the thing that people keep failing to understand about correspondence. People think, "Hey, I've got the letter or message, so obviously I own it. I can do what I want, I can publish to my website, I can do whatever."
No. Wrong wrong wrong wrong WRONG-O, Mary Lou!
Absent formal signed releases (or, at the very least, an email message saying, "Sure, fine, go ahead and do what you want, as long as you don't change the meaning of what I said"), the copyright to the content of a letter or email message is generally considered to be held by the person writing or company in whose name it is sent, depending on whether or not the letter is sent as part of a work assignment. In this case, the copyright to the messages would be held by (drum roll, please!) ... The Church of Scientology. Boo-yah!
Now all that said, companies and big cheeses of that ilk will generally leave people alone when they publish, because they usually already look bad, and doing anything more will just make them look worse.
THAT said ... how much worse could the Church of Scientology actually look? What would it cost them at this stage to go after chillingeffects.com? The correspondence between them would doubtless be public and entirely amusing ... for the short duration of the site's remaining existence.Posted by iain at 12:43 AM
One wonders what, if anything, Powell said in Damascus and Beirut to bring about this result. After all, from a strategic viewpoint, surely this is the best time for Hezbollah to be provoking Israel, when they're severely distracted in the West Bank. (And I don't care how easy it may or may not be to seal off Gaza -- which Israel has pointedly not done as yet -- I don't quite understand why they haven't done it. Hamas has been coming over the border to launch their suicide bomb killers, quite happily. The only ones who have gotten through recently were sent by Hamas. But I digress. I think.) The only thing I can figure is that Powell must have told Damascus that either they reined in Hezbollah, or we gave Israel a public, formal green light to cross Lebanon's border. (I don't assume that Lebanon can do much of anything for itself.) In any event, Lebanon's president is certainly right when he says that any peace conference without Lebanon and Syria is doomed to fail. If Lebanon and Syria can't be convinced to go after terrorists in Southern Lebanon, then all that will happen is that terrorists will relocate from the West Bank, and make things worse on Israel's northern border.
And then there's this: On the day that Bush gave his speech, the smart betting in the White House was that (1) Arafat would not suddenly develop honesty and rationality; (2) the Palestinians would probably not throw the old recidivist killer overboard in favor of someone the Israelis could do business with; (3) far from ending the bombings, the new American initiative would almost certainly provoke fresh outrages; (4) the Arab regimes would, again, dis us.
The point of Bush's speech was not to deny these realities but to expose them. This government is doing something large and important that the preceding two administrations failed to do: It is defining the new American position in the new world. This world's essential fact is the revivification of the 19th-century cultural and territorial conflicts previously frozen in the hundred years' war of giants between democracy and totalitarianism. On a running basis, but as a matter of fundamental philosophy, the Bush White House is demonstrating an understanding of this truth, and an understanding of the corollary truth that America must make clear its position in this world.
Frankly, I don't for a moment believe that the Administration was that articulate. (I will grant options 1-4; anyone with a shred of sense could have seen that coming.) I don't believe that Shrubya and friends have the slightest idea what to do with the current position of the US in the world. (To be sure, neither did Clinton, quite, but he didn't face the same challenges.) It's been 50 years since the US was the sole bully on the block, and there's nobody around who quite knows how to work from that position. I don't for a moment believe that Shrubya and his intimates recognize the revival of 19th century conflicts. For one thing, for the most part, they aren't 19th century conflicts; they're either bright, shiny new ones, or ones with roots that go much further back than that. It certainly is not the point of this Administration that the United States is the preeminent protector of democracy -- just look at the Venezuela mess if you want the truth of that. This government is the preeminent protector of business, pure and simple. In any event, there's no sign that the foreign policy of this administration has ever been that organized.
(Complete nonsequitur: don'tcha just love that Saudi Arabia says that we'll lose credibility if we can't get Israel to pull out? I mean, seriously: what, precisely, do they expect us to do? And, speaking of nations losing credibility, how DARE they? The week after they hold a telethon for the families of the suicide bomb killers? Talk about credibility problems. Then again, if we're to hold that against them, we'd apparently have to hold it against almost all of our Arab "allies", including Qatar and Kuwait.)Posted by iain at 12:03 AM
Now that's just RIDICULOUS. The back button? Of all things, the back button? Yeesh.
Somehow, I have a feeling that this is the sort of thing that can't be fixed with an easy patch. No reason, but Microsoft is generally slightly more responsive to browser vulnerability bug reports than this.Posted by iain at 12:02 AM
The Justice Department is making it easier for prosecutors to file criminal charges against child pornographers in an unusually pointed response to the Supreme Court's decision to overturn major parts of a 1996 child pornography law on free speech grounds. [...] In response, the Justice Department quickly eased rules requiring approval by the local U.S. attorney to pursue criminal charges under the disputed child pornography law. It also ordered prosecutors to examine any pending cases to see whether defendants could be charged under existing obscenity statutes, which are generally more difficult for the government to use.
Wait ... rules built around the law that the Court just overturned have now been relaxed? Is Our Lord High Minister of Injustice trying to create cases that will be thrown out of court? Isn't the normal response to such decisions to rewrite the rules so that they're in compliance with those decisions? Isn't that the legal response?Posted by iain at 03:20 PM
Will the George W. Bush we once knew please stand up? Suddenly the President who soared by standing on principle seems to have been replaced by an imposter who's lost his foreign-policy bearings. (Wall Street Journal free featured article; registration required)
And about the only possible response to this is: DUH! I mean, let's get real; before September 11, he in fact appeared to be a bumbler in foreign policy. (If we're being brutally honest -- and we are -- he appeared to be aggressively disinterested in foreign policy, with the signal exception of now-ignored Mexico.) This isn't an aberration; this is a return to type.
That said, at least as far as the Middle East mess is concerned, his only options were to appear utterly heartless and cynical, or utterly bumbling and cynical. Effective and noncynical just wasn't an available option, with neither party being at all ready to make peace. (Heartless and cynical would have been by far the better option.)
THAT said ... the Venezuela mess is his own damn fault. A duly elected (or, you know, not) American president simply can't afford not to grit his teeth and support other democratically elected leaders under such circumstances, no matter how much he may loathe and despise them.
As for the dustup over arms inspections in Iraq ... the problem isn't really that it seems to point out differences in policy. After all, I can't imagine that anyone with a brain in their head at the State department truly believes that arms inspections in Iraq will do even the slightest bit of good. The problem, administratively, is that it reveals the official administration position rather prematurely. After all, it's quite likely that the proximate pretext for going into Iraq will be one final demand to allow UN inspectors, which Iraq will probably refuse. Granted that everyone knows it's a pretext; nonetheless, as long as nobody says so in public beforehand, face is saved ... only now everyone's officially alerted, and using the same excuse would be cynical in the extreme.Posted by iain at 03:10 PM
Oh ... dear. This just can't go anywhere good.
"Eminem's defense of the homophobic lyrics on his albums has always been that he's not speaking as himself, he's speaking as a character, and he's representing homophobia in America," Tennant explained. [...] Although it is possible The Eminem Show, due June 4 (see "The Doc's Diagnosis: Eminem Still Crazy"), will have a retaliatory track from the rapper — he's gone after everyone from Britney Spears to Limp Bizkit in the past — Tennant was not intending to start a war of words. "I like Eminem's records," he said. "I think he's brilliant."
Well, that's somewhat disingenuous, isn't it? Calling someone out on their homophobic lyrics, and then saying that you don't intend to start a "war of words" with someone known to relish going after others for no real reason at all.
"We needed another song anyway," Dre joked. "They just gave us a concept. Oh my God. I hope they can stand the backlash. That's funny as hell." Hmm. Yes. Backlash. Quite.Posted by iain at 01:39 PM
Netherlands: Government Resigns Over Damning Srebrenica Report: A prominent Dutch newspaper editor says the resignation yesterday of Netherlands Prime Minister Wim Kok and his coalition cabinet caught the Dutch public by surprise but commanded its approval.
How very ... odd.
I must admit, I can't imagine any other Western government resigning en masse over such an incident. Especially when it really is inarguable that the 110 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers could have done little to prevent most of what happened. (Then again ... they not only seem not to have tried, but seem to have collaborated in the final result. One wonders why. Being helpless is fully understandable, but why would you aid in an atrocity that you could see coming?)
Interestingly, the inquiry may continue ... and almost certainly in the wrong direction. Apparently, they want to know precisely why the peacekeepers couldn't have done more. Um ... because there were only 110 of them and they didn't have much in the way of weaponry? Those decisions weren't taken by the Netherlands alone; that was a UN/CPSE decision. They didn't want the peacekeepers to make things worse, so they didn't give them enough weaponry or authority to actually enforce Srebrenica's status as a "safe haven".
A lesson that will almost certainly be ignored should the Middle East settle down enough for peacekeepers to be deployed there.Posted by iain at 01:17 PM
Interesting that the lexical argument continues to bounce around this way.
Personal choices aside, I suspect that "suicide bombers" will continue to be the default for most people. It's the shortest term, it gets the concept across, more or less, and there isn't an equivalent term in Arabic that they use that doesn't involve the concept of "martyr". (The martyrdom concept is actually embedded in the term "kamikaze". Peculiar that it was assumed into English, actually; the concept of the glorious death inside the term doesn't seem to bother anyone. Maybe because the kamikazes were not, in general, aimed at civilians; that would have been considered an unworthy death by the kamikazes themselves. Maybe, for us, it's acceptable to allow soldiers attacking other soldiers to think of themselves as patriotic and glorious ... especially if they lose anyway.)Posted by iain at 12:55 PM
404 page not found. Sort of.Posted by iain at 08:18 AM
Israel thinks reporters have a pro-Palestinian bias. They do. This is not because of the complex blames and injustices of the region. (Journalists are no better than other liberal-arts majors at doing regression analysis with infinite variables.) But when someone is pounding the stuffing out of someone else, there's more human interest in the unstuffed than in the stuffing pounders. The Sioux were right at the Little Bighorn, but Custer is what sells.
Say what you like about PJ O'Rourke's politics, but the man can certainly turn a phrase or two.
(Sorry. Not being wordy today. Massive head cold.)Posted by iain at 07:55 AM
U.S. Seen as Weak Patron Of Latin Democracy: ... A senior administration official yesterday repeated denials of allegations by Chavez supporters that the United States had encouraged the coup, although he acknowledged that U.S. officials had met with a number of Chavez opponents. "They came here . . . to complain and to inform us and to tell us about the situation," he said. "We said we can't tell you to remove a president or not to remove a president . . . we did not wink, not even wink at anyone." Few Latin American officials appeared to believe the United States was involved. But they expressed a rueful lack of surprise at what they saw as the administration's failure, despite President Bush's frequent statements on the importance of hemispheric relations, to publicly oppose it once it happened.
Well, I can't say as I'm surprised, either. After all, it's significantly unremarkable when a right-leaning business oligarch favors replacement of a left-leaning near-Marxist by other right-leaning business oligarchs.
It will be interesting to see what the administration's previously declared lack of support for Venezuela's democratically elected government has on relations with Latin America generally. After all, surprise or no, they should probably regard Washington even more warily than they already did.Posted by iain at 08:41 AM
Yankees Go Home By Anne Applebaum: Listen carefully to the news headlines this week, and you will hear it: the drip, drip, dripping noise of America's prestige—and the reputation of America's secretary of state—dwindling away in the Middle East. Let us be blunt: So far, Colin Powell's mission to the region has been a diplomatic disaster.
