Monday, January 27, 2003

No Peace for Oil

Which nation is being cavalierly unilateralist in its policy toward Iraq? Which nation is hiding behind high-sounding rhetoric in order to mask its oil-hungry agenda? Which nation is ignoring the human rights of Iraqi civilians for its own greedy reasons? Why France, of course. While anti-war protestors tar George W. as a petrol-mad cowboy with a family vendetta to settle, conservative security experts are looking at lucrative oil deals France (and to a lesser extent Germany) have made with Saddam Hussein. Naturally, they wouldn't want profits from these deals interrupted by a Security Council-authorized invasion. Of course, public opinion in France and Germany is running something like 70% against an invasion, but that doesn’t mean that their respective governments aren’t also worried about safeguarding their oil contracts as well.

Admirable Restraint

I have to congratulate Raiders fans this morning. They had their hearts broken by their chosen team, yet they managed to limit their destructive impulses to a dozen burned cars, a trashed McDonald’s and a few superficial injuries to law enforcement personnel. By Oakland standards, that’s a tea party.


Sunday, January 26, 2003

When You Smoke Pot, You Party with Satan

The War on Drugs will claim yet another casualty today – millions of taxpayer dollars. Just as with last year’s drugs-fund-terrorism TV spots, the Office of National Drug Control Policy will premiere ads during the Superbowl this evening blaming marijuana for such common evils as auto accidents and unplanned pregnancy. No doubt the millions of people watching professional football’s championship game will be susceptible to the suggestions of ONDCP’s ads, given that so many of them will be high on America’s favorite legal drug at the time.


Friday, January 24, 2003

The Pen Mightier Than the Nightstick?

Police in the UK are now targeting repeat offenders by…sending them letters. Twenty-two bad apples in Wiltshire received letters this week reminding them that local police had reviewed their criminal records and helpfully suggesting they refrain from such activity from now on. In a nation where law enforcement officers rarely carry firearms, things just got more genteel.

Ballad of the Bug Chasers

This is the most fucked-up thing I have ever read. Fortunately, it may not be true.


Thursday, January 23, 2003

Wanted: Experienced Terraformers

The road to Mars just got shorter. NASA has announced it plans to adopt a nuclear-powered propulsion system for future spacecraft to cut travel time on manned missions to the Red Planet. Missions that NASA had expected to take three years roundtrip could be cut down to only a few months.


Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Morality of Light Trucks in Limbo

The anti-SUV jihad continues apace. The latest wave began a few months ago with Keith Bradsher’s book High and Mighty: SUVs - The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way. Bradsher is fond of making unflattering assumptions about the lives and emotional health of SUV owners – including that they’re selfish, anti-social and insecure about their marriages. That’s bad enough, of course, but they’re basically the same secular Liberal assumptions that most Volvo-driving SUV-haters agree with anyway. Cue the church bells, however, because Bradsher was soon joined by the Evangelical Environmental Network and their What Would Jesus Drive? campaign. According to them, driving a Cadillac Escalade makes baby Jesus cry. Evangelicals take note. But wait, not only are SUVs anti-Christian, they’re also funding terrorism according to Arianna Huffington’s Detroit Project. Using TV commercials disturbingly similar to those of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Project targets SUVs as the source of terrorist revenue. Assumably the oil used in the rest of the economy only helps buy palace furnishings for King Fahd and Bashar Assad while revenue from petroleum destined to be refined into gasoline for SUVs is deposited directly into al Qaeda’s Swiss bank account. Even more recently, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that SUVs had an unacceptable level of rollover fatalities and would need to be far more strictly regulated. True, SUVs rollover more often than cars with lower centers of gravity, but they’re still safer overall. And adding more steel to the roofs (to keep rollover accidents from crushing the occupants) would increase their weight, thus making them even less fuel-efficient – the main complaint of the cast of characters just described. There seems to be no way out, unless you consider the radical proposition that people should be allowed to drive whatever cars they want. Consider it a modest proposal.


It’s a slender thread of hope in a world full of Iraqi intransigence and North Korean psychosis to learn that the run of The Simpsons has been extended by Fox through May 2005. That will leave Ozzie and Harriet in the dust as longest-running sitcom of all time, and rightly so. Even in its 14th season, The Simpsons is currently the highest-rated Sunday night show for viewers between 18 and 49. For people 50 and over there’s always 60 Minutes.


Monday, January 20, 2003

Nightmares from the Dark Continent

Maybe exploitation by First World imperialists isn’t the only reason the nations of sub-Saharan Africa remain in desperate poverty and general backwardness. Ignorance and superstition seem to have a lot to do with it as well, as illustrated by the ongoing wave of vampire attacks in Malawi. Many people have been attacked on suspicion of themselves being, or being in league with, vampires. A Malawian court recently threw out charges against a radio DJ who violating President Bakili Muluzi’s order against spreading rumors of Anne Rice-style goings on by claiming to have been attacked by a vampire. He is vowing to continue his expose of the phenomenon. And the good people of Malawi aren’t alone in suffering from occult influence – Kinshasa, capital of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is battling as many as 20,000 pre-teens witches. Thousands of children, some under ten years old, have been driven from their homes by their families after being held responsible for ill fortune such as a family member dying of losing his job. Their culpability, of course, lies in the fact that they are witches and maliciously caused the assorted cases of disease/death/unemployment.


