Saturday, December 14, 2002

It just keeps getting better
Anthony Barnett in the Guardian says Foster used past lover to infiltrate the Blair circle:
New details have emerged of how Peter Foster used an American economics professor who had been his lover to wheedle his way into Cherie Blair's inner circle.

The revelations come amid reports that the Australian conman is trying to sell his story to the media and growing evidence that Foster has cynically targeted the Blairs since early this year and was willing to use any contact to get close to them.

The Observer has discovered that Foster used his relationship with ex-girlfriend Leah Marcal to get close to the Prime Minister's wife.

Foster met Marcal - a friend of Cherie's lifestyle guru, Carole Caplin - in the summer of 2001. Marcal, a professor of economics at California State University, was in Fiji advising the island's New Labour Party in the general elections. She and Foster became lovers and Foster donated more than £50,000 to the party. When it emerged that the convicted fraudster had helped to fund New Labour, it became a major political scandal.
If you can't tell the players without a scorecard, the Sun has a compact one and the Observer has a fluffy backgrounder. A quick visit to Google News will provide more reading than one really wants.

I'm afraid this whole thing sounds to me rather like a plot for a Danielle Steel bodice ripper, but then I don't have a life style consultant. In any case, here's a snap of Leah from her website - you can even take quizzes from her Econ 160 course.

Steel Cage Death Match Alert!
The NY Sun reports Sharpton Blasts ‘Favorite Son’ Plan:
The Rev. Al Sharpton, moving ever closer to a run for president, yesterday blasted a leading Democrat’s plan to steer black voters away from him in 2004.

Al Gore’s former campaign manager, Donna Brazile, says she may push popular black officials to run for president in their home states as "favorite sons." That strategy, she says, would increase black voters’ impact, while pulling the rug out from under Mr. Sharpton in key southern states.

Ms. Brazile’s plan - and Mr. Sharpton’s response - mark the beginning of a back-and-forth some Democratic insiders fear will poison the party’s 2004 primaries and undermine their chances of unseating President Bush.
The best part about favorite son candidacies is that they make the nominating convention such compelling entertainment. Zzzzzz.
Peanut brain of doom alert!
Marni Soupcoff on The Most Respected American?
CNN’s Jonathan Mann told Carter: "Mr. President, you are arguably the most respected American on the planet today."

I’ll let that just sink in for a moment before going on, but let’s just say that arguably has got to be the operative word in that sentence.

O.K., have you thought about it? Played around with the idea a little? James Earl Carter the most respected American on the planet? Surely Mr. Mann must have made some kind of mistake. Perhaps he was thinking of James Earl Jones, whose voice is indeed the stuff of power and can elicit reverence and veneration even when it’s only advertising a phone book. Or perhaps Mann was confusing the former President with basketball great Vince Carter whose performance in the NBA All Star Game slam dunk competition did inspire awe all across North America, if not the planet.

But he couldn’t possibly have been serious in suggesting that Jimmy Carter is the most respected American on the planet. The same Jimmy Carter whose most aggressive move as President came in 1979 when he was attacked by a killer rabbit and raised a paddle in self-defense? The same Jimmy Carter who failed to show similar protective mettle (or any action at all) when it came to the Iranian hostage crisis that saw 52 Americans detained inside the embassy in Tehran for 444 days (ending only after Carter left and Reagan entered office)? The same Carter so many Americans still associate with inflation and immeasurably long lines at the gas pumps during the oil shortages of the late 1970s? The same Carter whom Fidel Castro conned into embracing thousands of Cuban crooks and welcoming them into the U.S. as refugees?
Darn that right wing media bias. And I'd have to say that, arguably, Jimmy Carter was the worst President in the history of the Republic.
It's a miracle!
Joe Soucheray in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Latino immigrants, apparently intending to bring their Catholicism to the argument, gathered outside a St. Paul courtroom the other day holding roses in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They weren't necessarily praying, but they were presupposing that Our Lady would have joined them in their opposition to having visa expiration dates printed on their licenses.

Nice try, but Our Lady of Guadalupe last appeared in public in 1531 at Tepeyac, near Mexico City, and left her image on a piece of cactus cloth that, miraculously, shows little sign of decay. There is nothing on the sacred image about driver's licenses.
The administrative ruling that Weaver managed to get accomplished despite a reluctant Legislature also requires a photograph with the license. I have to have mine on there. You have to have yours. But that is under protest as well from those who say that they should be allowed to decline having their photograph taken for religious reasons. Well, that's too bad. If I have to carry around a photograph on my license that makes me look like Nick Nolte after a three-day bender you can ask your maker for forgiveness for one lousy snapshot.
It's against my religion too.
You can't make this stuff up!
The BBC relates a Man's anger at 'crazy car decision':
Police have told a Gloucester man he risks breaking the law if he forces his way into a vehicle which has been parked in his drive, blocking his own car in a garage.

The mystery car has been parked across Roger Windo's drive since Sunday morning. (story date was Wednesday)
But neither the police nor Gloucester City Council will help because the T-reg Toyota Picnic is not causing a public obstruction.

Police told Mr Windo they could not disclose the identity of the owner because giving him the information would break data-protection legislation.
"It's crazy," said Mr Windo. "I have a relative in hospital in Standish and have had to take a taxi to visit them, because I can't get my own car out of the garage through no fault of my own.

Which Euroweenie are you?
No Replacement for Displacement has a really tough questionnaire. I did my best to fill it out in the highest tradition of respect for cultural diversity, life affirming nonviolence, concern for the environment, general cluelessness, and strange compulsions to consume Brie. Look what popped out!