Well ... perhaps. I'd say it was a diplomatic disaster only if you actually expected him to accomplish anything. And anyone looking at the situation on the ground and expecting Powell to accomplish anything would have been an utter and complete fool. He should never have been sent in the first place, but given that he was, a more savvy international politician than Shrubya would have found a way to diminish expectations beforehand, so that any accomplishments would have been seen as achieving something, and anything else would have been what you expected. (Then again, a more savvy politician would have had better sense than to launch a "Mideast Peach Initiative" into that mess.)
But in order to create a genuinely new policy, George Bush would have to take sides, one way or another, and put his money, or his military, where his mouth is. If Bush really believes, for example, that Israel should withdraw from the West Bank, then he should freeze all American aid to Israel until the withdrawal is complete. Or if he really believes, as Colin Powell hinted over the weekend, that Israel's war against terrorism is legitimate, then he should give Sharon the green light, back him up with U.S. special forces, and let him get on with it.
Of course, the problem is, he wants to take sides. He wants to let Israel just get on with things and finish the Intifada off ... for the next four or five years, anyway. (And if you think what Israel's doing would buy them more peace than that -- if that -- I know someone with some swampland in Florida ...) That said, if he really wants to attack Iraq in the near or medium term, the one thing he cannot afford is outright hostility on the part of the moderate Arab governments. So no matter how much he wants to take sides, unless the suicide bomb killers or other Palestinians dosomething absolutely horrendous and unforgiveable, he can't be seen to do so. (Freezing American aid would provoke an interesting situation. After all, patron/client relationship or no, Israel has a certain interest in being seen as independent of its US financial strings.)
The problem is that not only is this a terror war, but it's also a war of national liberation. (We'll ignore, for the sake of argument, that a significant number of Palestinians would like to "liberate" Israel itself.) And those tend to be very nasty and to go on for a very long time -- just look at France and Algeria. (For that matter, if you want to see a likely future of an independent Palestine, should that day ever arrive, given the large dissenting factions among Palestinians, just look at Algeria today.) So our war on terrorism is a very different thing from theirs.
If we are not going to commit ourselves, militarily or financially, to ending the war, there is only one alternative: Let them fight. That is, let the outside world stand back and watch, until the two sides mutually decide that they have reached the limits of what violence can achieve. Let the Israelis conclude that their tanks cannot stop young girls from exploding bombs in supermarkets. Let the Palestinians conclude that terror campaigns only create more hatred and anger in Israel and ultimately do their cause no good.
And that is really the only viable solution to the situation, inhumane though it may be. Let them fight until they're all exhausted. It will be interesting to see what that point is; according to a recent article -- which I can't find, unfortunately -- Palestinians are dying at a rate of about 3-1 to Israelis ... but then, there are quite a few more Palestinians around, if not in the West Bank and Gaza. How many of the Palestinians currently living outside those territories will be willing to join the fight?Posted by iain at 08:16 AM
Oil prices rise after Chavez released: Oil prices rose on Monday after President Hugo Chavez was released by Venezuela's military and returned to power, just two days after being deposed in an attempted coup.
Ha. Nailed it in one. (Although sooner than I'd expected.)Posted by iain at 12:37 PM
Homicide bomber vs. suicide bomber: ''Our feeling was, if you set off a bomb and kill yourself, you're a suicide bomber,'' says Fox News producer Dennis Murray. ''But if you kill others, you're a murderer. You committed a homicidal act, and 'homicide bomber' is a very good description of what you are.''
Good grief. I actually agree with something said by FoxNews.
However, I think I'll stick with "suicide bomb murderer", thanks. Covers all the bases quite nicely. Wordier, but more accurate withall.Posted by iain at 11:45 AM
Ryan's panel urges fixes in death penalty: After two years of study, Gov. George Ryan's commission to reform the death penalty has proposed sweeping changes to the state's criminal justice system but ultimately concludes it cannot guarantee that the innocent will no longer be wrongly condemned. [...] Peoria County State's Atty. Kevin Lyons criticized the report, saying the commission failed to take into account the concerns of prosecutors. Some recommendations, such as videotaping interrogations, would hinder police, he said. "That may increase the feel-good factor. But the level of crime-solving will go down," Lyons said. "This is an onerous, offensive, disgusting slap in the faces of all law enforcement officers."
What I would really like to know is, how on earth can videotaping interrogations hurt police? The very worst thing it could to is to restrain them from doing things they ought not to be doing in the first place. The best thing it can do is that when someone makes an allegation of abuse during an interrogation and there was none, people don't have to simply take the police's word for it. (Police here have a moderately bad record on that sort of thing.)
Remind me never to commit a crime in Peoria. Or to be accused of committing one, which isn't the same thing.
In any event, it's not likely that these recommendations will result in anything happening. The legislature is not particularly interested in reform at the moment; they just want to fire up the ol' injection machine again and get them executions goin' through! I suspect that Ryan will wind up doing an executive "all comers" clemency thing. After all, he's both a lame duck and damaged, so he won't be able to get any reforms through.
I suspect the death penalty will be reformed when a demonstrably innocent person is put to death, and there's so much unequivocal evidence that everyone is forced to believe.Posted by iain at 11:34 AM
Can someone please tell me why any sane person would want Amiga Anywhere Games? I mean, aren't most games written for windows first anyway? And even if they're not, why do you want to run an Amiga engine on your Pocket PC?
I swear, this sudden appearance of all things Amiga is just puzzling the heck out of me.Posted by iain at 12:34 AM
I mean, normally, you're a deposed president, and if you're very very lucky, you get shown the door. Usually, you get shown the wall and the business end of a gun. Argentina is the only place where presidents get second chances, usually. (And then his wife takes over. Twice. Two different wives. But I digress.)
Apparently Venezuelans disliked having the army pick the president even more than they disliked the president. Whoda thunk? (Although I suspect it was the whole suspending the constitution thing that really provoked them.)
I daresay this means the price of oil will bounce comfortably back to the prices it had attained previously, since I suspect there's little hope that Venezuelan oil will be flowing anytime soon. After all, with him back, it's quite likely that he'll return to the policies that made people demand his return, right?Posted by iain at 09:29 PM
You know, I knew the country was having a drought, but I didn't know it was this bad ALREADY.
Actually, I'm kind of surprised to discover that Illinois isn't having a drought. I mean, yes, it just rained for most of the past week, but basically, there were really only one or two measurable snowfalls this winter, and only one above ten inches. Normally we get three or four of those. [Although I should count my blessings. A year without a 20-plus inch snowfall is a Good Thing, especially when you shovel your own snow.] I guess there was much more rain than I thought. Still, that means that unless it keeps raining, there may be a problem with spring runoff and sufficient water in some places. Lake Michigan is headed to some impressively low levels. (We actually discovered a lost dock last year. Apparently the lake hadn't been that low in so long that everyone forgot it was there.)
Good heavens. There's a National Drought Mitigation Center. Who knew?Posted by iain at 05:23 PM
Heh heh heh.
You know, if it weren't for that Bosley Medical thing mentioned at the end of the article, I'd say that Falwell would probably win on the domain name issue -- it is his name, after all, and he didn't give permission for it to be used that way -- and lose on the content issue. (In fact, if he's got a brain in his head, when this gets to federal court -- and it will get to federal court -- the misuse of his name will be the only issue raised. He already knows that he'll lose on the parody issue.)
I have to admit, it surprises me that WIPO has ruled the way it has on previous "bad faith" issues. I mean, let's face it: the domain names are clearly designed to be confusing. How is that not bad faith? If the domain were, say, "falwellsucks.com" (it's available, he should take it as backup -- in fact, "falwellsucks" is available with every domain extension), that would be one thing -- nobody would confuse that with his principal site, but it's clear that they're meant to confuse this, just as the people going to bosleymedical.com were meant to be confused when they meant to go to bosleymedicalgroup.com (Speaking of whom ... my, but they ARE pissed off, aren't they? I can't imagine they'll win that suit; it's clearly a SLAPP suit, the documents on the website are all public -- either from the district attorney or stories from news media. And, of course, the closer this suit gets to trial -- assuming that the defendants can afford to keep going -- the more publicity it will get, and the worse it will be for them. Really, the potential for spectacular nastiness is just terribly impressive!)
Gays in China Step Out, With One Foot in Closet: Gone are the days when gays in China's cities lived completely closeted lives, and the Galaxy Club — whose large glass doors open unapologetically onto the lobby of a government office building — is a giddy, liberated kind of place. [...] But when the doors close at 2 or 3 a.m., he will cross the border to the other world also inhabited by the vast majority of China's gay men, that of husband and father, as he returns to the apartment he shares with his wife and school-age child. "In China there is a very strong tradition that to be a man you must get married and have a child, so I did," explained Mr. Wu, who refused to give his full name. "We also respect and obey our parents' wishes, so I did it for them, too."
I absolutely can't imagine living that life. It must be incredibly difficult to try to balance things, to make sure that people don't find out , that you behave so that questions aren't asked.
And, as the article notes, the issue of AIDS is hanging over everything. Given that behavior pattern, it's likely that it's going to become the sort of epidemic that they have elsewhere in Asia and in Africa, where there's no real distinction between heterosexual and homosexual disease rates because there's no real distinction between heterosexual and homosexual.Posted by iain at 01:31 PM
Well, all-righty, then!
In keeping with said code of ethics, I should disclose that:
1) I'm biased, yes, indeedy! In fact, I would not remotely consider myself a journalist as such; what fun is reporting just the facts, ma'am? If I was absolutely pressed, I'd call myself a somewhat wide ranging editorial columnist and/or commentator. With a thing for the color purple. And a mild obsession with politics. (My early training coming to the fore, alas.)
2) I don't do no original journalism, as such. Commentator, remember? See (1) above. That said, I'd certainly not put out anything I knew to be untrue; what would be the point?
3) Everything in this particular weblog is opinion. Not a journalist. Nosirree. The facts is reported by someone else. (Which is not to say that research isn't done to confirm facts when they seem truly off the wall. Sometimes one hell of a lot of research. Let's face it; it's hard to talk about what's happening here, there and elsewhere when the original reporting is weird.)
Well, I think I'm fully disclosed now.
Mr Hiller adds, "Please let me know what I'm missing... email me at email@example.com." Heaven only knows what else is missing from that code of ethics; it would never have occurred to me to try to promulgate a code of ethics for webloggers. The range of weblogs is simply far too wide. This one, for example, is principally extended commentary. (In fact, both of mine are mainly extended commentary, although "Media Relations" has a more specific brief and a thankfully less frequent update schedule.) Others contain links to items of note with extremely brief comments. Others are personal journals, using weblogging software. Still more are some combination of two or more of the above. How can you make a code of ethics that covers all that?
Are Bloggers Journalists? Well ... some of them can be, but in general, don't most journalists actually get paid for it? (I don't suppose I could talk someone into paying me to be a commentator .... no? No, I didn't think so. Ah, well. Mind, I don't think I want to make money from this quite this much. But I digress.) Frankly, I think all those people trying to put weblogs into some category of actual journalism are missing the boat. Weblogs are a technologically more advanced vanity press, really, with considerably lower publishing costs. Yes, many of us have specific subject knowledge that we can bring to bear on our subject. However, one of the advantages is that we can shape the story to our own ends (or not, as the case may be); Mr Hiller's story about what happened with his "google bomb" article is wince-worthy. We're not writing to word count or column inches; had he been doing that, the article would have no doubt turned out very differently, and it might not have been sliced and diced so thoroughly.
Surely it doesn't matter whether you're a professional journalist, an amateur journalist or a weblogger (wherever that fits in): the only person you can depend on to guard your reputation is yourself, regardless. That said ... it's not so much that people depend on webloggers to be news sources, as they depend on them to point them toward news sources. The weblogger who breaks news is a rare creature indeed.
