Saturday, May 31, 2003

Wild Bull Storms Into Yemeni Parliament
SAN'A, Yemen - A raging bull stormed the opening session of the Yemen's newly elected legislature Saturday and injured three people.

The bull's owners had intended to slaughter it as a protest against one of the lawmakers but the animal broke free as it was being unloaded from a van in front of the building.
The bull had more intelligence than the owners.
With armed security and parliamentary staff in chase, the bull barged into the legislative chamber where hundreds of lawmakers were sitting, then ran back out onto the street, where it charged into a Russian tourist walking by at the time.

She was hospitalized in intensive care. A parliamentary employee and a child also were injured in the rampage, which ended with police shooting the bull.
I wonder if Yemeni police also shoot the bull at donut shops?
You can't make this stuff up!
Jamey Keaton reports for AP - G-8 Protesters Clash Among Themselves:
ANNEMASSE, France - The thousands of protesters converging on this year's Group of Eight summit are an eclectic bunch with a grab-bag of divergent interests — so much so that some of them clashed on Saturday with Socialists sympathetic to their cause.

A group of about 350 protesters disrupted a meeting of France's Socialist Party, tossing rocks through the windows of a conference center and accusing the party of not being radical enough.
The Socialists were meeting Saturday as part of a "counter-summit" to address issues critics say the G-8 is ignoring, such as the woes of immigrants and refugees in Europe, debt relief and African development.
Kewl! But there's more:
The activists divided themselves up into the two camps to show their diversity. One is the "intergalactic village" — grouping environmental, anti-nuclear or other social activists. The other is the "anti-capitalist, alternative, anti-war village."
Hmmm, who has the tin foil beanie concession?
Mark Steyn Tours Iraq
In the Telegraph, Mark sees the sights and reports Come on over the water's lovely. A few excerpts:
But, when the naysayers started moving on to claim that the whole post-war scene was going disastrously for the Yanks, I honestly didn't know what to make of it. As a general rule of thumb, when two non-government organisations, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, the BBC and the New York Times agree that the whole powder keg's about to go up, it's a safe bet that things are going swimmingly. But who knows? Even these guys have got to be right once a decade or so. So I decided to see for myself.

Unlike those parliamentary delegations getting ferried around by the military and Continental television crews embedded with convoys of NGOs, I have no contacts either in the Ministry of Defence or the World Food Programme. So I hopped on a flight to Jordan, rented some beat-up Nissan piece of junk in Amman and headed east. After four hours, I passed a sign on the highway saying "IRAQI BOARDER 39km". I assumed this was a misprint, but 39km down the road there were indeed some Iraqi boarders, boarding in a United Nations refugee camp in the no-man's land between the Jordanian and Iraqi frontier posts.
Although the camp had set up enough tents for hundreds, the members of this family were the only refugees in residence. The singular of that "IRAQI BOARDER" sign was a slight exaggeration, but not by much. And that underpopulated border camp is a fine motif for what's going on: vast numbers of bureaucrats are running around Iraq with unlimited budgets in search of a human catastrophe that doesn't exist.
Last Saturday, I was back in Rutba, a town I rather like in its decrepit way, and stopped for a late lunch at a restaurant with big windows, a high ceiling with attractive mouldings and overhead fans, and a patron who looked like a Sinatra album cover, hat pushed back on his head. As I got out of the car, I noticed across the street a big, white sports utility - a sure sign that someone from the welfare jet set was in town. This one was marked Oxfam. "Hmm," I thought. "Must be some starvation in the neighbourhood."
So what precisely is happening in Rutba that requires an Oxfam/ICRC summit? Well, the problem, as they see it, is that, sure, there's plenty of food available but "the prices are too high". That's why the World Food Programme and the other NGOs need to be brought in, to distribute more rations to more people.
And perhaps that's why I found rather more hostility towards the WFP, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees et al than towards the military. "Americans only in the sky," one man told me, grinning as a chopper rumbled overhead. "No problem." Down on the ground, meanwhile, the new imperial class are the NGOs. They shuttle across the globe, mingling with their own kind - other SUV users - and bringing with them the values of the mother country, or the mother bureaucracy. Like many imperialists, they're well-meaning: they see their charges as helpless and dependent, which happy condition has the benefit of justifying an ever-growing aid bureaucracy in perpetuity. It will be very destructive for Iraq if the tentativeness of the American administration in Baghdad allows the ambulance-chasers of the NGOs to sink their fangs into the country.
After de-Baathification comes delousing.
The plot for my new novel!
Peter Dale Scott at The Pacific News Service dishes up an extra large helping of wingnutty goodness with Why Baghdad Fell Without a Fight -- Does Saddam's General Have the Answer?:
One of Saddam Hussein's top generals was not included in the U.S. card deck of 55 most-wanted Iraqis. Now stories are circulating in European, Middle Eastern and other foreign press that he was paid off to ensure the quick fall of Baghdad.