Hmmm! Who's got my Nobel Prize check?
Mark Steyn alert!
Mark sends up "vicar" Harold Pinter in 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose,' Pinter continued. 'You know why that is? Depleted uranium':
Although many toddlers had to be escorted from the church, older boys and girls shrugged off the vicar's horrific catalogue of seasonal gore. "He does this sermon every Christmas," said Cameron, the eight-year-old son of television favourite Ulrika Jonsson. "And most months in between, too. The best bit is when he describes how the Easter Bunny had his throat cut on the orders of Don Rumsfeld in 1983 and that he's now just Ferdinand Marcos in a protective rabbit suit."
First it was two mentions of Tracey Emin this week and now two mentions of Harold Pinter. Things are certainly going to hell around here. It's time for some posts on dipping snuff and fishing.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Somebody rent him a clue!
Another Hollywierdo weighs in.
Sounds like a bad Star Trek plot
Jan McGirk titillates in the Independent with In Foreign Parts: GI Janes flaunt their sports bras as body search arrives in cultural minefield of Afghan frontier:
I idly mention to my translator in Peshawar how a war photo published in all the Pakistani dailies has outraged everyone who has seen it.

Janula Hashim Khan is usually rather bored by my attempts to make polite conversation, but he suddenly comes to life, eyes ablaze. "Yes, I know the photo. It's a disgrace to see our sisters and mothers mauled like that," he says. To my amazement, he pulls a carefully folded newspaper clipping out of his wallet. "Is this the one you mean?"

The picture shows an Afghan woman being subjected to a body search by an American soldier.

The photo had provoked weeks of venomous letters to the editor condemning this practice. The same shot had been blown up and used for the Yank-bashing election campaign that swept the clerics into unprecedented power in the provinces closest to the Afghan border. To most Pakistanis and Afghans, this photo is hyper-offensive, showing a demure Islamic beauty disrespected by an American brute.

The latent feminist in me cannot be stifled. There is some potent propaganda to be countered. "Look a little closer," I said. "That is a woman soldier who is patting the Afghan lady down."

"Impossible," all the Muslim men in the room say in unison. The masculine ambience of this frontier city near the Khyber Pass is so pervasive that, at least in a warlord's antechamber, a female soldier is utterly inconceivable, even if you have a picture of her in front of you.

"Look again," I insist. "Under the helmet, her hair is bunched at the neck. The US army has plenty of women soldiers, just like this one."

In fact, I later learnt that the original caption, never used in Pakistan, identified her as Sergeant Nicola Hall. The bearded men are unconvinced.

"Well, then look at her childbearing hips," I continue. "Broad. Like mine." Khan blanches and hesitates before he translates my words. The men scowl.
Sgt. Hall was the one who detected some of the "ladies" smuggling weapons under their burkas. You can see the picture here and a profile picture here. So what's the solution?
Now American female soldiers start gun raids in Afghanistan by bounding out of helicopters and stripping down to their sports bras. Only then do they take village women aside to be searched. It is a quick way to prove their femininity to Afghan elders unaccustomed to seeing women in trousers. I reckon it must leave quite a few of the old boys slack-jawed and goggle-eyed.
Of course on Star Trek, the guys wore leotards and the women dressed like cocktail waitresses. Then they set their Norelco razors on stun.
Unemployed rhapsodist alert!
The Newark Star-Ledger reveals that Imamu Amiri Baraka (aka Everett Leroi Jones) is going to have to hit the bricks in Poet's post is being written out:
A Senate panel yesterday acted to abolish the post of New Jersey poet laureate as a way to oust controversial Newark poet Amiri Baraka.

The move to eliminate the post altogether is the latest twist in the effort by lawmakers and Gov. James E. McGreevey to remove Baraka, who has been under fire for writing a poem critics contend is anti-Semitic.

McGreevey had wanted to fire Baraka, but his attorney general said the 1999 law creating the post had no provisions for removing him. Lawmakers then drafted legislation giving the Governor the power to remove the poet laureate, but yesterday opted to simply get rid of the post. The bill cleared the Senate State Government Committee in a unanimous vote.

Baraka, 67, a nationally known poet and playwright, did not attend the committee meeting and did not make himself available for comment.

Nobody defended him before the committee; five people called for his ouster.

Baraka has refused to resign and has threatened to take the issue to court if he loses the poet laureate position. McGreevey has cut off his $10,000 state stipend.
No to worry, Imamu! There's an opening in the poet laureate biz that's right up your alley!
Communist Vietnam's 'poet laureate'

To Huu, Vietnamese poet and politburo member
Born: October 1920, in Hue
Died: 9 December, in Hanoi, aged 82
Currently Huu's doing a briquet imitation in Hell.
And the beat goes on
From the UK we are informed that Shots of soccer-playing children to be regulated:
Parents wanting to take video footage or photographs of their children playing football will be asked by the FA to sign a form saying the images will not be used for inappropriate purposes such as pornography.
I wonder if the officials of the FA have to sign a form saying they aren't raving loonies?
If this is Saturday, it must be Berlin!
(Via Harrumph!) Topless tour bus adds spice to Berlin:
BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) -- A tour bus filled with beer-drinking passengers and a handful of strippers is plying the night-time streets of Berlin, giving the German capital a hot new tourist attraction.

The double-decker bus cruises past the city's main tourist spots, including the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag parliament building, the chancellery, the state opera house, Tiergarten park and the Victory Column on a three-hour tour.

But the crowd on board seem less interested in Berlin's cultural offerings than they are in the tour guide, who slowly disrobes during her commentary, and her two "assistants" who keep spirits high with a series of strip shows.
Well, it sure beats a Disney cruise.
Maraschino Cherie
Theodore Dalrymple has a few words for Cherie Blair in the National Post - Poor Princess Cherie:
LONDON - Cherie, Princess of Blair, sobbed her heart out on telly last night. (Where else should one sob one's heart out? What, after all, would be the point of doing so in private? That is what God gave us tears for: to shed in front of the cameras.) She confessed to the nation and the world -- truly, genuinely, sincerely -- that she was not perfect. Every sucker in the land was deeply moved.