And if I'm going to be held to that sort of ethical standard, I want a society, dammit! A nice big society, with annual meetings. And schmoozing. And cheap memberships. That's not too much to ask, is it?Posted by iain at 12:59 AM
Under Charge: Last month, Colin Powell unveiled the State Department's annual report on human rights. Not surprisingly, the report faults authoritarian regimes such as China, Iraq, and North Korea for imprisoning people without charge and for holding legal proceedings in secret. What it neglects to mention is that in the past year those two practices have also become widespread in the United States.
Wouldn't it just be wonderful for those nations -- or Saudi Arabia, whose justice system is notably lacking -- to make a stiff rejoinder to the State Department about that? You do wonder what Powell would say. After all, it's really nothing to do with him; it's all Our Lord High Minister of Injustice's doing. Nonetheless, it would be potentially embarrassing to have sharply pointed criticism coming foreign ministers from countries with justice systems with which we take issue.
More than the press' surprising lack of comment on the subject is Congress' lack of comment. After all, when Ashcroft requested the ability to detain people indefinitely without charge as part of the Constitutional Shredding Act ... er, pardon, the USA PATRIOT Act, Congress flatly refused. Then he issued it as a simple regulation, and nobody said a word. And now Justice is misusing a law never intended for this purpose ... and not even following the requirements of that law.
The author worries that the law may be used against US citizens, because there's nothing to prevent it. Given the secrecy surrounding the detentions and the cases ... how does he know that it hasn't been?Posted by iain at 12:47 AM
Well, well, well. It should be interesting to see how this falls out. The Democratic and Republican parties need to find some way to fight this without being seen as anti-democratic; it's simply not in their interest to allow third parties into debates. To be sure, sometimes the people will reveal themselves as utter and complete flakes ... but look at the past few elections. Quite a startling number of people are entirely willing to vote for utter and complete flakes. Maybe because the flake's articulated policy positions match their own, maybe because they feel the need to shake up or change something, somehow. But people at large aren't going to vote for these candidates, not because they do or don't agree, but because they've never really heard of them or their positions. If the FEC changes the rule, or is forced to adopt something broader, you could wind up with massive presidential debates, with five, six, seven candidates. In the near term, it almost certainly would not produce a win for a minor party, but it could very well produce a loss for a major one. Minor parties have made a difference in two of the last three elections, by siphoning off the extreme wing voters of the major parties.
That said, I imagine the networks would prefer broader debates purely because it would make them more entertaining, and people might then actually watch.
In the meantime, the Senate passed an election reform bill. I must admit, I don't understand the opposition to making people verify their identity when they register. Surely preventing fraud is a worthwhile goal; what's the point of merely verifying signatures, when the person signing needn't be who they say they are? (I have a horrible feeling this is part of the unstated point, in which case, the ACLU and NAACP should be ashamed of themselves.)Posted by iain at 05:01 PM
Asked if President Bush regards Sharon as a "man of peace," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer replied in the affirmative. "The president believes Ariel Sharon is committed to peace, to finding peace in the region," he said. Fleischer expressed no displeasure with the pace of the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, so far limited to some small towns. "The withdrawal he called for is continuing," he said of President Bush's call a week ago for an Israeli withdrawal and subsequent demands that it occur without delay.
Powell is due to meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tomorrow and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat in Ramallah the following day. The secretary of state is on an open-ended mission and will remain in the region as long is warranted. [...] However, during their talks, Sharon is expected to tell Powell that Israel will withdraw from Palestinian towns only after its mission is completed. Before withdrawing from Ramallah, Israel will demand that wanted terrorists being harbored by Arafat in his offices be turned over. Israel will likewise make the withdrawal from Bethlehem conditional on the surrender of the armed men holed up in the Church of the Nativity. As for Nablus and Jenin, the IDF will begin pulling back when the military mission is completed, he is expected to tell Powell. Informed sources said last night that Sharon is intent on achieving a cease- fire before political talks begin. However, if the United States would agree that Arafat not participate in such talks, the sources said, Israel would consider starting political discussions in tandem with cease-fire talks, as demanded by yesterday's Madrid statement. [...] Later, Sharon told Likud ministers that even after the IDF withdraws from the towns, it will continue to encircle and blockade them from a distance.
So let's see if I've got this straight: the withdrawal is only from some places, whenever Israel wants to do it, but they're not really withdrawing because they're putting up a blockade and they're not leaving the major cities any time soon anyway. Have I got that right?
Israel is willing to have cease fire talks begin immediately, and political talks can be in tandem, but only if Arafat doesn't participate. Meanwhile, the sine qua non for ... well, pretty much the rest of the world, really, is that Arafat is seen as the duly elected leader of the Palestinians, so he must participate.
And Powell is going to be there "as long as warranted." What's "warranted", under those circumstances, is that he turn around and come home. It's clear that nothing meaningful can be accomplished. (Otherwise, if by "as long as warranted" Powell means "until we get a cease-fire agreement", he's going to be there forever and we'll never see him in this country again.)
I do love Netanyahu's comments: Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Israeli prime minister who is expected to be a candidate again, yesterday urged the United States not to abandon its "moral clarity" in fighting terrorism, nor to withdraw support as Israel fights against Palestinian terrorism. "Will America apply its principles consistently?" Mr. Netanyahu asked at a session with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. [...] "I believe that in his heart, President Bush understands us," Mr. Netanyahu said. "He doesn't believe a word [Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat] says. I think the president wants an extensive cease-fire [to give the United States time] to finish off Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But Arafat knows that and will never stop terrorism." Where, in this godawful mess, is "moral clarity"? What moral clarity can there be in a situation like this? Mind, he is right about Bush, I suspect. To the extent that he has any sympathy at all in this situation, it would be with Israel; however, I suspect his true sentiment about the situation is what did when he came into office, which is to disengage and hope they didn't all kill each other ... and not to care overmuch if they did. (OK, perhaps a slightly too cynical evaluation of Our Glorious Leader.) If it weren't for The War on Terrorism, I don't believe that anyone on the planet could have persuaded him to get his administration this deeply involved in a clearly unsolvable situation.
I would also suggest that our strategy of doing in the Taliban without worrying about what would follow is now involving us up to our necks in "what would follow", when that was the last thing the administration wanted; perhaps Mr Netanyahu should observe and ponder on that. (I also wonder where, after the past few weeks, you could find many moderate Palestinians willing to make peace with Israel. And what you would do with the radicals who would refuse to allow it, or to pay the least attention to what they did. In fact, it's quite likely that any moderates who made peace and seriously meant it would be killed as collaborators.)
In the meantime:
And speaking of Europe .....
All in all, the sorts of developments that make people everywhere feel terribly hopeful about things, right? ... Right?Posted by iain at 04:46 PM
Spam spam spam spam new email filters to defeat spam and spam.
It'll be interesting, should this system get distributed, to see how long it works. After all, it's in a spammer's interest to defeat such systems as soon as possible. (I always wonder if spam email ever works. Do people really click on links or buy goods that they've gotten in unsolicited email from who knows who?)Posted by iain at 10:48 AM
Schools fall short in awareness of gay students: Kansas City touts itself as a child-centered city. A new study, however, says that if the children are gay, local care and concern often will turn to ambivalence, especially in area school districts.
And the news here is ... what, exactly?
Eight states have adopted laws that include sexual orientation as a protected category in harassment or civil rights statutes governing public schools. Missouri and Kansas are not among those states.
Indeed. It would be rather difficult for Kansas to include sexual orientation as a protected category when they still send teenagers to jail for 20 years for actually having gay sex. I mean, how would they manage that? "You can call yourself gay, and we'll protect you, but if you actually have sex, we'll have to send you to prison."
The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network released its eighth annual report scrutinizing the military's use of what became known as Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. [...] The report found the number of people discharged for homosexual conduct or for stating they are homosexual continues to rise -- 1,250 last year. It also found a growing number reporting harassment for their sexual identity or the perception of homosexuality -- 1,075 episodes. [...] What can't be disputed is the continuing pain of Pat and Wally Kutteles of Kansas City. They are the parents of Barry Winchell, an Army soldier who was beaten to death in 1999 by two other soldiers who believed Winchell was gay. "The report shows that nothing has been done, absolutely nothing," said Wally Kutteles. "They just don't care."Posted by iain at 12:35 AM
Kurds in first skirmish of Iraq conflict: THE Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, has fired the first shot in the long-expected battle to resist US-led attempts to unseat him. Days before announcing a 30-day halt to Iraqi oil exports, an Iraqi-backed radical Islamic group in predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq attempted to assassinate a pro-Western Kurdish leader, a potential US ally in any military action against Iraq.
OK, don't get me wrong -- I fully understand that in a future war with Iraq, we would probably use the northern Kurds, if they would let us ... but in order for Hussein to be resisting a US-led attempt, don't we have to actually be attempting something? Or leading, for that matter? Nobody was actually doing anything at the time; Hussein just decided to throw in a random assassination attempt just for the hell of it.
Can't say as I blame the Kurds for asking for ironclad guarantees from the US. Given what happened last time, they would be fools to trust us.Posted by iain at 10:40 AM
Many area libraries allow Internet porn: In downtown Marlboro, people can head to an adult video and novelty store two doors down from City Hall if they ever want to buy pornography. But if people just want to view pornography, they can stroll up the street a few blocks and walk into the city's public library.
Well, that ought to be nicely inflammatory all around.Posted by iain at 10:31 AM
US intellectuals call for European criticism of US war on terror: A group of 128 US intellectuals opposed to the notion that the "war on terrorism" is a "just war" has sent a letter to European counterparts calling for "a sane and frank European criticism of the Bush administration's war policy."
Assuming that "sane and frank" are just thrown in there for the hell of it -- you can't quite say, "come one, come all!", now can you? -- exactly what do these people think that many Europeans have been doing for the past six months? Twiddling their thumbs? Have they read the Independent of the Guardian? Listened to anything said by the French government ... um, ever?
I will agree that in general, the American press started out as uncritical, but that would hardly describe their stance today.
And frankly, that last paragraph makes me want to find all 128 of those alleged intellectuals and bitchslap each and every one of them until they grow a brain. If they can explain to me exactly what those 20 middle and upper class people who killed more than 2,000, and who destroyed a notably large chunk of New York were being deprived of, I would be amazed, frankly.
As long as we're hyping intellectualism today, The New Liberal Imperialism is an interesting piece. For one thing, I thought the "balance of power" model was considered to have collapsed after World War II -- although I suppose a bipolar world can be considered a very specific type of balance of power, but it isn't, generally. Cooper doesn't seem to quite know where to place the US in his system. (For some reason, isolating geography is a reason why Japan may not be a fully postmodern state, but it doesn't apply to us.) Then again, if "mutual interference" is truly a prerequisite for postmodernism, I suspect the US preference would be to be a "Machiavellian" nation-state like China. Frankly, I suspect most former colonies -- and even though we're the oldest independent former colony, we still were one -- all have an extraordinarily low tolerance for "mutual interference".
I would agree that in the postmodern world, war is generally a result of policy failure rather than a policy in and of itself. (The Middle East being a notable exception; after all, for a policy to first fail, you have to actually have one.)