Sunday, January 19, 2003

At Least They Don’t Have to Deal with Plan Colombia

Economic conditions in Venezuela are degenerating at a rapid pace thanks to the general strike that is now almost two months old. Not only has OPEC member Venezuela had to begin importing gasoline, but President Chavez has begun seizing food and beverages from private suppliers and warehouses in order to keep Venezuelans fed. Chavez has vowed to stay in office at least until an August referendum on his leadership, but events promise to spiral out of control long before that.


Saturday, January 18, 2003

The Fringes Collide

This weekend, during which tens of thousands of people will assemble here in Washington to protest plans for war in Iraq, is an example of activists of varying interests coming together to present a united front. Everyone from anti-globalization socialists to anti-imperialist libertarians will be singing songs and carrying signs together. The city, however, will also feature a very different clash of activist group interests. Those clever kids at PETA are at it again, attacking the gay leather pride enthusiasts gathered at the Washington Plaza Hotel this weekend for their fetish-wear of choice. “Wear fake for the animals’ sake,” reads one placard, competing for cleverness with the imperative “Pleather yourself.” At least both groups can probably agree that the U.S. shouldn’t bomb Iraqi widows and orphans.


Tuesday, January 14, 2003

The Hon. Mekwli T. Motamba Has a Business Offer For You

Whenever I get an email from a former Nigerian Oil Ministry official promising to let me in on a multi-million dollar tax scam, I wonder, does anyone ever fall for this? Would anyone with enough money to interest the scammers be stupid enough to get ripped off? I would have though no, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, I’d be wrong. The Secret Service went after 250 individuals last year for pulling the "Nigerian advance fee scheme" on victims whose losses totaled over $85 million. That’s a lot of greedy, stupid people with money to burn.


Thursday, January 09, 2003

You Can Take Your Cover and Shove It

The White House alleged missed out on making Time magazine’s People of the Year cover this year by refusing to grant access to the magazine’s staff. It seems Time wanted to feature the Bush-Cheney partnership as its People of the Year, but WH flaks wanted George W. to have the glory, and cover photo, all to himself. Not getting the insider view they wanted, the magazine’s editors ditched the Bush-Cheney feature for the super-hero montage of corporate/FBI whistleblower chicks. The Washington City Paper is presenting this as the story of a White House that got uppity when it should have been grateful, but it seems that for once a politician’s political handlers exercised a little restraint and dignity. Why should the President be expected to kowtow to the editorial brainstorming of a handful of magazine editors? It is as if Time is offended that the White House didn’t immediately discard their reservations when the Person of the Year honor was dangled before them. The editors seem to have come regard the POY as some sort of media-controlled Nobel Prize. It’s nothing of the kind, and hopefully being spurned by the Commander-in-Chief has given them a little perspective. Let’s not forget after all, the elite fraternity that this year’s honorees are joining – Adolf Hitler (1938), Joseph Stalin (1938 and 1942), Nikita Khrushchev (1957) and the Ayatollah Khomeini (1979), to name just a few. Besides which, Bush already belongs to the POY club – he was, as the bitter partisans would say, "(s)elected" in 2000.


Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Pettier Than Thou

The damage to the Republicans from the Trent Lott racism fiasco is not going away anytime soon, but the least people could do is let the issue slowly fade from memory rather making lame attempts to find a Democratic victim for the same sort of outrage, as a group of black Republicans did this week with Sen. Robert Byrd. We all know that Byrd, everyone’s favorite exemplar of stately senility, was in the Klan. It’s a matter of public record, going back to the days when a history of KKK membership was actually a political asset in places like West Virginia. If his 1941-43 stint in the Klan hasn’t warranted a sit-in in his office for the last several decades, one wonder why it deserves one now. The anti-Byrds say they’re angry that the Senator is portraying a Confederate general in the upcoming film Gods and Generals, though when you think about it, what could be more fitting? If he was playing William Lloyd Garrison I could understand the objection.


Saturday, January 04, 2003

Download the Candles and Cake

Happy Birthday, belatedly, to this great network or ours. The 133t among us say that January 1, 2003 qualifies as the Internet’s 20th anniversary. So have some festive fun, mumble a prayer to your Vinton Cerf icon and remember the one key force that would go on to transform a little-known government research project into the massive force that bestrides the planet like an ancient statue.

And Forget About Those Accident Victims on the Florida Highway

In case anyone wasn't aware, the PETA publicity machine is tenacious and inventive. They manage to be able to hang their message on almost any famous personality or news event, whether it’s Rudi Guliani’s prostate cancer diagnosis or the Trent Lott racism scandal. Now they’re joining the group of people examining Sen. Bill Frist’s professional record, asking him to formally apologize for medical experiments he did on cats while in medical school. It turns out that then-med student Frist decided the number of animals he was provided with through school weren’t sufficient in order for him to get enough surgical practice, so he went to animal shelters to “adopt” some abandoned felines which he then operated on. There were no survivors. The expertise Frist gained in part from those animal experiments has, of course, enabled him to save the lives of many otherwise terminally ill patients during his years as a transplant surgeon. But for PETA, as always, the price of a handful of unwanted cats was too high.