The problem is that Princess Cherie has been making a few rather foolish decisions lately. Like her late sister-in-suffering, Princess Diana, she has been consorting with some dubious and even unsavoury characters. It turned out that her personal trainer's newest boyfriend, by whom she -- the personal trainer -- is really excited to be pregnant, was a convicted fraudster who had done time in more than one great country's penal establishments. On the basis of what is alleged to have been only the briefest of acquaintances, and reputedly knowing nothing whatever about his past accomplishments, Princess Cherie allowed him to advise her on the purchase of some luxury apartments in Bristol. Worse still, these purchases were made from a supposedly blind trust in which the Prince and Princess's money was stored. The Princess was not supposed to be involved in the blind trust's affairs at all.

As it happens, the fraudster was in the process of being deported as an undesirable alien from these enlightened shores. Some local scandal sheets suggested that the Princess's telephone call to the fraudster's lawyer, and subsequent search to find out who the judge was who was to decide upon his appeal against deportation, indicated an exaggerated interest in his welfare, but these -- said the Princess through her televised tears -- were unfounded allegations. She refuted them utterly.

How? The proof was simple: apologizing "if" she had caused embarrassment to anyone (what a wonderful word "if" is when used in this fashion, so full of marvellous ambiguities), she added "the people who know me well know that I would never want to harm anyone...." In other words, the rest of us were born with original sin, but she was born with original virtue, that is to say a good heart, and is therefore incapable of real wrongdoing.
I wonder if that would work on the IRS?

But it's not over until it's over and the day after Cherie's performance, The Scotsman had a scoop with a sordid tale of faxed documents which had the inevitable result - Revelations leave Downing Street in turmoil:
DOWNING Street was in turmoil last night as it failed to close down the political row over Cherie Blair’s links to a conman re-ignited by revelations yesterday in The Scotsman.

Senior aides were forced to admit crucial documents relating to the deportation case of Peter Foster were faxed to Mrs Blair’s study in Downing Street, as The Scotsman said. It claimed that she never read them.
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Cherie should call Hillary for advice on this one. She's weaseled out of worse.

And the Sun piles on with Treachery of a crook:
THESE are the amazing phone conversations that shamed Peter Foster and his brother Paul had with their mother yesterday.

In them, Foster makes it plain he is determined to cash in on the Cheriegate scandal. Foster’s mum Louise Pelloti, who lives in Dublin, eggs him on.


“Ahhh. Hang on there’s something on the telly. Hang on. Ah, its a newsflash saying Caplin says that Cherie refused to read the papers. What a heap of s**. Cherie rang the bloody lawyer and told him to fax them over. (Paul laughs). And then she comes out in the statement and says she was just helping a friend, a friend you know.”


“It’s me. The trouble we’re having at the moment is that the Sunday Times will pay me any amount of money I want for my story as long as it goes to a charity and not me.”

“F*** that.”
Hmm, class acts everywhere you look.
Let's take a cruise!
It's not deja vu - More People Sick On Disney Magic Ship:
Disney officials said Thursday that another 25 people have contracted a gastroinestinal illness aboard the Disney Magic cruise liner, according to Local 6 News.

The Disney Magic recently returned to port and was disinfected for a week after hundreds of people aboard became ill during a voyage.
But pack the Pepto Bismol.
Dog bites man!
Fox News has the latest on a scam that has been going on for some time in Prisoner Lawsuits Take Bite Out of Taxpayer Funds:
With nothing but time on their hands and little to lose, prison inmates with access to taxpayer-funded law libraries and free legal advice are clogging up the court system.

After boning up on legal law (sic), many felons are filing lawsuits on a variety of topics, not all of which would be considered a top priority for the nation's courts.

In Arizona, for example, one third of all pending federal lawsuits have been filed by convicts.

"We've had people who have filed because one of the twinkies in the two twinkie package was crushed," said Jack McIntyre of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Los Angeles.

In one case, an inmate complained a nurse slobbered on him. Another didn't like his pain medication. And a third filed a suit because a prison guard chewed tobacco in front of him.

"I think a small percentage of ? these lawsuits have some or at least internally felt merit from the individuals," McIntyre said. "I think for the vast majority it's playing the game and it's playing the game with the taxpayer's money.


In Texas in 1996, two state prison inmates who sued the state because they weren't getting farm fresh produce and often didn't get desserts were the first to lose good-time credits under a new law there meant to stop prisoners from filing frivolous lawsuits.

Of course, as more legislation is passed to prevent frivolous suits, it's expected that someone will take the state to court.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Today's Hoot
Steve H. of LittleTinyWit insists that he scooped the rest of the media with his report on Hillary endorsing Gore for 2004:
"Al would be a fine President," said Senator Clinton, "I support him wholeheartedly. He really turned his life around after failing out of both divinity school and law school. It's no discredit to Al that on an exam, he once claimed there was a disciple named 'Blitzen.' "
Not to mention Sleepy and Dopey - pulling the sled was really tough on them, although why they needed a sleigh in Israel is beyond me.

But the real hoot is his latest column, Steve Feels Pretty, which relates the culmination of his maiden homebrewing effort.
You LUCKY little bastards. You're here with me on this auspicious occasion, to share the most glorious day of my pathetic existence. The day I cracked a semi-mature bottle of my first home-brewed ale.

Truly, you are not worthy.

As you know, or should, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to start making my own beer. Because making beer is the most important thing a human being can do, apart from performing breast augmentations.

Okay, strike that. Breast augmentation sucks. You lie down on the table with perfectly useful small breasts, they shoot you full of gas, and you wake up with stiff, numb, asymmetrical Frankenboobs that, with time, get so hard that when you jog, they clack .
But what's brewing without drinking stories?
I remember one night I was on the Broadway Local platform at 96th street, waiting for the train that would take me back to within staggering distance of my dorm, and I suddenly realized I was about to board a whole other kind of uptown express. My friends and I had been to McSorley's, and we were all filled to the gills with McSorley's Dark, AKA Pryor Double Dark, a marginally acceptable brew McSorley's served (and still serves).