Cooper's call for a new imperialism is rather ... startling, to say the least. To be sure, he doesn't mean traditional colonialism, quite, but the "voluntary imperialism" of development aid, and the "imperialism of neighbors". What Cooper calls voluntary imperialism is resisted by many of the "premodern states" precisely because most are former colonies and precisely because it requires a loss of control that most find intolerable. (I do like the bit about "aid theology", though. Development Aid Is Our God, apparently.) The "Imperialism of neighbors" is problematic precisely because the neighbors have to be willing to get involved. Had Europe been willing to deal with the mess in the Balkans earlier, it might not have spun as badly out of control as it did. It's understandable that they were trying to avoid a repeat of the earlier wars of the 20th century, but in doing so, they condemned the Balkans to a much longer war.
Any road, an interesting piece.Posted by iain at 10:27 AM
Media Relations: broadcast news/ April 10, 2002Posted by iain at 09:34 AM
But in a much more far-reaching ruling, the court said Ditto could not also send users to the original photo through a link. It was the first time an appellate court had ruled on the issue of "in-line linking" or "framing", the practice followed by many search engines of providing a link that opens a browser window displaying material from another website. [...] If Ditto was wrong, so is everyone else who links, says the EFF. In its brief it argues that there is "no principled basis in copyright law that would distinguish Ditto's activity from any link on the web".
(For the decision itself, Leslie A. Kelly vs Arriba Soft Corporation [Adobe Acrobat Required])
So what does that mean in realistic terms?
You remember those much derided messages sent out by KPMG and Starbucks, right? The ones that said, effectively, "Thank you for linking to us! Unfortunately, you didn't ask us first, so please take it off your site before we sue your ass into oblivion. Thank yew! Buh-bye now!"
The decision by the Ninth Circuit actually gives them basis in law. In the Ninth Circuit. In other words, in that part of the country and that part alone, it would be absolutely illegal to link to someone else's web page. To be sure, other circuit decisions are considered binding in other parts of the country unless explicitly overruled, or unless there are conflicting decisions between circuits ... which there are. (An aside: The Ninth Circuit actually does have its own web site. Wherein one may find all sorts of questions about the Ninth Circuit answered. Except, of course, "What states are considered part of the Ninth Circuit?" I suppose their thought is that only lawyers will use their site, and they already know. You can, however, find a list on the website for the Ninth Circuit Executive. Whatever that is. Because everyone will know to look there for that list down in the lefthand sidebar near the bottom of the page, right? ... Silly judges.)
Assuming the full court refuses to review the decision -- and possibly even if it does, depending on what it decides -- the case will probably head to the Supreme Court. Which will then get to decide if linking is illegal. Our Supreme Court. Oh ... dear.
The interesting thing is that, given current copyright law, the case is absolutely wrongly decided on two of its three points. A link to a web page is more equivalent to a citation in a paper -- "this is my source for this information, please go here to see the entire piece." A thumbnail graphic -- especially one created by someone else -- can be said to be intellectual property of a sort. It's reasonable to say that you have no right to take someone else's work and display an altered or reduced version of it; altering the original work without permission is in and of itself normally considered a copyright violation. (Depending on exactly what is done, of course. There is a parody/review exception.)
It'll be interesting to see what happens with this decision. Depending on whether or not the parties have the funds to pursue it, this may turn into one of those decisions that's cordially ignored by everyone ... except when someone says something about another website's content that the original owner doesn't like. Then, of course, they'll sue to have the link removed. Cease and desist orders and lawsuits will be filed over links.
My, that Ninth Circuit is an interesting place, isn't it?Posted by iain at 08:57 AM
''The terrorists are cynically using innocent civilians as a human shield,'' Harel, the Israeli general, said. ''They know that when a civilian dies, the world will cry out, `massacre!' We know that, too, and so are advancing slowly, deliberately, and carefully.''
Also, Israeli forces attacked the headquarters of Palestinian Preventive Security outside the city, firing tank shells and machine guns, Palestinian officials said. They said Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub had given orders to the 400 men inside to resist, and that the Israelis had used 60 Palestinian civilians as a human shield in front of the tanks before the assault -- an allegation that the army denied.
According to a report on NPR this afternoon (REAL PLAYER REQUIRED), Israeli soldiers are accused of taking Palestinian girls and women from their homes at midnight, forcing them to knock on their neighbors' doors, and then pushing them into the house so that if there's any gunfire, they'll get it first.
So nice to see that there's one thing the IDF and the Palestinian forces all seem to agree on. In the view of both, the more dead Palestinians, the better. From the Israeli point of view, it's just that simple -- dead people don't fight, they don't wear bombs, and they don't kill Israelis; from the Palestinian point of view, the more dead civilians, the better it is from a propaganda point of view.
If you happen to be one of the Palestinian civilians caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, you might not see it that way, of course. But then, you don't happen to have the guns or tanks or other weapons, so your point of view is utterly irrelevant. You just get to sit there and get killed by one side or the other. How cheery! (To be sure, your chances of being killed by the IDF is considerably greater. After all, they have more and bigger weapons. But at least your chance of being killed by your own people is reasonably large. After all, wouldn't you rather die because your own people were cynically using you for propaganda purposes? And whether you volunteer for shield duty or get drafted, either way, it's for propaganda.)
It will be interesting to see what Shrubya's administration will do if any of these allegations can be substantiated. From the administration point of view, while they generally support Israel's right to defend themselves against terrorists, there have to be limits. Israel has demonstrated a fine disregard for anything Shrubya wants from them; how long can they keep that up? What is he willing to do if it can be shown to him that Israel is crossing whatever line in the sand he cares to draw? (If any, of course.) Ideally, they'd want the allegations against the Palestinians to be true, and the ones against the Israelis to be false, but this situation is so incredibly confused already that it's highly unlikely to be that onesided.Posted by iain at 08:33 PM
It seems the US may not be charging Hamdi (REAL PLAYER REQUIRED), the US citizen discovered at Guantanamo. The legal situation is thoroughly muddled by the fact that he's a US citizen; rights of habeas corpus and all sorts of other things apply. Additionally, the government was forced to get him out of Guantanamo immediately, because otherwise federal courts would have been able to exercise jurisdiction, by his very presence, which they have so far been unable to do. (Weirdly, the government wants to send him back to Saudi Arabia; the problem is that he was born and raised in Louisiana, so that would also be problematic, no matter where his parents are from. He may be lucky enough to get away completely. I don't say he deserves it, of course; he just seems to be incredibly lucky at the moment.)Posted by iain at 08:14 PM
Ah, spring, when a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of ... proms.
Well ... in the US he wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on, but I don't know about Canada. I kind of suspect that a school that is both private and religious can do whatever it wants regarding its prom, though. (And in this country, his 21 year old boyfriend would do well to keep himself out of sight; the boy's parents could make life quite miserable for him, since he's still a minor, even if he is above the age of consent.)Posted by iain at 07:11 PM
Sharon vows to continue campaign: In a sharp blow to U.S. mediation efforts, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that Israel's military offensive in the West Bank would continue until Palestinian militants were crushed. His comments followed the single worst loss suffered by the Israeli military in 18 months when 13 soldiers were killed in a booby-trapped building in Jenin.
Well, there's a shock. No, really, I'm terribly, terribly, terribly surprised. Aren't you?
To be honest, I'm only surprised that Sharon ever agreed to even pretend to pull back in the first place. (Well, that, and the fact that Israel hasn't moved on Gaza -- and don't seem, at this point, to be planning to do so, which is distinctly odd. Hamas, which has sent the most suicide bomb murderers out, is known to be quite active in Gaza, and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah have some presence.)
And of course, the US administration's position is deeply conflicted. On the one hand, it doesn't really mind what Israel is doing, in and of itself; anyone running around blowing up US citizens on a near-daily basis would probably receive considerably worse from us. (And considering how very bad it is in the Palestinian areas, that's saying something. Then again, we might be less ... deliberately indiscriminate, in the same situation. Hard to tell, really.) On the other hand, it complicates the administration's desire to go after other terrorists and to get rid of Hussein, preferably with the support (or at least neutrality) of other Middle Eastern governments.
And whatever else is going on, I cannot imagine that one of the goals of our government is to "destabilize and replace most of the Arab regimes"; that would produce more of a nightmare in the Middle East than currently exists. If they wanted to manage it without introducing utter chaos into the region, it would take longer than this administration has in office, assuming it gets re-elected. (Although, of course, there would be the demonstration effect of doing it once ... assuming that we could control the results. As is becoming obvious in Afghanistan, that's not a given.) If nothing else, the current regimes in Iran and Iraq stand as signal cautions of the "be careful what you wish for" stripe of government changes. (To be sure, we didn't wish for Iran's change, but we did connive at Iraq's, at first.) We might wish for some of the administrations to be changed, but at the moment, it's virtually certain that every single one of them would become an Islamist fundamentalist regime, and that's in nobody's interests; not ours, not the citizens of those regimes, and certainly not Israel's. The question to be asked is: would an Islamist fundamentalist regime be worse for us and for them than whatever is in place now? In the case of Iraq and possibly Saudi Arabia, the answer might be "no" (heavily qualified in the case of Arabia -- although it might make this administration see some actual value in alternative fuel sources if the number 2 producer drops out of the market for a time); in all other cases, the answer would be an emphatic "yes". (With Syria ... eh. Could be a tossup, really. I'm not sure you could tell the difference between a
Purely as an aside ... what the hell is this thing? The Palestinian News Authority has written perfectly good English releases in the past; why on earth would they let something this muddled out? Assuming that I actually understand what they're saying (and only the last paragraph is really unequivocally clear) ... I assume they're trying to get Powell and Zinni to go home so that we can let Israel finish whatever it's trying to do without interference, and to piss off the Arab countries enough so that they're willing to allow it to happen. Otherwise, why on earth would they release a broadside against not only Israel, which is entirely expected and in part justified, but the Arab countries (for not sufficiently supporting the Palestinians by attacking Israel ... I think) and the US? Did they truly mean to say that September 11 represents a reasonable response to technological advance? (Is that even what they said?)
The official response from the US and Israel to this ... thing seems to have been to ignore it. After all, its two days old, and nobody seems to be talking about it much. (Which is also odd, really. You'd think that Israel would be jumping up and down and pointing and saying, "See! See what they said!") To the extent that there was a response, this seems to be all: Powell says he plans to meet Arafat this week. (Considering as he started out the week saying he didn't plan to meet with Arafat, it must be a response to something; however, honestly, I suspect it to be mostly a response to whatever he's heard in Morocco and Egypt, rather than to the Palestinians.)
And Mr Perlmutter imagines that at the moment, the world is looking away as Israel faces extinction. How ... odd.
The UN worries that Israel is committing human rights violations. I should imagine that's pretty much a certainty, all things considered. The IDF is not much concerned with "human decency" at the moment. I'd imagine, however, that Israel's response would be that the suicide bomb murderers weren't much concerned with human decency themselves. True enough, but it means something different when practiced by the mechanisms of the state. (And if they truly imagine that anything said or done by the US will make much difference to Israel at this moment ... exactly what are they looking at?) But just to help fix things, Powell is offering to send observers. Whatever FOR? Unless they have some sort of full police authority, all American observers will do is get killed. If he wants them there as a sacrificial tripwire ... well, I thought better of him than that, military officer or no.
Iraq's oil cut seems to be doing wonderfully well; Saudi Arabia has already promised to make up the shortfall. Quite the solid trade bloc, that OPEC, eh?Posted by iain at 12:40 PM
Andersen cuts 7,000 workers, some by e-mail: Arthur Andersen LLP, its reputation shredded and its prospects bleak, began firing about a quarter of its U.S.-based work force Monday, sometimes using voice mail and e-mail to deliver the news. Andersen, reeling from its role as former auditor of the bankrupt Enron Corp., said it's cutting 7,000 employees. The company said the firings will occur over several months while it seeks to sell operations and survive as a much smaller firm. [...] "I hold the Department of Justice responsible. I think if they had just gone after the few people who were responsible rather than indicting the whole firm, this would never have happened to people like me.''