On May 25, the French paper Le Journal du Dimanche, citing an unnamed Iraqi source, claimed that General Maher Sufian al-Tikriti, Saddam's cousin and a Republican Guard commander, made a deal with U.S. troops before leaving Iraq on a U.S. military aircraft. Allegedly the deal had been secured in advance by the CIA, but by prearrangement was implemented only after U.S. troops reached Baghdad's airport on April 4. Sufian was said to have left Iraq, along with a 20-man entourage, on April 8 -- the day before U.S. forces captured Baghdad without resistance.
This story has been picked up by newspapers around the world, including the London Times and the Sydney Morning Herald. But the only recent reference to Gen. Sufian in the U.S. press was in early May, when it was reported that his home was now a base where survivors searched for records on the fate of missing loved ones.

Other Arab sources have added details. Reportedly Sufian ordered the Republican Guard out of the city to fight in the countryside, where they were easily picked off. Gen. Sufian may also have betrayed the location of the house where Saddam Hussein met with his family on April 7, and where Saddam may or may not have been killed.
And don't forget the coverup!
On April 8, at the time of the alleged deal, U.S. Marines announced that Gen. Sufian had been shot at a roadblock outside Baghdad. On April 9, Knight Ridder newspapers carried a report from Marine headquarters on how Gen. Sufian met his death in a white Toyota sedan, uniformed and alone except for his chauffeur.
It's a touch worthy of Hitchcock!

But here's the best part (emphasis mine):
The Lebanese newspaper Sawt al-Urouba has alleged that some of the "human shields" who had traveled to Baghdad before the war in the name of protecting civilian targets were in fact U.S. agents who bribed Iraqi generals while in the city.
Here's the one line synopsis: a beautiful Yankee agent disguised as a granola eater convinces a stern Arab general to participate in a dangerous plan to betray a ruthless dictator! And they fall in love of course.

I'm going to be rich, I tell ya!
Well, that's diverse!
Mary Vallis in the National Post shocks with Canada's 'national costume' was rented from drag queen:
The controversial "national costume" worn by Miss Canada in this week's Miss Universe competition was a rental inspired by the Brazilian carnaval tradition and originally worn by a drag queen in several gay pride parades.

Ronei Fernandes, a Toronto costume designer, created and wore the costume in 2001. He recently rented it to Denis Davila, national director for Miss Universe Canada, for $600, said Jamie Good, a friend of Mr. Fernandes' who is familiar with the agreement.

In an interview with the Post earlier this week, Mr. Davila said he and two friends designed the costume. It was supposed to symbolize Canada's multiculturalism: The feathers were inspired by costumes seen at Toronto's Caribana festival, he said, and the rest represented the penny.

But Mr. Good said the costume is Mr. Fernandes' creation.
Looking at it, I'd say it was lucky there weren't any lustful peacocks in the audience.
The costume Leanne Cecile wore in the Monday night competition did change slightly since Mr. Fernandes debuted it. He wore a red, sequined gown with the rest of the outfit, but Ms. Cecile wore a beaded bikini that Mr. Fernandes provided from his existing collection.
I guess everyone needs a hobby. And one other thing:
He originally wore the patriotic costume at gay pride parades in Montreal and Toronto in 2001. Pictures of him at the events appeared on the front pages of newspapers and in alternative magazines. Perhaps fittingly, one reporter who covered the Toronto event wrote that Mr. Fernandes' outfit "converted him into a sort of male Miss Canada."
More looting alert!
But it's in the UK, so not to worry - 2,500 staff sacked by text message:
Dozens of former employees looted offices of the personal injury claims firm The Accident Group after being told by text message that they had lost their jobs.

About 2,500 staff were thrown out of work yesterday when their employers' parent company, the Amulet Group, went into receivership.

Offices in Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool were ransacked by staff, who carried off computers and other equipment.

Staff had received three text messages on their mobile phones, warning them that they should not go into work, that their final salaries could not be paid and that a full explanation would be given by e-mail.
Sounds like a really poor plan.
Andy Potton, a claims assessor with the firm, had gone to his office in Speke, Liverpool, because he assumed colleagues would gather there.