Between me and the tracks, there were a few black-overcoated theatergoers mumbling pretentiously about Harold Pinter. I gently put my hands on their shoulders, asked them to pardon me, walked over to the tracks, bent gracefully from the waist, and let loose with a blast that arced over the rails and nearly hit the opposing wall. Then I walked back through the speechless, horrified crowd and rejoined my friends without missing a beat.
Reminds me of my sole homebrewing effort which took place while I was in college back in the Dark Ages before homebrewing was legal in the USA. (No, I am not older than dirt.) My partners in crime and I assembled all of the necessary brewing ingredients and apparatus (or loose approximations thereof), but discovered that we lacked empty bottles. This prompted the purchase of a case of evil brewery beer whose consumption also served to lubricate the brewing effort. In fact, it overlubricated the brewing effort which was generally regarded afterward as a complete disaster. As a gauge, it was reckoned that the best bottles were the ones whose tops blew off.
The curmudgeon is on a roll!
Rodger Schulz, the proprietor of Curmudgeonly & Skeptical, is in rare form today - I'd like to steal all of the links. Instead, I'll just mention the ultimate Christmas shopping experience.
Union Petition: "Al Gore Please Run"
At least one American union is already reacting to the recent news that Al Gore may not run for President in 2004. The Union of Comedians, Humorists, Satirists, Bloggers and Guys Who Crack Political Jokes at the Office (UCHSBGWCPJO) has begun circulating a petition pleading with the former vice president to reconsider.
Yep, it's ScrappleFace.
Turned Tables Alert!
Victor Davis Hanson provides A Hypothetical Scenario: What If We Were More Like Them?:
In the meantime, the bestselling The Big Fix was reported to be still on the New York Times bestseller list for the 23rd consecutive week. Americans in droves seemed to be buying the book`s main argument that the French government blew up the Louvre in order to start a war with Libya to obtain its oil.
Meanwhile America`s troubles only seemed to have gotten worse in the Middle East. Recently it was announced that some of the 15 American suicide bombers who attacked the holy shrines at Mecca had, in fact, received indirect financial support from the Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush families. Riyadh was pressing the FBI to be more ``forthcoming`` in its investigations of these supposed money links and rated American cooperation so far as only a "C."
In contrast, a group of Islamic academics recently met at a conference in Cairo entitled "Why do they hate us?" The symposium sought to examine Muslim culpability for the latest outbreak of Western terrorism against Islam.
A well deserved stick applied to the derrieres of the usual whining wussies.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Tough Guy Alert!
I don't keep up with the antics of the Hollyweirdos like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, but the NY Post's Page Six dishes some Robbins dirt in Tim Robbins, whiner on ice:
HOCKEY fanatic Tim Robbins can dish it out on the ice, but he apparently can't take it. Our sources say he bullies management at Chelsea Piers into getting opposing players suspended if they get too rough with him in the hockey rink.
"The management at Chelsea Piers is trying to placate Robbins because he's good for business," says another source. "The fact is, he's just a big whiner who complains to management every time he's touched."
Robbins, a major pacifist when it comes to taking up arms to defend America, has always considered the hockey rink a place to let off steam.

In a testosterone-laden interview with Charlie Rose in 1996, Robbins explained his passion for the blood sport:

"I like crunching people into boards and stuff, but it's legal," he said. "I mean, no one's going to die, you know. In hockey, it's a good, healthy way to get rid of that thing that's in all of us, this violence, you know. We've got it in us."
Robbins even encourages his sons to let it all out in sports. "My boys, they love it," he told Rose. "They love being able to have a legitimate way to express themselves physically, you know, and it's, it's, I think, a healthy thing."
I'm so surprised.

As for Susan, she had one big role.
It's Euroweenie time!
All is not well in the EU. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports in the Telegraph that the upcoming expansion may be A loveless marriage that could end in tears:
Neither the European Union nor the ex-communist states of Eastern Europe are remotely ready for a vast political, economic, military and judicial union stretching to the borders of Russia.

Nonetheless, Tony Blair and his fellow prime ministers are determined to go ahead with the historic gamble at the Copenhagen summit starting today.

Once the haggling over dairy quotas and suckling cows is finally over, probably in the small hours of Saturday, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Slovenia, as well as the islands of Malta and Cyprus, will be told that they can join the EU on May 1, 2004. They will bring their 73 million citizens into the union.

Romania and Bulgaria will be given a probable date of 2007, with Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia queueing behind.
Quite a hoedown, so what's the rub?
But, privately, EU diplomats are not so sure that it will end well. Most of the candidate states are woefully ill-prepared for a union that now regulates the minutiae of employment and social policy, shares a common police agency, Europol, and has mutual legal recognition backed by a European arrest warrant.

The fine print in the European Commission's reports on the candidate countries shows that their court systems cannot begin to cope with the 180,000 pages of EU rules and regulations, making it almost certain that they will simply ignore much of the legislation that Britain assiduously enforces at home.

In the case of Poland, the commission said the government was in violation of EU rules on pollution, water control, food safety, fisheries and farming, and lacked the means to deliver EU subsidies. It said the country did not have "a political, administrative and business culture that can resist corruption".

Few of the states meet the entry criteria of a "functioning market economy" that can handle the "competitive pressure" of the single market. Yet all are on the fast-track to join the euro.

The EU itself has failed to take elementary steps required for expansion. It soldiers on with a decision-making apparatus designed half a century ago for limited tasks by a small core of six states.

The system is already nearing paralysis with 15 members.

Romano Prodi, the EC president, has said that it will grind to a halt with 25 or more members unless the national veto is removed and the commission is turned into a fully-fledged European government.
Such a deal!

Meanwhile, also in the Telegraph is a report that Britain risks huge influx of east Europe migrants
Millions of workers from eastern Europe will be eligible to work and settle in Britain from the moment their countries join the EU in 18 months, the Government announced yesterday.

Britain is to waive its right under the accession treaty to delay extending full work opportunities to new members for up to seven years.

This could make it the main target for migrant workers, campaigners said last night, as Germany and other major economies were imposing restrictions on movements from the East.
Ah, the deal for the UK gets even better.
Artsy Craftsy Alert!
You can tell things are getting bad when I mention Tracey Emin twice in one week. On Sunday I commented on her whine about not winning the Turner prize, but that hasn't held her back as the Times (UK) reports in Tracey Emin, the Tate and an invisible Christmas tree:
You commission Tracey Emin to create the Tate’s Christmas tree, and what do you get? Well, you certainly don’t get a tree; you get an empty space. It’s art, my dear.