Well ... yes, but ...
On the one hand, it would have made somewhat better sense to go after the individuals responsible, if they could have found them. (Which is another issue.) Even going after just the Houston partners. It's also likely that going after individuals would make for an easier case to prove.
And yet ... and yet ....
The problem is, that's exactly what the government has done whenever Andersen has done wrong before. Either go after individuals, or fine the firm heavily. The problem is, that doesn't quite seem to work. If you look at Andersen's history in the 90s, you see a lovely, unbroken line of fiscal scandal: Waste Management, Sunbeam, Boston Market, Baptist Foundation of Arizona, and now Enron. Somewhat different types of malfeasance in each case, to be sure, but in each case, the entity for which Andersen was doing accounting was hiding money, and in at least three of the cases, the malfeasance on the part of both Andersen and the company involved was so extreme that the company functionally ceased to exist.
At some point, the government ought to be able to say, "Enough. We've fined you and reprimanded you and done everything we can. Clearly, you're not going to learn from this, so you must go." It's not that I don't feel for these people -- I've been laid off before, and it's horrid. And 95% of Andersen's employees are blameless in this and the other Andersen scandals. But you can't decapitate the firm and leave it intact -- there's no sensible way for the government to say, "In this limited partnership, all the partners must go," and leave the firm functioning. (And clearly, given the unbroken run of accounting issues, the partners would seem to be something to be looked at.)
The other side of this is that Andersen's current rescue plan makes NO sense whatsoever. Volcker is planning to strip the firm of its consulting functions and leave it as a lean, mean auditing/accounting only firm. Well, fine, but as far as I understand it, the consulting side is considered largely blameless in the various messes; it's the auditing failure that stands out. The consulting side is also responsible for something like 75% of Andersen Worldwide's income. Why on earth would you keep the part of the firm that is demonstrably untrustworthy, and get rid of the part that nobody seems to have problems with?
The ripple effect here is going to be nasty, though. Oh, not yet -- 7,000 people is not that many in the scope of Chicago's economy. The nasty part will come if the firm truly shuts down, and Andersen's various suppliers will suddenly have lost a major client, with nothing of that scale around to replace it. That's when the ripples will start spreading out.Posted by iain at 11:50 AM
It'll be fascinating, in a kind of horrifying way, to see what comes of this. If Lindh's lawyer is any good -- and it seems he's very good, judging from the article -- he will under no circumstances allow Lindh to plea bargain down too far, if at all. The treatment Lindh received would, if it happened within this country, be so blatantly illegal as to get the case tossed, in all likelihood. (They put him in a shipping container? Naked and strapped to a stretcher? Good grief.)
Then again, it depends. I can't imagine that he'll get a truly fair trial -- certainly not anywhere close to one of the attack sites, and probably nowhere in this country. It will be a media circus of the first water. The jury will almost certainly be sequestered for the whole trial, which won't predispose them to like him at all.
It will be interesting as well to see how the various trials wind up being sequenced. It seems, for example, almost certain that the Moussaoui trial will end up being heard first. The case against him in many particulars is quite a bit stronger; nonetheless, traditionally, this country has not given death sentences for conspiracy charges, especially when the conspirator had been in jail for a month. If that goes badly -- and it would shock me if it did -- then the government might decide to do something else with Lindh.
I love the ending of the article, though. Frankly, I cannot, under any circumstances, imagine Shrubya and his administration reminding people that our legal system is one of the things we're fighting for. After all, they don't remotely believe that; they believe that when the legal system doesn't produce the results they want, it's clearly the Enemy.Posted by iain at 02:13 PM
Good heavens. Tom Tomorrow has a weblog! How on earth did I miss that before?Posted by iain at 01:26 PM
Colorado Supreme Court: Police can't see book store records: The Colorado Supreme Court refused today to order the Tattered Cover Book Store to allow police to see its sales records as part of a drug investigation. [...] "The Supreme Court concludes that the law enforcement need for the book purchase record in this case was not sufficiently compelling to outweigh the harm that would likely follow from execution of the search warrant, in part because law enforcement officials sought the purchase record for reasons related to the contents of the books that the suspect may have purchased," the court said.
Well, well, well.
I must admit, I thought the decision would go the other way. I'm glad it fell out this way; the government should not be allowed to go on a fishing expedition as if they were thought police. (That said, there was a narrowly-targeted way the police could have made this request, although no more guaranteed of success; they could have asked about the specific people they were investigating. That would have been a much more difficult request for the bookstore to defeat. Instead, they went on a broad search, and found that the very broadness of the search defeated the request.)
It'll be interesting to see what happens now. Since the Colorado Supreme Court made specific reference to the Constitution, the police could send this into federal court. Law enforcement would, I should think, want to get this precedent off the books.
On the other hand, surely by the time the case moves into the federal stream and gets heard by anyone, the people they're investigating will either have been arrested on other charges, have gotten themselves dead one way or another, or moved on. (Or be perfectly innocent.)Posted by iain at 01:07 PM
Library Cat Attack Turns Into Hate Crime Battle: A hate crime allegation was filed in a $1.5 million lawsuit against the city of Escondido by a man claiming his civil rights were violated when his assistance dog, Kimba, was attacked by a cat in a public library.
Why on earth hasn't this case been tossed yet? The amended case makes it clear that the man is on some sort of fishing expedition, searching for something that'll get him money.
(The cat was clawing the dog with all four paws. Yes. Right. Which would pretty much say that the dog had the cat pinned down somehow, because the cat couldn't get any leverage or traction to do that otherwise. But anyway.)
Espinosa, who is representing himself, cited the "unique" issues of this case as the reason why attorneys don't handle such complaints.
No, the reason attorneys wouldn't handle this case it that it's an absolute turkey of a case. There is one, very small, legitimate claim of damage because the cat was legally not allowed to be on city property. The rest of this case is just crap, and most attorneys would know that perfectly well.Posted by iain at 12:39 PM
Warnings On Drilling Reversed: One week after a U.S. Geological Survey study warned that caribou "may be particularly sensitive" to oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the agency has completed a quick follow-up report suggesting that the most likely drilling scenarios under consideration should have no impact on caribou.
Yeah. Right. Sure.
Or, it could be that Shrubya's administration decided that the report should be massaged until it told them what they wanted to hear. Hmm ... genuine science done in seven days, or political expedience throwing twelve years' work out the window? Hmm ... gee, I just don't know ...Posted by iain at 11:39 AM
Yes? And? So? Your point being ... what, exactly?
The problem with this is twofold: (1) The world's largest oil exporter is Russia, which would be thrilled and delighted to take market share from anyone willing to follow Iraq along this path, and (2) we would be thrilled and delighted to shift our imports to Russia, Mexico, and Venezuela, if possible. Saudi Arabia is already in bad odeur (or deep doo-doo, if you prefer), what with the WTC terrorists all being Arabian, and now the administration taking a dim, if surprisingly muted, view of Saudi payments to the survivors of the suicide bomb murderers, so they're somewhat unlikely to go along. (Additionally, they're rather distressed about falling to second on the exporter list, as it means they have, in fact, lost a goodly chunk of market share.) For that matter, most of the exporters already have economies and societies that are so rocky, they can't afford the additional agitation that would come with the loss of state income.
In other words, the only ones likely to be hurt by this are Iraq and possibly Libya, since they seem to be going along.Posted by iain at 11:17 AM
Well, and who among us hasn't felt like doing that? Mind, I haven't had a sledgehammer to hand when I've felt that way, but still, wouldn't that be a good feeling?Posted by iain at 11:32 PM
A woman taking part in a controversial human cloning programme is eight weeks pregnant, claims Severino Antinori, one of the two controversial fertility specialists leading the effort. "One woman among thousands of infertile couples in the programme is eight weeks pregnant," Antinori is reported as saying at a meeting in the United Arab Emirates. If true, this would represent the first human cloning pregnancy.
... well, if true, the genie is certainly out of that bottle now.
I will admit to being baffled by Donald Bruce's position, however: Bruce says human reproductive cloning is ethically unacceptable in any circumstances as people have a right not to have another's DNA forced upon them. Um ... exactly whose DNA is being forced on anyone? Cloning yourself would seem to require a high level of voluntary action, wouldn't it?Posted by iain at 01:08 AM
A Madison sixth-grader has been suspended and could face a yearlong expulsion after bringing a serrated table knife to class to dissect an onion for a science project. [...] "Why a student brings a weapon to school and under what conditions really can't impact our decision," said Assistant Superintendent Valencia Douglas. Even if a knife is brought to school for the most benign reason, it could fall into the wrong hands, she said. [...] Administrators told the family in a letter that they'll recommend to the School Board a one-year expulsion for "possession of a dangerous weapon." However, Jorgenson said the family has been told unofficially by the district that if Christian admits that he committed a "crime," submits to a psychological evaluation and completes an anger management course, he would be eligible to return to school this year.
You know ... I can understand suspending the kid. Given the "offense", even suspension seems a bit extreme, but it's at least justifiable. I can understand the school system saying, "Look, a weapon is a weapon. He has to understand that, and we need to do at least this much to prove to people who do this with intent that we're serious about our policy." I can understand them going that far.
But why in the name of sanity would you threaten someone with expulsion and force them to attend an "anger management" course for this? What anger was there to manage? Wouldn't you have expected him to have used the knife as a weapon to need that sort of thing, or to have at least threatened to do so? (Now, of course, there'd be plenty anger, but it wouldn't have anything to do with the knife.)
Zero-tolerance policies with no flexibility or room for judgement are truly spectacularly idiotic things.Posted by iain at 12:53 AM
Despite the US push, neither Israelis or Palestinians are optimistic they could reach anything more than a cosmetic, temporary deal. Each believes the other is intent on continued use of force, while Palestinians scoff at expectations Mr Arafat could bring about an immediate halt to suicide bombings. "For us in the Orient it is difficult to understand the words from Washington about Arafat," said Hafez Barghouthi, editor-in-chief of the Palestinian Authority's al-Hayat al-Jadida newspaper, which has not been able to publish since Israel conquered Ramallah. "Israel is waging a war against our security services so that if Arafat wants to do something [about bombings] he will need a lot of time. They are asking him to do more against terrorism, when he does not even have any water. I believe the [suicide] operations will continue against the Israelis."
And a remarkably clear-eyed evaluation from the Palestinian Authority's own official instrument.
Not, of course, that it's going to matter in the least as to what Israel and the US are going to ask Arafat (or whoever) to do. Neither will care that Israel has systematically destroyed Arafat's enforcement arm, or that the infrastructure is so badly damaged that he couldn't do anything even if he wanted to. And, of course, he will be so desperate to get the Israelis out of his territory that he'll agree to anything, thereby setting himself up for failure. (Not that he has the least intention of trying. And it's never been remotely clear why anyone expects the Authority/Fatah to do something about suicide bombing murderers, most of whom seem to be from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. After all, Fatah and Hamas have had an ongoing off-again, on-again mini-war; they cordially loathe and despise each other. And yet the Fatah-controlled Authority is supposed to be able to do something about them.) And when Arafat (or whoever) fails to control the terrorists -- a bombing should be about two seconds after the next cease fire is signed -- Israel will come right back in, thus ensuring that this will go on for some time to come.
And there will be much handwringing and weeping and wailing from the West and from the Arab countries.
In the meantime, the administration is putting out the sort of signals that drive everyone else into a frothing frenzy, and I can't say that I blame people for being aggravated. Figuring out what exactly the US means these days is next to impossible.