He said: "I could hardly believe what I saw. There were people walking out of the office with computers. One chap quite high up in the company had loaded up his car with laptops and driven off."
Where were the troops?
Ruh Oh!
If you are a technology junkie, this is old news; but Aaron Sands in the Ottawa Citizen fills us in on the latest - High-definition TV exposes Hollywood's ugly truths: Extra-clear TV reveals stars' imperfections, including once-concealed skin conditions:
Stop the presses -- Cameron Diaz has skin problems, according to high-definition television, which is threatening to expose the previously invisible "flaws" of the world's most physically beautiful people.

As HDTV spreads its digital clarity into homes worldwide, Hollywood is sounding the alarm. The stars are running for cover, warts and all, only to find the most advanced makeup wizardry to date failing to save perfect face.

Plastic surgeons are drooling. The makeup industry is strategizing. As the ugly truth reveals itself to an ever-expanding digital audience, some of the beautiful people have come clean.
On Ms. Diaz, a regular on People magazine's list of the world's most beautiful, Mr. Swann writes, "the magazine's editors -- and most of the Western world -- do not have high-definition TV. If they did, they would see that Diaz's face is spotted with small pockmarks, the unfortunate consequence of a longtime acne problem.

"When seen on film," Mr. Swann says, "Diaz's skin imperfections are not noticeable, thanks to Hollywood's talented makeup artists. However, with HDTV, the picture is so precise that the acne damage cannot be hidden. In a high-def broadcast of Charlie's Angels on HBO, Diaz looks like a different person. She's still very pretty. But to be frank, I doubt that she would make People's most beautiful list."
So what are the beautiful people to do?
A revolution in makeup, still in its infancy, is underway to cover the blemishes broadcast by HDTV. The art of airbrush makeup, a thin water-based liquid spray-painted onto face and body, is still being perfected.

"Airbrush is absolutely the wave of the future," said Amy Coffman, an airbrush artist with The Airbrush Shoppe, Etc. in Kansas City. "With high-definition TV, you can see every single flaw. And the only way to really disguise those flaws is to use the airbrush.
Gives new meaning to "airbrushing".

Of course, they're going to need a tank car full of the stuff for Michael Moore.

Friday, May 30, 2003

And speaking of Bubba
Richard Johnson's Page Six gossip column in the NY Post astounds with Dole has last laugh on Bill:
THE searing wit of Bob Dole sent Bill Clinton running. When the duo learned that their "60 Minutes" debate series was in jeopardy of being canceled, Dole proposed they tackle the subject on-air. Clinton was at first intrigued by the idea, but backed out when he received Dole's first salvo in the proposed exchange. "Look, this is a crisis," Dole would have said, according to a script obtained by PAGE SIX. "I know, before when you had a crisis, you just bombed Saddam Hussein or let Newt Gingrich get near a reporter. But they're both retired. What are we going to do?" Dole continued: "How about this: Use the next 45 seconds to do something totally new. Admit you made even one mistake in office. If you have time left over, just plug Hillary's book." A rep for Clinton tells us, "It's a funny script, but with only two shows left in our CBS commitment, the president wanted to focus on the future of the country, not the future of this segment."
Sure, Bubba! And who knew Bob Dole did standup?

Vehicle of choice in Iraq is late-model 'Monica':
IRBIL, Iraq - It's a car.

It's a truck.

It's a "Monica."

In Iraq, no set of wheels is held in higher regard than the large, mostly white Toyota Land Cruiser sport-utility vehicles long favored by government officials, intelligence agents and VIPs from Basra to Kirkuk.

Locals call the vehicles "Monicas,"' as in Lewinsky, after the former White House intern whose appearance meets Iraqi standards for both feminine and automotive beauty.

"She's a beautiful girl, and it's a beautiful car,"' said Ghazi Abdullah Dormari, whose auto-trading lot in the Kurdish city of Irbil features several late-model Monicas.

"They are a very tempting car,"' said Marwan Shaban, a car dealer in the nearby northern city of Mosul. "Just as Monica tempted Clinton, they will tempt you."
"Iraqi standards for both feminine and automotive beauty" indeed.
That explains it!
Swazi king blames trousers for world's ills. Actually, he was more specific than the headline writer:
"The Bible says curse be unto a woman who wears pants, and those who wear their husband's clothes. That is why the world is in such a state today," Mswati, ruler of the impoverished feudal nation of about one million, said late on Thursday.
Women on the streets of capital Mbabane were not impressed.
Mswati is Africa's last absolute monarch. He is currently married to nine wives, with a wedding pending for wife number 10, and has chosen an additional fiancee after reviewing videos of topless maidens performing a traditional Reed Dance ceremony.
Videos? You'd think an absolute monarch could arrange for live auditions.