Emin, famous for her messy bed, was asked to provide the seasonal decoration for the rotunda at Tate Britain on Millbank. She ordered a tree all right, a real one, but she sent it to Lighthouse West London, an HIV and Aids charity.

From tomorrow, visitors to the Tate will find, instead of a festive fir, an Emin canvas with a message inviting them to leave their name and address, and a donation to Lighthouse. She will draw a name from a hat next year, and the winning donor will receive an original Emin artwork. It might be worth having: her works sell for up to £95,000.

The Tate yesterday strenuously denied any suggestion of disappointment at its lack of a real tree and suggested that, had Emin provided them with a standard Norway spruce, complete with needles, lights and fairy, it would have belied a serious lack of imagination on the part of one of our cutting-edge artists.

"We don’t expect a normal tree," a spokesman said. "We know that artists will create a different take on the idea; that’s the whole point."
One of her earlier works expresses my take.
A heart warming UNICEF tale!
The AP reveals what the wacky crew at UNICEF are up to with our tax dollars in UNICEF Calls for Children to Be Heard:
MEXICO CITY (AP) - Children should have more of a voice in deciding how to resolve the problems that affect them, the U.N. Children's Fund said Wednesday in a report.

UNICEF (news - web sites) presented its 2003 State of the World's Children report with an invitation to young people from across Latin America to share their views on topics including education, violence and health and the environment.

Gabriela Azurduy, 13, of Bolivia, urged officials to listen to the children of the world and take their requests seriously.

"We are not the source of problems," she said. "We are the resources you need to resolve them.

The report was launched in Mexico City, with UNICEF officials praising Latin America and Mexico in particular for including children in government programs.
The report was "launched" in Mexico City? An interesting usage. I should have titled this Expense Account Junket Alert! But hang on for the good stuff.
"If we are, in short, to build a world fit for children, we will succeed only if the voices of children and young people are heard - and heeded," UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy said.
Carol Bellamy, ex-NYC hack politician, says "It's for the children!" Film at 11, I'm sure.
The report found that children "have doubts about the usefulness of voting as a method of improving their lives and do not see government leaders as role models."
Considering the political state of most members of the UN, the tykes are probably right. But somehow, I don't think that's exactly what Carol means.
"To cultivate this good faith involvement, we just cannot wait for the magic age of 18," Bellamy said. "Children must be given the opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and their futures."
And Carol would really, really like to "help" them formulate their input. After all, she's from the UN - she's here to help! Check out the 136 page report to get the full aroma.
It's the Frenchies alert!
The BBC snickers through French balk @ official email vocab:
Controversy has erupted in France after the linguistic authorities gave the @ character a name no French email user has ever heard of.

Until now, the French have had a choice between "arobase", a popular word derived from the Spanish, and - for the anglophile - "at".

But the General Commission for Terminology and Neologisms - the government body charged with coining new French words - has decided that the proper word should be "arrobe".

However there are no guarantees that the new name will take off.
No kidding. Some other official French terms from the article:
They have successfully imposed "ordinateur" for computer, "logiciel" for software, "internaute" for internet-user, and "informatique" for computer science.
For example the widely used expression FAQ - as in Frequently Asked Questions - has been cleverly translated as Foire Aux Questions (question market).

But the French authorities have been powerless against the spread of "email". They also failed to substitute "jeunes pousses" (young sprouts) for internet start-ups.
Jeunes pousses?

And a half hour later you are hungry again
(Via Daily Pundit) Joshua Kurlantzick asks in the New Republic, Is China's Economic Boom A Myth?:
Look closely at the Chinese economy, and you'll find a far less rosy situation than that portrayed in most of the business press. The country's growth rates are vastly overstated, the result of cooked books and massive deficit spending. Companies selling to the Chinese market--foreign and domestic alike--are struggling just to break even. The economy is plagued by persistent deflation and a useless banking system. "Businesspeople have created a lemming effect," says Graeme Maxton, a specialist on China's auto industry. "They have convinced themselves they have to be in China or their competitors will overtake them, so they ignore economic fundamentals." The Chinese economic miracle, in other words, is largely a house of cards. And, when it falls, the consequences could be catastrophic.
In private, and when speaking to certain domestic reporters, even China's leaders admit the fix is in. When Rawski and other leading economists chat with official statisticians in Beijing, they often hear that no one in the government believes recent GDP numbers. "American economists are going around the U.S. praising China's economy, and when I come to Beijing the people there are vastly more pessimistic," says Rawski. A cursory glance at Chinese-language newspapers over the past five years turns up reams of stories vastly different from those in the gushing foreign press--articles about economic stagnation, falling wages, and deflation. (Though the Chinese press is still censored, it has grown more open in recent years, and some groundbreaking publications like Caijing and Southern Weekend regularly print information that reflects poorly on China.) Even top officials know China overstates the figures. In 2000, former premier Zhu Rongji, the straightest-talking mandarin in Beijing, warned that "falsification and exaggeration of statistics are rampant."
A similarly dour picture emerges when one investigates the operations of some of the large multinationals and domestic companies targeting the Chinese market. Many Fortune 500 firms tout their China divisions as linchpins of corporate growth--and it's true that some foreign companies such as Motorola have gained a significant market share selling to China. But, this summer, when I contacted nearly 40 major multinationals that focus on the Chinese consumer market, only two--brewing giant SABMiller and fast-food titan Yum! Brands (parent of KFC and Pizza Hut)--were willing to provide even basic information about their China revenues. "If any of these foreign companies were making money in China, they would be talking about it constantly," says Studwell. He believes that less than 10 percent of foreign companies selling to China are reaping profits, a view shared by several other leading China specialists. (Companies that use China as a platform for manufacturing and exporting are a different story: Many have prospered.) The rest, Studwell says, have expanded too quickly, overestimating China's growth and the true number of potential consumers. Recently, as unemployment rises, personal consumption is actually falling.
But what happens if it goes south?
But, in the future, China's growing economic weakness could force its latent anger at the United States to the surface. Already, Beijing stokes anti-Americanism in order to deflect criticism of its own actions and expends little effort explaining its relationship with the United States to its people. Imams in Xinjiang, a Muslim province in western China that I visited this September, have been forced to attend "reeducation sessions" laced with anti-American propaganda. Party-controlled media companies have produced popular videos glorifying the September 11 attacks. In one video, as the camera focuses on the rubble of the World Trade Center, a commentator says, "Blood debts have been repaid in blood. ... This is the America the whole world has wanted to see."
Sounds like they're our pals, fer sure. Much more in the full article.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