First, we have Powell: "The president's expectation is that the incursions will stop and the withdrawal process will begin as soon as possible or without delay, whichever formulation you chose," Powell told reporters after meeting at the State Department with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher. A nice, direct, simple statement. (Actually, if he hadn't said, "without delay", it would have been a masterpiece of misdirection, since "as soon as possible" contains an extraordinary amount of wiggle room. However, misdirection is not, in general, quite his specialty.)
And then we have Our Shrub and his mouthpiece: The White House has cautioned against expecting Israel to pull its forces from Palestinian territories "overnight," as the Jewish state ignored US President George W. Bush's day-old appeal to quit those areas. "The president recognises that, in a region that's been marred by violence for decades, major events don't necessarily happen overnight," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters travelling with the president here.
Excuse me: can't this administration find one damn page on this script and stick to it? I realize that coordinating statements when one mouthpiece is in DC and the other is in Crawford, Texas, can be a bit difficult, but good land! haven't these people ever heard of a telephone? Why on earth wouldn't Our Shrub call up Powell and say, "OK, look, when you talk to the press, don't give them any impression that we expect Israel to do anything immediately. Talk around it. Be extremely precise in what you say and let me handle the blunt stuff. After all, everyone still likes you; don't screw that up." To be sure, most of the world will simply assume that Powell has been misinformed (again), but that can't do his prestige or authority any good. Why would they trust someone who is either demonstrably incompetent, or who has demonstrably been lied to repeatedly about his own government's position?
Israel, understandably, is taking the most favorable viewpoint of the two.
Take Rumsfeld's press conference on Abu Zubaida as an exemplar of the type of thing you expect from the administration. Reporters hammered away at Rumsfeld about whether or not the US would transfer Abu Zubaida to a third country for torture. His answers were always extremely precise and extremely nonresponsive, even after he finally blew his top. (I would like to note that I saw tape of that press conference. Despite what the Post said, I was left with the impression that Rumsfeld did not quite rule out that option. What he was saying was that the reports themselves were inaccurate. Frankly, I got the impression that although Abu Zubaida was under US control, it was possible that Pakistan was taking the lead on questioning him already. If that's true, that would mean that the transfer has already taken place, to the extent that it's going to; the reporters were all inquiring about a future event, which means that Rumsfeld could answer them and say that it wasn't going to happen with clear-eyed honesty. They are not incompatible positions, after all.)
And in other Middle East news, the US is building up its Qatar base. A guess: by the end of the year, Prince Sultan will be all but closed. This assumes that we don't go into Iraq in August -- a little something to cure the summer news doldrums. (I gather that Qatar has been sounded out about whether or not it would kick us out, and assurances must have been received. Otherwise, why would you bother?)
And then there are the Europeans, about which one can only say: what the HELL are they thinking? ARE they thinking? If you appoint yourself spokesman for Mr. Arafat and then a day before the latest peace mission openly agree to donate euro 50 million ($44 million) in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, it should come as no surprise if the Israelis choose to ignore your entreaties. Because the United States has not been able to get anywhere with Mr. Sharon either, at least this time, the EU has failed with honor. THAT is "honor"? It's considerably less "honor" than we have in the situation; at least nobody expects us to be an honest broker.
CNN.com - Oprah's Book Club enters new chapter by cutting back: Oprah's Book Club will stop being a monthly feature and Oprah Winfrey will only promote a book when it gains her "heartfelt recommendation," according to a statement by the talk show host.
And everywhere, publishers weep copious tears. (And Franzen does the little happy dance, because he got his way before she called it quits.)Posted by iain at 03:36 PM
In a ruling that has sent a shiver down many parents' spines, Italy's highest appeals court has decreed that fathers must carry on supporting adult children until they find a job to their liking.
... Well, that's one of the more absurd things I've seen recently. Especially given the specifics of the situation. Given those circumstances, the case would have been laughed out of the American courts. I can't understand why Italy didn't dismiss it out of hand.Posted by iain at 03:30 PM
U.S. Supreme Court blocks Alabama execution: The U.S. Supreme Court stopped the execution of Gary Leon Brown on Thursday about eight hours before he was to be executed in Alabama's electric chair for killing a man. [...]
Alabama had four executions scheduled last year and all four were blocked by the courts for various reasons.
Hmm. You'd think that Alabama might take that as A Clue that they're doing something wrong with executions. Apparently, you'd be wrong.Posted by iain at 02:06 PM
Well, that would be revolting.
And horribly, horribly inspired.
The question is, would the gain be worth the loss of the very conservative wing of the Republican party? After all, black, female, unmarried ... you couldn't ask for someone more designed to make the archconservatives flee to the Reform Party of Pat Buchanan, or wherever he winds up hanging his little neoNazi hat next time.Posted by iain at 01:56 PM
Appeasing Arab hate puts the lie to 'Never Again': All civilized people can agree that killing Jews is wrong. Well, killing six million of them 60 years ago is wrong. Killing a couple of dozen every 48 hours or so, that's a different matter. The official position of Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, speaking from his beach in Barbados, is that Israel's response to the Passover massacre is "disproportionate." [...] In Marseilles, where one synagogue was burned to the ground on Sunday and another less conclusively torched Tuesday, the Grand Mufti, Soheib Bencheikh, told UPI that so long as "the violence in the Middle East" persisted "Arab youths in France would likely continue their campaign of attacks." They're not Palestinians, they're mostly French citizens of North African extraction. But "frustration" at what Israel is doing on the West Bank of the Jordan justifies French Muslims burning French Jews' houses of worship.
French police have detained five youths for questioning after firebombs were thrown at a synagogue just outside Paris, the sixth Jewish religious site to be attacked in France since last weekend.
A high-level EU peace mission to the Middle East stands little chance of success because Israel doesn't trust the European Union and Arab countries see the body as powerless in the dispute, experts said on Thursday.
Hmm. Gee. Wonder why.
Mind, if Israel doesn't trust Europe -- and it should not -- and Arab countries don't trust the US -- and they should not -- what country has sufficient prestige and power to be viewed as an honest broker? China, which is engaged in active and vigorous suppression of its Muslim religious minorities? Canada? (After that speech? I suppose if nothing else, it establishes Canada as completely independent of the UK/US orbit on this issue. It also pretty much ensures that every time the name of the country is mentioned in Israel, millions of people will spit. I mean, what on earth is a "proportionate" response to suicide bombing murderers? What?) Who can do it?
It's also noteworthy that, despite Europe's desire to get involved, the Arab states don't seem to care much about getting them in, either. Whether it's simply because the EU can't deliver Israel, or because the EU can't deliver the US (and a nasty realization that's becoming, too), or because the EU has no independent force projection -- they can't make anyone do anything -- who can say? The EU hasn't even unlimbered at Israel their most used weapon, trade sanctions. It hasn't even been mentioned.Posted by iain at 01:19 PM
"Everyone has to learn the hard way that freedom of speech is not free."
Hmm. Perhaps not. Although, surely, talking about your own experiences with a company should be protected speech, at the very least. A middle-ground result would have this case thrown out of court, because it's very clearly a SLAPP-type suit. How can it possibly be libelous to talk about your own experience? And as long as they didn't use the company logo in the banners asking for contributions to the defense fund, how can they be libelous?
Frankly, a true result based on the merits would have been a directed verdict against the company's owner.Posted by iain at 12:19 PM
Actress Tawny Kitaen, wife of Cleveland Indians pitcher Chuck Finley, was charged Wednesday with spousal abuse and battery for allegedly attacking her husband.
OK, that's different.
The person who came up with the title for the article should be ashamed of themselves -- and I mean that in all seriousness. Consider: whatever happened, it was serious enough that the police felt they should arrest the wife of a professional athlete -- who can be considered to be capable of taking care of himself, in general, I would think. That would seem to indicate more gravity than the title "Frisky Kitaen" implies.Posted by iain at 04:27 PM
I think I can speak without fear of contradiction when I say: that is just NASTY and disgusting! Who thought of that? Why would you think of that? What sort of nimrod would buy that?
Jill Mosher, a 45-year-old real estate executive from Phoenix who says she is a die-hard Diamondbacks fan, submitted a $75 bid and later upped the ante to $200 on the gum. Mosher said she has an unlimited amount of money to spend on the bid and plans to have Gonzalez autograph the case that houses the gum.
Oh. THAT sort of nimrod.
Bet they start auctioning off used game tobacco next. Ick ick ick ick ICK!Posted by iain at 03:37 PM
Lou Gelfand: Newspaper careful in use of label 'terrorist': "The Star Tribune generally tries to avoid labels," says assistant managing editor Roger Buoen. "Our practice is to stay away from characterizing subjects of news articles but instead describe their actions, background and identity as fully as possible, allowing readers to come to their own judgments about individuals and organizations. In the case of the term 'terrorist,' other words -- 'gunman,' 'separatist' and 'rebel,' for example -- may be more precise and less likely to be viewed as judgmental. Because of that we often prefer these more specific words. We also take extra care to avoid the term 'terrorist' in articles about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of the emotional and heated nature of that dispute."
It's not that I precisely disagree with the Star-Tribune's policy, exactly. But ... if you can't call someone a terrorist when they strap a bomb to their belly, wander into a mall or restaurant, and blow up themselves and twenty or thirty people who just happen to be standing around ... who on earth can you call a terrorist? Affiliation aside, since the clear purpose in such a case is to not only to cause mayhem and murder, but to terrify, why on earth couldn't the use of the word be a value-neutral description of the person and their actions?
That said, "suicide bomber" and "suicide terrorist" are somewhat incomplete as terms, aren't they? It makes it sound as if the only person killed was the one wearing the bomb.Posted by iain at 12:35 PM
IOL : Mandela bemoans SA's unpatriotic press: South Africa was still faced with the problem of an unpatriotic press whose focus on the country's crime problem was deterring investors, according to former president Nelson Mandela.
I don't think I've been quite so startled by a public figure in a while. Nelson Mandela is actually saying that he believes that the South African press should stop telling South Africans about their appalling crimes and crime rates because it deters investment? I'd think it would deter investment even more if people feel that they're being lied to, that there are facts about the country that are deliberately being hidden. I mean, just as a "for instance", most companies should probably know that bringing female workers to South Africa is a colossally idiotic thing to do these days, since the odds are quite strong that any woman would be raped (and gang raped, at that). A crime rate as poisonously high as South Africa's would be written about, sooner or later, and it would have been joined by articles on the collusion between the nominally free press and the government in hiding these facts from South Africans and the world. That would have been far worse.Posted by iain at 12:09 PM
Judge Rejects Closure of Terrorism Hearings: A federal judge in Detroit ruled Wednesday that a government policy to close deportation hearings of individuals targeted in the sweeping terrorism investigation launched after the Sept. 11 attacks is unconstitutional.
Our Lord High Minster of Injustice will not be amused. I would expect an appeal almost immediately, which will have the effect of keeping Haddad in jail, and his family -- including his children -- in whatever detention the government has placed them. (The government is seeking to deport three of his four children; the fourth was born here and is a citizen. How magnanimous of them. The kid can just stay here by itself. I'm sure they'll be able to find a job, earn a decent living, get an apartment ...)
The government will almost certainly appeal because the "strict scrutiny" standard requires them to tell a district judge what their evidence is, and why the hearing should be closed. (An immigration judge, logically enough, isn't competent to rule on why the hearing should or should not be closed; they just follow Ashcroft's direction in such matters. Which is why immigration judges should be pulled out of the direct INS line and folded into the general federal judiciary, and is why he doesn't want that.) The point of the closed hearings being that the Injustice department doesn't want anyone to hear the evidence -- including the accused and his attorneys, if any (people in INS hearings are not entitled to have attorneys appointed if they can't afford them) -- they can't afford to let the ruling stand without challenge. This decision will also set yet another precedent that can be used against the secret evidence laws, which were taking a battering before the attacks.