Oh yeah, Swaziland has the same vote in United Nations General Assembly as the USA.
Naughty Bits Alert!
Woman Abducted and Forced To Watch Pornographic Film:
Annapolis, Md. - Annapolis police say two masked men grabbed a woman, forced her into a van and made her watch a pornographic tape before releasing her unharmed Tuesday.
Well that's weird and inexplicable. Er, wait a minute...
She says the men pushed her into the back of the vehicle, where she was forced to watch a tape of her husband having sex with another woman as her abductors taunted her.

She was released minutes later and the men told her, "let this be a lesson to you."
Nope, still weird and inexplicable.

Meanwhile in the UK, 'Sex pact' husband killed wife:
Former civil servant Charles Hall shot wife Trudy when she asked for a divorce.

The 69-year-old blasted her with a shotgun at their home in Hellingly, East Sussex, after she told him he was "past his sell-by date".
Hall had also believed his wife was trying to poison him after he became ill when he ate her fairy cakes.
That'll do it!

Actually, it's rather more complicated than that as following the link reveals.
Matrix Reloaded Factoid Time!
Seeing Jim Treacher's belated review of the The Matrix Reloaded reminds me that I haven't seen anyone else mention the following. Remember the evil albino twins? Well the cast notes at reveal that the actors are:
Neil and Adrian Rayment

NEIL AND ADRIAN RAYMENT came to THE MATRIX RELOADED through their extensive karate and kung fu experience. Both are Nidan JKA Black Belt Shotokan Karate instructors, as well as professional fitness consultants. They are trained in Karate Do, Kuko Schin-Kai, Wu-Tai and Boxing.
OK so far, but...
The Rayments live in London, where they are very popular lifestyle television presenters. Their credits include Granada Television’s Simply DIY; breakfast television’s Lifestyle This Morning; ITV’s Better Homes and Live Time Granada Breeze.
"Lifestyle television presenters" and karate? I hope Martha Stewart doesn't hear about this! She's dangerous enough as it is.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

No quotas here, nosiree!
Canada's National Post entrances with Whites needn't apply:
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is looking for someone to fill the post of regional director of communications for its Pacific headquarters. It's a great job: The annual salary is up to $100,000, and it is one of only about 100 executive-level federal positions in British Columbia.

Jobs like this are typically open only to the best and brightest. But in this case you have to be the right colour as well: The employment listing clearly specifies that it is available only to those "who are members of visible minority groups." The goal, of course, is to further Ottawa's long-standing campaign for a more "diverse" public service. But the government has long insisted that this goal would not be pursued by turning to hiring quotas. Certainly, one wonders what to make of Nurjehan Mawani, commissioner of the Public Service Commission of Canada, who recently pledged her faith in the merit principle, and declared that "[hiring] benchmarks are not about lowering standards or about excluding anybody. They are about casting a wider net." Memo to Ms. Mawani: The "net" for this particular job will exclude 87% of the Canadian population.
I wonder if wearing a tin foil beanie would qualify me as a member of a visible minority group? Too bad I'm not Canadian!

And what about the "invisible minority groups"?
Continuing Irrelevance Alert!
The BBC shocks with Blair faces war crimes suit:
The Athens Bar Association says it will file a suit against Britain at the International Criminal Court - the recently created tribunal for cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The lawyers call the attacks by the United States and British forces against Iraq "crimes against humanity and war crimes".

They have listed a number of international treaties they say the two countries have violated.

These include the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Convention and the International Criminal Court's statute.
They forgot the Ban on Eating Haggis Convention, the International Requirement to Wear Undergarments Under Kilts, and the Supranational Ban on Bagpipes. Wait a minute, that's the Jocks! Well, you know what I mean.
Dimitris Paxinos, the head of the lawyers' association, told the BBC the lawsuit will be filed within a fortnight.
After time out for some leisurely lunches, eh Dim?
He said American officials could not be prosecuted as the US is not a signatory to the ICC's founding treaty.

Where are all the wingnuts that were telling us the ICC would not attract frivolous lawsuits?
Welcome the new neighbors alert!
Christina Headrick in the Raleigh News and Observer has an epiphany with Strength in numbers: Advocates for laws that will benefit Latinos show their might in Raleigh:
Legislators saw red Tuesday -- a whole lot of it -- as more than 900 members of North Carolina's fast-growing Latino community flooded the Legislative Building for the first ever Latino Legislative Day.