This is really scary!
Ken Garcia in the San Francisco Chronicle amazes with Patty Sue just won't go away - Queen of lawsuits somewhere in S.F. I wonder if he is going to get sued?
Now for something completely different
If you are unfamiliar with 3bruces, think of it as a Bazaar of the Bizarre where you are liable to run into anything, and I do mean anything. While some of the posts require a certain amount of familiarity with the latest Web fads, most have a broader appeal (or something like that). Amongst the latest crop, I liked the Ticket to Heaven - get it for your pals who already have a star named after them in the International Star Registry. Then stop by the Kunstbar for a refreshing guzzle. (It's linked direct since the permalink isn't working).
Fools abroad
The Georgia mooncalf, Jimmy Carter, showed up in Oslo to pick up his "Peace Prize" and schmooze with the Euros. While there, peanut brain emitted the inevitable eructation:
"One of the key factors that arouses intense feelings of animosity in the world is the festering problem in the Holy Land, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the inability of Israel to live in peace with its neighbors."
Zzzzzz. Clues at 11.
Notice: Ambulances will not use sirens in the vicinity of the law offices!
Reason's weblog, Hit & Run, provides an update on Mississippi Justice:
So 60 Minutes does a story on Mississippi juries sticking big civil awards on big out-of-state companies in perverse rounds of "jackpot justice."

So what do the jurors mentioned on the broadcast do? Sue the TV show for $6 billion.
Only in America.
English vicar alert!
(Via Best of the Web) The BBC reports that Vicar tells children Santa is dead:
It is the news no child wants to hear - and certainly not from the mouth of a vicar.

Youngsters at a Christmas carol service were devastated when the Reverend Lee Rayfield told them Santa Claus was dead.

Even parents at the service in Maidenhead, Berkshire, were shocked to hear Mr Rayfield say it was scientifically impossible for Father Christmas to deliver so many presents so quickly.

Mr Rayfield has admitted making a serious misjudgment in telling the story to children as young as five.

He said: "I did not realise how young some of them were and I am sitting here now wondering how I managed not to realise.

Even when I was there, I did not twig. I am mortified and appreciate I have put some parents in a difficult position with a lot of explaining to do. I love Christmas."

Mr Rayfield also told the youngsters that reindeer would burst into flames if they had to travel at the speeds necessary.
Mr Rayfield, whose comments came from an internet story on how scientific research could dispel the myth of Santa, is now writing a letter to parents apologising for the blunder.
Smooth move, Ex-Lax. That's as mean as telling Democrats that the government doesn't have any money of its own - it all comes from taxpayers.
Darn media bias alert!
Kathleen Parker has a few words on talking hairdo Connie Chung's dictator love-in on CNN via the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Secrets to making your dictatorship last and last:
I often ask myself: How did we get so stupid? And then I turn on Connie Chung and answer myself. "Oh, yeah."

Wednesday night I tuned in just in time to hear Connie and her guest Jane Franklin, author of "Cuba and the United States," discussing the longevity of some of the world's most successful tyrants - Saddam Hussein and that perennial favorite, Fidel Castro.

Given the way Connie posed questions, you'd have thought we were discussing Mahatma Gandhi. Here's how she set up the segment:

"Saddam is hardly the first dictator to outlast a U.S. president. The champion in that regard is Cuba's Fidel Castro, which is why we've chosen him as part of our weeklong series, 'The Iron Fist,' looking at other rulers who have clashed with the U.S. How has Castro outlasted 10 presidents?"

Gosh, right off hand, I'd have to guess that Castro has outlasted 10 U.S. presidents by killing, imprisoning or deporting anyone who disagreed with him.
Now that's a "chilling effect". Somebody call the Goron.
Oops Alert!
Libby Purves in the Times (UK) weighs in on the Cherie Blair scandal with The detail may be funny, but Cherie's vanity isn't:
Yes, of course it’s funny. A rebirthing ceremony, a topless model peddling magic pendants and nude scrubdowns! A New Age guru with big hair and indecent leggings, licensed to go through the Downing Street larder throwing out additives, yet herself accumulating toxic men - one of whom, fresh from a fraudulent slimming tea business, smarms up to a credulous QC with e-mails saying "Your pleasure is my purpose", and involves her with an accountant charged with money-laundering! Yet all this tatty nonsense is not encrusting some dopey showbiz couple, but the squeaky-clean, earnest, churchgoing, ineffably self-righteous Blairs! You would need a heart of stone not to giggle.

The trouble is that the laughing stops with a choke when you realise just how much harm has been done, not only to the Prime Minister's reputation but also to the useful and decent side of Cherie Blair’s public work. Even if you discount the violent hostility of the Mail newspapers, the bare facts turn Mrs Blair into a laughing-stock of almost Fergie proportions. The lie which she made the Downing Street press office tell us was bad enough - and it was a lie, frankly, not a "misapprehension", because if a man negotiating a half-million-pound purchase, discussing family trusts and giving warnings on stamp duty is not a "financial adviser", who the hell is?