I do love the government's contention that the federal judge didn't have jurisdiction. If not the district judge, then who? The INS judges lack the statutory authority. The state judges really do lack jurisdiction over federal prisoners. The hearings are taking place on US soil, regarding action against people by the US government. The federal non-INS judiciary is the only venue for this case, and cases like it.
The Department of "Justice" can be quite contemptible, sometimes.Posted by iain at 11:38 AM
Gene therapy takes boy out of his bubble: GENE therapy has successfully treated a two-year-old boy who has spent most of his life in a sterile "bubble". Rhys Evans has a potentially fatal genetic disorder that left him with no immunity to infection. But now Rhys, born with a defect that causes severe combined immunodeficiency disorder (SCID), is the first British child to be cured with gene therapy for the condition. [...] The gene therapy technique being pioneered at Great Ormond Street is aimed at fixing the genetic fault that prevents a SCID child producing immune system cells. A single faulty gene, called gamma C, is believed to be responsible for the failure of the immune system in boys. The procedure involves removing bone marrow from the patient and treating it with a virus which carries the correct gene into the stem cells. The corrected bone marrow is then infused into the child and allowed to generate immune cells.
That is ... truly incredible. A genetic disease condition that was actually fixed genetically. The body repaired in a way that will be lasting, that means Rhys Evans may get to live a more or less normal life.
It'll be interesting to see what happens if the technique can be replicated for other conditions. I mean, take, for example, genetic deafness or blindness. Fixable shortly after birth or even possibly in the womb. And yet for almost any condition that might be cured this way, there will be protests. From the religious side, people who worry about tinkering with god's work. From another side, constituencies worrying that it shows some sort of prejudice against the handicapped. (Which, in a way, it does ... but isn't it normal for most parents to want the best for their children? To want them to have the best start they can give them? If you can repair certain conditions, why wouldn't you do that? Why wouldn't you make their lives easier?) And there will be all sorts of concerns about the slippery slope, which I can, frankly, share.
But that's for another day. Today, this kid gets to go outdoors and not die from it.Posted by iain at 01:25 AM
I would like to note the following:
(1) I love steak and baked potato. (Since when is skirt steak "altered"? It's just a specific cut. And if eating skirt steak is queer, my entire very Hispanic working class neighborhood is going to be shocked! Shocked, I say! And then they'll sensibly decide that the person who said that skirt steak was queer was an idiot. But I digress.)
(2) I will confess to having actually made Baked Alaska ... but only because my putatively straight roommate talked me into it. Make of that what you will.
(3) I like hot dogs. Extra onion, lotsa mustard, thanks. (Well, you don't have to stand next to me when I eat it, OK?)
And the reason most Joy of Cooking recipes are considered dated isn't just that they're massively fussy (which they are), but that they're also in the "First add creamed butter, then add vegetable oil, topped with clarified butter and a lovely lard florette" category. In other words, very very fatty.
Lobster Thermidor just sounds vile, frankly. As does pavlova. (Although I defy any straight man to watch Nigella Lawson cook pavlova and not think it looks like one of the sexiest foods ever made.)
Although highballs are queer. Very. Yes.
And there definitely seems to be a whole queer deconstructive kitchen theory thing going on these says. (UNnatural appetites, inDEED.)Posted by iain at 12:12 AM
And so, the partition of Andersen International begins:
As Andersen International spins apart, the income that Anderson Worldwide (the overarching shell) derives from it declines, and so the amount that Enron investors can hope to receive from an Andersen lawsuit also declines.
Domestically, in addition to the layoffs,
Bloody business watching the battle for Ramallah: I walked round the corner of a building to the little lawn upon which they were being questioned. A soldier was now putting a new pair of cuffs on one of the kneeling men. Another Palestinian was repeatedly bowing his head before a door and his shoulders moved as if he was weeping. None of it worried the soldiers. In their own, unique "war on terror", these prisoners were "terrorists". Indeed, another soldier eating a plate of greens said that he thought "all the people down there" were "terrorists".
And that's the problem, of course. By not distinguishing between ordinary citizens and terrorists -- by not being able to distinguish -- Israel is making certain that "all those people down there" are or will become terrorists.
And by deliberately making certain that Israel remains unable to distinguish, the Palestinian terrorists are closer and closer to insuring that Israel does something permanent and unforgiveable ... but no closer to whatever they think their goals are. If they even know what they really want.
Everybody's expectations in this are unreal. Not simply unreasonable, but actually impossible given current tactics. To the extent that the various terrorist organizations have goals ... well, they don't really seem to have them, do they? They can't get rid of Israel, and the more they run around casually blowing up themselves and others or killing soldiers and settlers, the less likely it is that Israel will give them anything else they want. After all, who wants to reward those who slaughter their people?
Israel's current behavior will, in the end, get them nothing they want. At best, if they're willing to be draconian in their tactics -- if we and Europe are willing to allow them to be so -- they may buy themselves another five or ten years of relative peace. Fewer and smaller scale bombings. Fewer attacks on those ill-advised settlements. And then once enough Palestinians are old enough and young enough and rash enough, this will start all over again. Assuming, of course, that outside terrorist organizations are willing to let Israel alone should they suddenly lack sufficient Palestinians for support.Posted by iain at 02:13 PM
Nations Not Backing U.S. on Israel ... In a written appeal to Bush, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt urged him to "take an immediate action that will stop -- as soon as possible -- the violent military campaign undertaken by Israel to occupy Palestinian controlled areas," Egypt's Middle East News agency said. The United States, the moderate Arab leader said, has an important role as "the international power responsible for the preservation of world peace away from oppression, humiliation, mistreatment and injustice."
This. Is. RIDICULOUS.
Whenever we act like the world's policeman, the world gets pissed off because our ideas of order aren't theirs, and/or because we apply them somewhat hamhandedly. Fine. Dandy. Perfectly understandable.
Whenever we do back off and say, "OK, get yourself out of your own damn mess," the world says, "Hey! You're the Big Bad! You do something about this!"
Why on earth isn't it acceptable for us to say, "You know what? These two peoples have been killing each other for thousands of years, since back when the Palestinians were called Philistines. Even without that history, there's not a damn thing we can do until they're all ready to recognize the realities of the situation and end it. At some point, they need to take responsibility for themselves, and right now, they don't want to and there's not a damn thing we can do to make them do it."
But for some reason, it's not acceptable. And so we keep floundering around, despite the fact that we don't know how to make it stop, either. (The only useful thing we could do would be to occupy both countries militarily and say, "Since you can't handle your government toys, we're taking them away from you". And wouldn't that be a fun thing to contemplate? It would certainly surprise everyone, in any event.)
The problem is, the world is so unbalanced these days. Economically and militarily, we are the Big Bad. Before that, we had a bipolar world, and peculiarly, it was a bit easier to just impose a desired result (or to threaten people if they didn't do what you wanted, which amounts to much the same thing). And before that it was a balance-of-power world, and nobody would have expected us to be the world's policeman. (That said, they would have expected us to control our client state somewhat better. Then again, back then, Israel -- or Palestine or whatever the British were calling it -- wasn't in our sphere of influence, so it would have been Britain's problem.)
Unfortunately, it seems we can't pick and choose situations in which to act like the world's policeman either. So I suppose we're stuck, for now.Posted by iain at 12:58 AM
It's a good thing our beloved gov didn't plan to run for a second term. If he'd somehow managed to survive the primary, this would have killed his campaign.
Some peculiarly nasty charges, as well. A pattern of corruption dating back to 1996? They couldn't have surfed closer to RICO charges without actually making them if they'd tried.
And one of the men charged worked on one of Dubya's gubernatorial campaigns. Oh, my. Bet the Texas Dems start a-diggin' now ....
What's next? Hustler advertising for Global Crossing gals willing to spread 'em wider and flash a little more pink? MEN Magazine can go for all the gayboys from any of the companies headed down the tubes! (Not that a goodly number of the ones in Playgirl won't probably be gay, but Playgirl doesn't like to think about that.) Maybe as Andersen keeps heading down the toilet, a pornvid producer can say to its one-time employees, "Hey, make a little money by literally screwing people!" I mean, what?
Good grief.Posted by iain at 04:49 PM
Citizen Clinton Up Close: The man’s still a radioactive isotope for millions, so here’s a little speculative math to drive the Clinton haters nuts: overseas gigs pull in $200,000 to $300,000 a pop (far short of the $2 million Ronald Reagan received for a visit to Japan in 1989, but Reagan rarely traveled); American conferences and banquets yield at least $125,000, and bookings continue to be strong for the foreseeable future. Clinton’s Harlem staff estimates that 40 percent of his speeches are for pay, which would put Clinton’s annual speaking income at somewhere between $10 million and $15 million, all but erasing his roughly $5 million in legal bills. With his $12 million book deal, the largest in world history, the only impeached president of the 20th century will gross about $40 million in his first couple of years out of office. [...] “I swore I wouldn’t answer questions about Marc Rich until [former president] Bush answered about Orlando Bosch,” he says with a forced grin. But he did, admitting for the first time that his hard feelings toward prosecutors in his own case played a role in the Rich decision.
If you had to do it all over again, would you pardon Marc Rich?
Probably not, just for the politics. It was terrible politics. It wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation. But that doesn’t mean the attacks were true. The fact that his ex-wife—I didn’t think they got along—was for it and had contributed to my library had nothing to do with it. [... I was very sensitive to prosecutorial abuse because I had seen it. I don’t know that anyone is 100 percent aware of his motives. I don’t think that’s all bad for a president to be sensitive to any kind of abuse of power.
You know, there's not much to say about this except ... it would be nice if people could all actually find a page to be on. Or a group of pages. Maybe just two or three of them. Or even agree on the name of the script.
Israel Proposes Exile for Arafat Amid Fighting: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday he has proposed that European Union envoy Miguel Moratinos or other diplomats fly Arafat into exile, raising the idea in public for the first time. "I told him (Moratinos), if they would like, they will fly with a helicopter and will take him (Arafat) from here," Sharon said during a tour of West Bank army bases, in remarks carried by Israel Radio. Arafat "will not be able to return." Sharon said such a step would require Cabinet approval.
European sources say that, after negotiations with a number of countries, Morocco has agreed to a US request to provide asylum for Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat if he is forced to leave the PA territories, The Jerusalem Post's Douglas Davis reports from London. However, the Moroccans -- and Israel -- are said to be balking at Arafat's demands that he be allowed to take some 70 people with him, including terrorists wanted by Israel. Unconfirmed reports say the negotiations were conducted personally by US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Yes, I should think they would be unconfirmed, at the least.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has dismissed Israeli suggestions that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat should be forced into exile and says he expects Israel's incursion into the West Bank city of Ramallah to last a couple of weeks. Powell, in a round of interviews on morning U.S. television shows, said Arafat had an important role to play in the Middle East peace process and should not be forced out of Ramallah, a suggestion made by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Morocco, rumoured as a possible destination for the Palestinian leader, was equally adamant in its denial that it had been asked to give refuge to Mr Arafat. "We have not received any request and it is a request that can only be made by the Palestinian leadership," said a senior official. "Sharon has been trying to get rid of Arafat from the start and now he wants to force him to leave."Posted by iain at 12:49 PM
U.S. Moves to Avoid Default: The Bush administration will take steps this week to prevent a federal default, given Congress' failure to raise the government's borrowing limit. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, in a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday, said the government would avoid a default by temporarily shifting money in a retirement fund for civil servants into a non-interest-bearing account. That would take tens of billions of dollars out of the calculation of the federal debt, freeing room for more borrowing. The shift will begin Thursday and end about April 18.