Wearing crimson to show their unity and emphasize their numbers, they packed the offices of their hometown legislators ...
So far so good, but you know what's coming:
and urged them to support bills that could benefit the Latino community, such as making it easier for undocumented immigrant children to attend college and hiring more interpreters at state-funded health facilities.
Which is where the benighted taxpayers provide free health care for illegal aliens.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned state officials that they were discriminating against Latinos and others who do not speak English if they failed to "take reasonable steps" to provide language assistance. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services promised to address the problem.

About 400,000 Latinos live in North Carolina, making up about 5 percent of the state's population, according to the 2000 Census. But only about half are citizens, and some are not yet old enough to vote.
And how many that are not citizens are voting?
Veiled Wingnuttery
You may remember from January the case of Sultaana Freeman, the Florida woman who was suing because she was not allowed to wear her veil for her driver's license photo. There had been some minor news about the lawsuit recently, but today over at LGF we've got the real goods. In a nutshell, Sultaana (formerly Sandra Keller) has an unveiled photo - it's a mugshot from when she was arrested and convicted of beating a foster child. Oh yeah, she covered the kid's bruises with a Muslim outfit.

But the best part is the pointer from a reader to a CNN article that details the laws of some Muslim countries on license photos:
Driver’s identification rules in Muslim nations:
Saudi Arabia: Women aren't allowed to drive
Iran: Women wear a traditional chador, which does not cover the face.
Egypt: Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures
United Arab Emirates: Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures
Oman: Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures
Kuwait: Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures
Qatar: Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures
Bahrain: Women do not cover their face in I.D. pictures
Jordan: Women can drive if their faces are covered but do not cover their face in I.D. pictures
Well, she could always opt for the Saudi Arabian solution.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Naughty, naughty!
Bruce Perens weighs in on the latest revelation in the SCO pursuit of UNIX bucks:
"We knew that SCO's attack on Linux was a lie. But we never dreamed of the big lie behind it.

"This morning, Novell announced some of the terms of the company's 1995 agreement to sell its Unix business to SCO. The shocking news is that Novell did not sell the Unix intellectual property to SCO. Instead, they sold SCO a license to develop, sell, and sub-license Unix. The title to Unix copyrights and patents remains with Novell. To back up this assertion, Novell refers to public records at the Library of Congress Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent Office.

"In their announcement, Novell refers to recent letters from SCO asking Novell to assign the Unix copyrights to SCO. So, apparently SCO's management team knew that they did not own Unix while pursuing their sham campaign against Linux.
I can't wait for the next episode!
The NY Times needs your help!
Zev Chafets in the NY Daily News:
In the town where I live, you can turn in a criminal by calling (800) 898-TIPS. The New York Times now offers a similar service to its readers. They can finger crooked stories by sending an E-mail to The Times at

Jayson Blair is the proximate cause of this humiliating hotline. But some of the TIPS coming into The Times aren't about Blair.

Nobody knows exactly who's under investigation. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Bragg was suspended last week for letting an uncredited intern do his reporting. He's quitting.

And at least one other internal review is taking place. It concerns Pulitzer Prize columnist Maureen Dowd.
Zev turned her in.

I wonder how big a crowd they have working the hotline?
And the beat goes on...
Keith J. Kelly in the NY Post - Times Weighs Correction to Mega Apology:
Insiders say that the New York Times is preparing to make a correction on a portion of the massive correction it ran on May 11, regarding the fabrications, factual errors and plagiarism that appeared in disgraced reporter Jayson Blair's stories over several years.

The original 14,000-word correction and article ran on the front page of the Times.

But there is some contentiousness over how or even whether to publish a correction to the correction.
The suspense is terrible! I hope it lasts.
And speaking of school daze...
The Curmudgeon points to this beauty by Erika Hayasaki in the Los Angeles Times - Writing term papers has become a lost art:
Junior Dominique Houston is a straight-A student enrolled in honors and advanced placement classes at Northview High School in Covina, Calif. She is a candidate for class valedictorian and hopes to double-major in marine biology and political science in college, preferably the University of California at Los Angeles or the University of San Diego.

But the 17-year-old said she has written only one research paper during her high school career. It was three pages long, examining the habits of beluga whales.

Houston frets over whether she will be able to handle assignments for long, footnoted research papers once she gets to college.

''Bibliographies? We don't really even know how to do those. I don't even know how I would write a 15-page paper. I don't even know how I would begin,'' she said.