But beyond that, the whole affair reveals dreadfully Fergoid characteristics, upsetting in a lawyer. There is naive credulity, a mistaken conviction that people simply adore to do her little services without favours in return, and on top of it all that distressing tendency of many rich people to cheesepare as if they were broke. For me, as a former natural supporter of Mrs Blair, the worst bit of those terrible e-mails was where the shyster tells her that his company will pick up the accountancy bill, and is not immediately sent a rocket saying "you will do no such thing!". Even a reputable journalist, for God's sake, wouldn't accept a £4,000 freebie service from a relative stranger without suspecting that there was no free lunch. But an aspiring judge? A PM's wife? God save us!
"Fergoid characteristics" - what a cut!

Obligatory tabloid pictures here and here. Get 'em while they're hot since the News of the World has a "rudimentary" web site and no archives.
What's that you say, sonny?
From Augusta, GA, Brian Neill reports on Boom!:
No doubt you’ve experienced the reverberating thunder at a red light, a pounding sound with the ability to rattle nerves and compound the problems of the day.

Or, maybe you awoke last night to the throbbing, droning bass coming from your apartment complex parking lot.

What began as a fad has now become ingrained in our culture, with debatable societal impacts, depending on whom you ask.

They’re commonly referred to as "boom cars," automobiles stuffed with enough speakers and amplifiers as to be too much sound system for even a large home.

And the trend has left the confines of the teenage set, expanding to include people in their 30s, and possibly older.

People across the country engage in competitions to see whose vehicle sound system is the loudest and most clear. Some competitors have spent thousands of dollars on their car stereos just to be the loudest on the block.
I thought "boom cars" were why rocket propelled grenades were invented.
I want one!
The Washington Post amazes with A Mighty Wind Against Waste: 'Tornado in a Can' Puts Hope in the Henhouse:
CLINTON, N.C. -- Inside the corrugated tin shed that serves as the top-secret test site for Vortex Dehydration Technology's strange new invention, Frank Polifka cranks open a valve and unleashes the force of a tornado.

Compressed air rushes into an eight-foot-tall steel cone and whirls counterclockwise at tremendous speeds, producing winds capable of turning rock into dust. It also emits a knee-buckling shriek that prompts Polifka to clap his hands over his ears and sends others staggering away.

There's a parade of visitors coming from all over the country to see this machine, to witness for themselves whether it really does what they've heard it can do. They want to know whether it really offers a new technology for mining precious metals, pulverizing trash, grinding concrete into a powder that can be reconstituted with water.

But the keenest interest so far is from poultry people who are watching closely to see whether it can revolutionize the way billions of pounds of chicken byproducts -- the feet, feathers, heads and entrails that don't end up in the supermarket -- are processed.
Some day, this machine could make a fortune for Polifka and his partners. But at the moment, the machine is broken, or at least that's what it sounds like.

Engineers shut it down and quickly huddle, mulling over a complex mathematical solution they think might help them fix the noise.

But Polifka, a stocky man with a snow-white beard and twinkling eyes, just opens the machine, grabs a broom handle and pokes at a flap of metal inside the cone. The adjustment made, he shuts the machine and starts it again. The noise is gone. In its place is the powerful hum of air, contained in the six-foot-diameter funnel Polifka modeled after the tornadoes he watched while growing up.

The tornado in a can is back up and ready for business.
The only problem is that I don't have any chickens.

Monday, December 09, 2002

An inscribed first edition!
John McCaslin in the Washington Times reveals Al meets Chad:
We were just teenagers then," the Gores continue in their book, "and unlike most high school sweethearts these days, we somehow grew together instead of apart."

In fact, the "sweethearts" appeared together over the weekend at a local Olsson's Books and Records store to sign copies of their book.

"One man and his friend stopped to show us Al's and Tipper's signatures in his book," one gentleman on hand tells Inside the Beltway. "Al wrote, 'To Chad,' with both signatures underneath. We all immediately burst out into laughter and asked the gentleman if that was his real name. The answer was a resounding 'No.'"
Hmmm, I wonder if you toss 'em a few bucks, they'll reprise The Kiss.
Today's Hoot!
Courtesy of Napolean Cole in the Wall Street Journal, 'Kill Kurds, Not Mumia':
"Hey chicks? Do you dames know where I can find a pro-Saddam rally?"

They respond (no kidding): "Uh, I don't know. We just came from one. I think there's something at Garfield High School or something."

"Oh, OK." I hold up my fist again: "End women's suffrage!"

They respond with smiles: "Peace! See ya."

High as a kite off this stuff, I see if I can pull off one more on the way back to the office (I've now been gone for an hour).

I pull up alongside a lone 50-something protester walking with his sign folded so I can't see it.

"Hey, did I miss the protest?"


"Do you know where any other pro-Saddam things are going on?"

"No I don't. I'm not sure if I understand you. Do you mean pro-Saddam or antiwar?"

"Either. I mean, same crowd, right?"

"I suppose . . ." He thinks for a second. "I don't much care for your generation. You've got the message all wrong. This is all so stupid."
He could have blown his cover with "dames".
There's always a comedian!
From the Charlotte Observer's Letters to the Editor:
What Jesus drives: An eyewitness account

I know what Jesus drives -- a white 1993 Astro van. I know this because he painted my house last year along with Miguel, Juan and Ramon. They did a fine job.

Rich Nossel

Sunday, December 08, 2002

It's Shat!
For reasons that are hard to describe, I was looking up William Shatner on Google and uncovered a treasure trove at Ananova which included the following:
William Shatner denies breaking wind on Star Trek video

Former Star Trek captain groped by gorilla
No update on Shat chewing the scenery.
Beam Me Up Alert!
Reuters astounds with Lead-Encased Fried Chicken Menu Artist Wins Turner:
LONDON (Reuters) - Keith Tyson, who found fame with a Kentucky Fried Chicken menu encased in lead, on Sunday won the 2002 Turner Prize with his version of Rodin's "The Thinker."

Tyson confirmed the bookies' faith in making him hot favorite to take one of the world's most controversial arts awards, derided by critics as a farce and condemned by Britain's Culture Minister Kim Howells as "conceptual bullshit."

Tyson, whose first solo exhibition was in London in 1995, found fame by feeding data into a computer which then instructed him to paint 366 breadboards and cast a Kentucky Fried Chicken menu in lead.