You know ... I realize that paying for the war is expensive. I do realize that.
But still. In ONE YEAR we've gone from budget surplus to threatened default? In ONE YEAR, we've gone from paying down the debt to needing an increase in the debt ceiling? What the hell? ... But the tax cut isn't at fault, of course, oh no no no. The fact that it immediately and then later systematically removed quite a lot of money from current accounts didn't make any difference at all, of course, oh no no no.
Eventually, the money – along with all lost interest – would be put back into interest-bearing instruments.
Along with the interest from all that swampland in Florida they've been selling us, no doubt. I mean, if the money's not there now, and the tax cuts are deliberately reducing the amount of money actually in the budget, then what exactly do they plan to repay the account and interest with?Posted by iain at 12:36 PM
Are You Experienced?: How [Luis Alfonso Torres, 45-year-old sheet metal and insulation worker] -- who had no illegal drugs or alcohol in his system, carried no weapon, didn't run, or even resist until after he had been thrown to the ground -- had the life squeezed out of him by three policemen can be seen on a remarkable video taken by a camera mounted on Officer Dillow's squad car. "It's bigger than the Rodney King video," notes one Houston-based Hispanic activist. "After all, in this incident someone died." [...] The killing of Torres, immortalized in that grisly video, has outraged and horrified Hispanic leaders in Baytown and the Houston area. Cops killing Mexicans is not new to Harris County. In 1999, the Mexican consulate proposed a travel warning to advise fellow citizens against visiting Houston because of all the police shootings in the area. (The authorities in Mexico City nixed the idea.) But documentation of the abuse has never been as close as a VCR and rarely is the victim so demonstrably innocent.
I do hope that Mexico decides to issue a travel advisory against visiting the Houston area. No doubt the state will be thoroughly offended, and the State Department may even be slightly distressed. Maybe that would induce Harris County to actually do something about its police. Clearly, if a region is so dangerous that you have to issue travel advisories to avoid the police, then the police are out of control and need suppressing.
The article notes that the county prosecutor is going to go to the grand jury with the evidence, but he's not requesting any charges. What is the purpose of taking a case to a grand jury if you're not going to request charges? Typically, grand juries don't initiate charges; they see if the evidence will support bringing the charges recommended by the prosecutor's office.
Perhaps the combination of a travel advisory and a lawsuit (one which Torres' family has almost no hope of winning, given Harris County's record of judgements against police, or lack thereof) may induce the county to institute a reform or two.
But probably not.Posted by iain at 12:06 PM
Blair to tell Bush that all-out war will rule out Iraqi invasion: TONY Blair is expected to tell George Bush on Friday that he believes all-out war in the Middle East will effectively rule out any invasion of Iraq. The Prime Minister, who will meet the US president at his ranch in Texas this weekend, is expected to say a full conflict could leave the West without any military base in the Arab world.
It will be fascinating to see if Bush pays the least attention.
Seriously, at this stage, I don't get the impression that, beyond a certain point, the administration cares about the feasibility, cares about what the rest of the Arab world thinks. They just want it done.
To the extent that they do care about those things, that's the entirety of why they give a good goddamn what happens in Israel and Palestine. Nonetheless, at this stage of things, I can't see them pushing peace on those countries just so they can go for Hussein.Posted by iain at 11:36 PM
'Ariz. Republic's ME Is Highest-Ranking 'Out' Editor: When Randy Lovely takes over as managing editor of The Arizona Republic in Phoenix on April 8, he will become what many call the highest-ranking openly gay leader at a major metropolitan newspaper. In his view, this is a sign of progressive times.
I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Phoenix and the Arizona Republic are a most bizarre match of newspaper to community.Posted by iain at 10:34 PM
17-year-old female reports mutilation as anti-gay crime: Three men attacked a 17-year-old female in a west Denver alley Tuesday, held her down and carved derogatory words in her flesh with a razor, according to a police report. The word "dyke" was scrawled across April Mora's left forearm, and the letters "RIP" are cut into her belly. [...] Roberta Quintana, Quintana's mother, said the attack was the third time Mora has been beaten for being gay.
Mora told Denver television stations that investigators asked her whether she made up the assault. Police spokeswoman Virginia Lopez would not comment on the reports. "At the end of the investigation we can determine if what happened is what she said happened, but it's not our position to decide that now," she said.
Judging from the image in the first article, I would imagine that the possibility of it not being an attack would be ... remote. Not impossible, just ... remote.Posted by iain at 06:30 PM
Intentional anal sex without a condom--termed "barebacking"--is a relatively common practice among gay and bisexual men, researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.
sigh. Just ... sigh.
Sometimes there's not a lot you can say. Except to wonder when massive brain damage became such a common trait.
Jamie lives in a Northern California city, next to a bay, and has been HIV positive for 12 years, since he was 22. He agreed to an interview if only a first name was used. "I barebacked because I had the biggy...what could hurt me more than HIV? Was I wrong? When I started getting the eruptions in my [rectum], I hoped I would die...the pain was that bad," he said. "It got so bad I stopped eating because that meant [defecating]; I lost 40 pounds and landed in the hospital with now full-blown AIDS and dehydration. All because of chlamydia. Who the f--k ever heard of chlamydia?"
Um ... anyone who's been paying the least attention for the past 20 years?
This is the part I don't understand. Or one of the parts I don't understand. It seems that somehow, AIDS coverage seems to have buried the idea that there are other STDs you can get, and that they're intensely unpleasant in their own particular ways. (And treatment for AIDS can interfere with treating other STDs, and vice versa, depending on your particular medication sensitivities, and their interactions with each other.) Even if AIDS had become a chronic manageable infection -- which, appearances to the contrary, it has not -- there are other nasty things wandering around out there. Why would you want any of them?
Of course, the response is that safer sex is work. Year after year of sex in which you have to remember stuff, deal with stuff, and sex should just be free and easy, right?
This, of course, is a misremembering of history. It never has been all that free and easy; it's only in the past century -- and really, the past 60 years -- that the pox and the clap (syphillis and gonorrhea) were curable. Herpes isn't curable, and other diseases have their own secondary risks. Attendance at STD clinics used to be a regular ritual; why on earth would you want those times back? Would the compensation really be worth it?Posted by iain at 05:55 PM
ENTRY UPDATED: 6:20pm.
The no-way-out nature of this phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grows clearer by the day: The Palestinians will not stop fighting until they can taste the end of 35 years of occupation, and Israel will not countenance any political deals until the Palestinians cease their terrorist assaults.
Well, that about sizes it up, doesn't it?
Consider: Israel is reportedly arresting every single Palestinian male between the ages of 15 and 50. They're also strip searching them in the streets. (When cameras are present, they only make the men raise their shirts to demonstrate that they're not wearing explosive belts; it's been reported that when cameras are not present, the Israelis are more thorough.) Several of Yasser Arafat's personal security guards were shot in the head -- through the eye, in most cases, as revealed in footage shot afterward; Israel states that they were all fighting. (My, what stunningly good shots the Israelis are to be able to hit a target as small as a head while they're fighting.)
It's possible that Israel could do something that is more guaranteed to radicalize the current and future generations of Palestinians. Possible, but I'm not sure what. If they truly are arresting all battle-aged males in Palestinian territory, it will be fascinating to see what they do with them. After all, most are guilty of nothing more than being Palestinian at the wrong time. Do they plan to detain them all indefinitely? Where on earth would they keep them all? In detention camps? As it stands, if their behavior is truly as reported, Israel will have to bear comparison to Serbia ... which is going to be a public relations nightmare of the first water, at the very least.
And elsewhere, things get ... peculiar.
Islamic countries at a major meeting on terrorism were split Monday about whether to condemn Palestinian suicide bombers as terrorists, but were united in condemning Israel's widening offensive into Palestinian territory. [...] Fault lines appeared immediately as the Palestinian representative disagreed with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, the meeting's host, who said that suicide bombers killing Israeli civilians should be condemned.
I believe this is yet another DUH moment in world politics. I mean, really, given the situation, what else would the Palestinian representative say? Given Arafat's noted reluctance to condemn the bombers, it's hardly likely that representatives who are out from under Israel's military thumb would do so.
That said, why does our administration insist on pretending that Arafat CAN stop the attacks? Surely if he could, by now, he would; it's clearly not really getting them anywhere. Oh, sure, world opinion is condemning Israel .... but only so far. Most countries wouldn't be willing to tolerate people wandering past and blowing up themselves and assorted strangers, either, so there's only so much they will say. I can understand why you would maintain the fiction that Arafat actually has a government, but still, why would you pretend that it's a government capable of doing anything? It's under occupation, and the occupying force has systematically destroyed what little ability it had to control attacks. It makes no sense to assume that he can do anything other than call for the attacks to end ... which he has not quite done and at this point probably will not do. (It's also brutally obvious that the Tenet and Mitchell plans are not "the pathway to peace", since neither side has any intention of observing them at this stage. Why not just come out and say, "these plans have failed; they need to come up with something else". What do you have to lose at this stage?)
And speaking of things to lose ... Is Shrubya on crack or something? Why on earth would he float this plan now?
U.S. officials said the Bush administration has obtained approval from Morocco to provide asylum to Arafat. The officials said that over the past few days U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell contacted Arab and Islamic countries in an effort to end the Israeli takeover of Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah.
First, the idea that Israel would let him go is almost laughable. The idea that they would let him live if he goes is even more so. If they truly feel that he's directing terrorist attacks, the idea that they would let him go to do so from foreign and more distant soil is bizarre, to say the least. Morocco's king is already afraid of the spread of the Intifada; why on earth would he allow his country to be drawn into it that directly? OK, yes, saving Arafat would perhaps put the US into a better sight in Arab eyes. But still ...
UPDATE, 6:20pm: Good heavens. Apparently the proposal to allow Arafat to leave was quite genuine ... but only as long as he never came back. That does leave the issue of why, however much it professes to support him, Morocco would take Arafat. No matter where he went, he would be a magnet for trouble. In any event, given those conditions, I can't imagine that he would leave.
Arab states seem to have the misguided notion that we want to appear neutral. Where they got that idea, especially these days, I'm not at all sure. Israel is our direct client state in a way that none of the other middle east states are; how could we possibly appear neutral? The fact is that we don't want to be neutral so much as we want to go after terrorists in the most effective way possible. At the moment, that would appear to be with Arab cooperation, but somewhat more important right now is access to the Israeli intelligence service. So how can we be neutral?
UPDATE, 6:20pm: And in yet another DUH moment, it seems that the IDF is shooting, or at least shooting AT, journalists. Given that Israel would want to strictly control the flow of images and information coming from the occupied areas, that's pretty much expected, I would think. We're not generally seeing them here, but the stuff that's been coming off France's Canal 2 (Chicago gets their news service on public access, for some reason) is revolting. There is probably not an American news broadcast that would even try to carry the images that Canal 2 has been showing the people of France. (And they decry the violence in American media. Amazing.)
Oh, and Pakistan is now officially afraid that they're Next. Well, that'll do wonders for the spirit of cooperation. (The bulletin board responses to the piece are ... illustrative. Apparently, Pakistanis fear we'll attack not because of terrorism, but because they have a nuclear bomb. The fact that Pakistan has had a nuclear bomb for several years and hasn't been attacked is just sailing right past.)Posted by iain at 05:39 PM