Her experience appears to be increasingly common. Across the United States, high school English and social studies teachers have cut back or simply abandoned the traditional term paper.
There are lots of excuses offered - primarily that the teachers have no time to grade lengthy papers. I'd be more sympathetic if I thought the tykes could actually do arithmetic. What's the excuse there?
Here's a novel idea!
Jay Lindsay of the AP reports Teachers who lack fluency could be fired under new law:
BOSTON (AP) Dozens of teachers who were hired to lead bilingual classes for an influx of foreign students could find themselves out of a job after initial evaluations show they may not be fluent in English.

A new state law will eliminate most bilingual education programs and require schools to prove by the end of the summer that their teachers are proficient in English. So far, assessments, such as classroom observations by administrators, have found that dozens of them may have difficulty holding onto their jobs because of poor language skills.

In Lawrence, for example, 31 of 93 teachers evaluated did not pass English proficiency standards and could be fired if they fail an oral exam scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, Lawrence Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy said.
It makes one wonder about the definition of "bilingual".
Computer News Alert!
(Via GeekPress) It's likely too early for this, but Google ranks Google 3rd for Search Engines and Trend Micro's customers have a slight problem - their anti-spam software has been blocking all email containing the letter "p".

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Book banning alert!
The AP stuns with School May Ban Children's Book With Poop Character:
RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Super Diaper Baby is facing expulsion from the Riverside Unified School District.

After receiving a complaint about alleged disgusting toilet humor and bad grammar in "The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby" children's book, school officials have decided to send the tome to a committee for review.

The seven-member group of teachers, parents and administrators will meet June 4 to discuss Super Diaper Baby's fate.

Riverside grandmother Pam Santi complained about the book, which is written in comic-book style. It depicts an infant super hero who battles a giant villainous piece of excrement.
How elegant and refined!
Bye-bye Britain
The Telegraph editorializes on the EU constitution:
If anything, it is worse than expected. The past week saw some hopeful briefing to the effect that Britain had succeeded in removing the most objectionable clauses from the draft EU constitution. But the approved draft reveals no such thing.

Read the text for yourself: a summary appears on our news pages. Look at the number of areas in which EU jurisdiction is specified: economic policy, employment, foreign affairs, defence, monetary policy, trade, agriculture, fisheries, competition, transport, energy, immigration, social policy, consumer protection.

Three weeks ago, we warned that the only Whitehall ministry left wholly in control of its own affairs would be the Department of Health. Now, even this claim seems over-optimistic, public health having been included as an area where Brussels will have jurisdiction. Some tidying-up exercise!
This is it: the moment we have repeatedly been told would never come about. Forty-seven years after the Treaty of Rome, the EU is ceasing to be an association of states and becoming a state in its own right. In fact, it is adopting a more prescriptive and intrusive constitution than virtually any nation.
The EU is to be given a "Minister for Foreign Affairs" and a unified diplomatic service. It will establish its own legal system, complete with a European Public Prosecutor and a federal police force, Europol. It will acquire legal personality, authorising it to take over from its member states in the UN, or other international bodies.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights will be given legal force, opening huge swathes of national life to the capricious rulings of European judges. A mechanism will be put in place to punish recalcitrant members by suspending their voting rights.

Faced with this litany, Labour ministers make two mutually contradictory claims. On the one hand, they tell us that this version is not final, and that the most obnoxious passages can still be removed in next year's intergovernmental conference. On the other, they tell us that it doesn't really amount to very much, which is why there is no need to hold a referendum.
Hmm, time for a little secession.
Chilling of campus dissent alert!
Dr. Mike S. Adams reports at - So you're a feminist?...Isn't that cute:
Dear UNC-Wilmington Board of Trustees:

It has recently come to my attention that a feminist student at UNCW has taken offense to a sticker on my office door which reads "So you're a feminist . . . Isn't that cute." I found this out after obtaining a copy of a letter her father wrote to you, the Board of Trustees. I could comment at some length on the obvious hypocrisy of this student's decision to ask her father to defend feminism for her, but I won't. Let me get straight to the point: I did not put that sticker on my office door.
It's seems the Doc and his students have been conducting an experiment.
Who goosed the moose?
(Via Free Republic) Carl Swanson of New York magazine has the inside skinny in The Battle for the Newsroom: How the Jayson Blair scandal touched off a struggle for the soul of the Gray Lady. There's lots of good stuff that I won't even try to summarize, but here are two vignettes. First Dr. Raoul (well known FReeper) scores:
To many of the assembled, this triumvirate had come close to destroying the credibility of the newspaper—“this precious thing we hold in common,” as one reporter has described it. And the hastily called “town hall” meeting, on May 14, hadn’t helped, with its gauntlet of news cameras, reporters, and a hectoring man in a Saddam Hussein mask and well-worn loafers carrying a sign announcing FORMER NYT REPORTER, WILL LIE FOR FOOD.