For Sunday's 20,000 pound ($31,480) prize, he offered a giant black pillar packed with computers.

Tyson beat second favorite Catherine Yass with her vertiginous short films "Descent" and "Flight" as well as outsider Fiona Banner whose offering was the plot of porn movie "Arsewoman in Wonderland" written on a giant canvas.

The tabloids tore into her work, giving Banner the most hostile coverage since Tracey Emin made the Turner shortlist in 1999 with her soiled bed covered in condoms and champagne corks.

Emin's failure to win the prize still clearly rankles. She told the Guardian newspaper on Friday: "The Turner prize is so unfair.

"It was very stupid of me to accept the nomination because there was no chance I was going to win because none of them (the judges) really knew me," she said.
To know her is to love her, I'm sure.

Lucky we don't have many of these aesthetes around here. They seem plumb sensitive and might react poorly to a little criticism.
Ruh Oh!
(Via Free Republic) The Country Today alarms with Poachers beware: 'Bambi' is in on sting operation:
So you missed your deer. Don't let a tempting buck at the side of the road lure you into sneaking a parting shot from the window of your truck. That swishing tail might hide a stinger.

Brian Wolslegel, Mosinee, claims that his robotic deer are so lifelike, they draw in poachers, amorous mates and territorial bucks just as effectively as the real thing. The only problem is, there is always a game warden close by.

Since 1995, when Mr. Wolslegel started Custom Robotic Wildlife, he has shipped his battery-powered decoys to 48 states and all the provinces of Canada. Most of those are being used by game wardens to educate the public to endangered species and put the squeeze on unscrupulous hunters.
His critters have evolved to the wildlife version of RoboCop, with custom-designed gearboxes and remote controllers that will turn the head, stamp a foot or make a turkey look like it's fanning its tail and strutting. He is even working through a design that will allow a deer decoy to blow steam from its nostrils in cold weather.
In spite of its size, the company puts out about 300 decoys a year, marketing the product on the Internet and at wildlife management conventions around the country. The most popular product is whitetail deer, but he also creates robotic elk, moose, caribou, turkey, bear, lynx and fox.

"We do just about every animal there is," Mr. Wolslegel said.

Hunters are getting savvier about decoy wildlife, but that doesn't mean that they don't fool a lot of people a lot of the time. Wardens at Seeley Lake, Mont., had to stop a car full of visitors from throwing stones at a grizzly bear decoy. They were trying to get it to move.

There are also plenty of decoys that come back for repair after being shot repeatedly by the same hunter.

"There are a million stories out there," Mr. Wolslegel said. "People running them over with their cars when they get mad. People trying to get out and shoo the deer away so it won't run across the road."
It's an IQ test! And throwing stones at a grizzly bear also gets Darwin Award points.
If you're in the market for a robotic deer in your back yard, Mr. Wolslegel can arrange that as well.

"I might sell 50 deer at a convention to wardens, but at one show, I had three guys walk up to me who don't bow hunt and said it was the coolest thing they had ever seen, and bought them to put in their yards," he said.

"I sold one to a guy who was goofing around with his neighbor. He was going to take it out to the guy's tree stand with a marine battery, and it would be standing there when the sun came up in the morning."
Who says us country folks are unsophisticated?
Prince Al just can't keep his hands off the Chinese money
Drudge is on the case with Intrigue Surrounds Gore Trip to China:
Former vice-president Al Gore recently made a visit to China, where he is believed to have been paid to speak at a communist government-linked think-tank and attended a lunch hosted by former ENRON director Ronnie Chan Chi-chung.

Participants at the China Development Institute-sponsored forum in Shenzhen, at which Gore was a key speaker last month, were offered the chance to have their photo taken with Gore if they paid 50,000 yuan (HK$ 47,000) or 100,000 yuan for conference sponsorship packages, the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST reported.
Can you say "Buddhist Temple Cash"? I knew you could!
Quick, get them some radio beacons!
CBC News disgusts with Canadians go to Baghdad as 'human shields':
Opposition to a war on Iraq has a long way to go before it rivals the draft-card burnings and demonstrations against the war in Vietnam in the 1960s, but a new anti-war movement is growing muscle. Some Canadians already have left for Iraq to serve as human shields against bomb attacks on Baghdad. More will follow before Christmas.
And they are inviting everyone to feel their muscles. Ooooo!
Irene Vandas and Jennifer Ziemann of Vancouver are heading to Iraq on Friday. Vandas, a 32-year-old registered nurse, and Ziemann, a 30-year-old home-care worker, will fly to Amsterdam, board a plane to Amman, Jordan, then drive into Iraq all the way to Baghdad where they will live with Iraqi civilians. There, they will join friends Linda Morgan and Irene MacInnes, two Canadians who travelled to Iraq in mid-November.

The four Canadians, sponsored by an anti-war organization called Voices in the Wilderness, have volunteered to be human shields in an effort to dissuade American-led forces from attacking Iraq. "I'm not too scared," Vandas told CBC News Online the day before she left. "I think it will be a powerful experience."
Especially if you try to shield a military target and catch a cruise missile in your nether regions. Of course, if they don't want to leave anything to chance, they could drop by one of the prisons and offer to replace one of the torture victims.
The last time human shields were in the news was during the 1999 war in Kosovo, when NATO accused Yugoslavia President President Slobodan Milosevic of using civilians as human shields at strategic targets, such as bridges and power plants.
And before that when Saddam Hussein scattered Western hostages around his military targets during the first Gulf War.
Vandas and Ziemann have agreed to stay in Baghdad until the end of December. They will work with two Canadian doctors, Amir Khadir and David Swann, both anti-war activists who have taken up residence in Iraq to protest against U.S. attacks. Vandas said another group of Canadians will go to Iraq later this month, joining some 30-40 young protesters from the U.S. and Britain.
Breaking news fer sure! Voices in the Wilderness is mostly adept at press releases and the CBC at publishing them.

Time for a video game - Drop One on the Wingnut.