“It was the most depressing and humiliating thing,” said one Metro reporter.

“It’s not the kind of thing you’d think you’d go through because of the Times.”
And then there's the dippy moose:
Landman’s name was invoked many times in the meeting last week. In the dull, repetitive, self-flagellating, and in some cases tearful questioning that went on at the Loews theater last week, when someone suggested the committee investigating the Blair after-effects be named the Landman committee, the room exploded in applause.

Raines and Boyd, by contrast, were under continuous fire. Investigations editor Joe Sexton took them to task for not having demanded Blair’s sources. “It’s right fucking there,” he said.

Raines called the inquiry “demagogic.”

But it was Sulzberger, the real power in the kingdom, who made the strangest showing. “The publisher today showed up with a stuffed moose—the moose is a symbol on the fourteenth floor of speaking openly,” said one reporter.

Sulzberger removed the stuffed moose from a plastic bag and handed it to Raines. Raines looked nonplussed for an instant, then set it down next to his chair.

"You’re sitting in the room with giants in the business,” said the reporter. "It was mortifying.”
I guess Sulzberger has turned off the ringer on his clue phone.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Scenic New Rome, Ohio
Tim Blair (who has stylish new digs) points out a beauty by Steve Spence in Car and Driver - Town Without Pity:
In the past decade, the village of New Rome, Ohio, suffered a severe case of urban flight—46 percent of its residents packed up and moved away, according to the latest U.S. Census numbers. Folks familiar with New Rome and not fond of it may sanitize their explanations for this exodus, but in simple English it usually comes down to this: New Rome is a chickenshit town, a little police state.
But the village does have one big asset - 1000 feet of Broad Street. The revenue from traffic citations on that little stretch of four-lane roadway has gone from $101,223 in 1990 to $377,651 in 2001, enough to pay for its notorious police department, a handful of municipal workers, and the village council.
A common enough scam, but it gets better:
For one, who's going to believe that in this day and age a family clan can still run a town? The makeup of the village council begins with Nancy Chapman, the wife of Charles Chapman, who had been mayor during the 1990s and ran the traffic court. The Chapmans' son and daughter, Charles Jr. and Alisa Gibbs, have been on the council. Councilwoman Patricia McCormick is Nancy Chapman's sister, and councilman David Tisler, who works for a towing service on Broad Street, is McCormick's live-in boyfriend. Councilman Richard Plants is Nancy Chapman's nephew. Christopher and Valerie Gamble have been on the council; Valerie is the daughter of Connie Tucker. Who is Connie Tucker? She's the clerk/treasurer of New Rome.

Second, none of these council members was ever elected - they were all appointed, by one another. The last time a council member was elected by voters was in 1979, and even that involved a pair of write-in candidates. The clan's position is that they don't bother to run for election because no one else in the village wants the job. With just nine or 10 homes, they say there are few volunteers for council. They say the police are simply enforcing the laws and that as a result, New Rome is a very safe place to live. (Possibly a little less so after 11 p.m., when the police quit for the night.) Council members are paid $50 for the monthly meeting and qualify for retirement and health insurance after long service.
Yeah, but there are fringes apparently - a lot of the ticket money has disappeared. Much more by following the link.
Down and out in Baghdad
Uday: Hello? Hello? That you, Rumsfeld? This Uday again. I talk to my father, and we ready to set terms. Yes, I hold.

Saddam: [to basket] Qusay? You want Mama fix you falafel?

Basket: Unnngh. Nnnnf.

Uday: Papa, why you still dress like that? Why you call yourself "Mama"? Sure, it fool enemy while we escape, but that in April! This MAY.

Saddam: You jealous because I not afraid to challenge conventional notions of gender and sexuality.

Uday: This must be what it like to get high with Janet Reno. Why you wear stupid helmet?

Saddam: Drop ceiling on Saddam's head once, shame on you. Drop ceiling on Saddam’s head twice, shame on Saddam!

Uday: Uday hope that if anything happen to Papa, he have time to change him clothes before CNN get here.

Qusay: Mmrrmmff.
It's Little Tiny Lies.
Kids! You CAN try this at home!
Well, you can if you have $50K burning a hole in your pocket. John Markoff in the NY Times - From PlayStation to Supercomputer for $50,000:
As perhaps the clearest evidence yet of the computing power of sophisticated but inexpensive video-game consoles, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has assembled a supercomputer from an army of Sony PlayStation 2's.

The resulting system, with components purchased at retail prices, cost a little more than $50,000. The center's researchers believe the system may be capable of a half trillion operations a second, well within the definition of supercomputer, although it may not rank among the world's 500 fastest supercomputers.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the project, which uses the open source Linux operating system, is that the only hardware engineering involved was placing 70 of the individual game machines in a rack and plugging them together with a high-speed Hewlett-Packard network switch. The center's scientists bought 100 machines, but are holding 30 in reserve, possibly for high-resolution display application.

"It took a lot of time because you have to cut all of these things out of the plastic packaging," said Craig Steffen, a senior research scientist at the center, who is one of four scientists working part time on the project.
Here's the trick - they aren't using the PS processor, they're using the graphic chip:
The scientists are taking advantage of a standard component of the Sony video-game console that was originally intended to move and transform pixels rapidly on a television screen to produce lifelike graphics. The chip is not the PlayStation 2's MIPS microprocessor, but rather a graphics co-processor known as the Emotion Engine. That custom designed silicon chip is capable of producing up to 6.5 billion mathematical operations a second.

The impressive performance of the game machine, which has been on the market for a few years, underscores a radical shift that has taken place in the computing world since the end of the cold war in the late 1980's, according to the researchers.

While the most advanced computing technologies have historically been developed first for large corporate users and military contractors, increasingly the fastest computers are being developed for the consumer market and for products meant to be placed under Christmas trees.
Now I can build The Forbin Project in my basement!

Sunday, May 25, 2003

A heart warming story
An interesting read from David Kaplan in US News on the CIA's war against al Qaeda - Playing Offense: The inside story of how U.S. terrorist hunters are going after al Qaeda. Some excerpts:
"After 9/11, the gloves come off."
–COFER BLACK, former director, CIA Counterterrorism Center

And the brass knuckles came on. America's frontline agents in the war on terror have hacked into foreign banks, used secret prisons overseas, and spent over $20 million bankrolling friendly Muslim intelligence services. They have assassinated al Qaeda leaders, spirited prisoners to nations with brutal human-rights records, and amassed files equal to a thousand encyclopedias.
Black knew al Qaeda well. He had chased Osama bin Laden ever since the Saudi exile tried to kill him in Sudan a decade earlier. Black had returned the favor, drafting CIA plans to assassinate bin Laden long before 9/11--plans that, on the order of higher-ups, sat on the shelf.
The war in Afghanistan caught al Qaeda's leaders off guard. Bin Laden's top people were convinced the United States would respond to 9/11 with merely a volley of cruise missiles, interrogations later showed.
Gee, I wonder why?
"It is impossible to overestimate the importance that our Arab allies played--the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the North Africans," explains Roger Cressey, the former terrorism expert on the National Security Council. "They understand them better, they penetrated the cells--we certainly didn't."

The Pakistanis, however, draw the most praise. Pakistan served as midwife to the Taliban, helping bring the radical regime to power in neighboring Afghanistan. But after 9/11, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf turned on a dime and cracked down on al Qaeda terrorists who sought refuge in his country. That policy netted the war on terror's biggest fish.

It began with Riyadh the Facilitator.
The tactics employed were basic enough. In newspaper ads, the Pakistani Army offered fat rewards for tips about strange foreigners. Riyadh's neighbors had noticed the odd comings and goings of people who entered his small home. Once in custody, he talked. Soon, investigators were chasing down leads into al Qaeda's growing presence in Pakistan.
A ton more by following the link.
Running a business 101
Paul Bedard's Washington Whispers column at US News - Office Depot, Microsoft bow to Bush's bargainer:
In what's likely to be his final bargain score before leaving, President Bush's budget chief Mitch Daniels has convinced Office Depot--and, soon, Microsoft--to give Uncle Sam bulk-rate discounts on the millions of dollars of goods the government buys each year. "Over time," says Bush's coupon-cutter, the savings will add up to "very significant money." He's talking hundreds of millions of dollars. When Daniels--who's resigning to run for governor of Indiana--arrived in Washington, he was shocked to discover that each agency had separate deals with suppliers. That meant higher prices. "In many cases," says Daniels, "government agencies have been buying at rates higher than a midsize corporate customer might be getting."
It's nice to hear about the occasional government employee who has a clue.
It's the Rev!
Joel Siegel in the NY Daily News - Rev. Al's on the road and off the books:
Like his rivals for President, the Rev. Al Sharpton has consultants, a spokesman, a Web site and a heavy travel schedule, visiting more than 80 cities by his count in just a few months.

What the preacher doesn't have, mysteriously, is much in the way of campaign expenses.

Although some of his Democratic opponents have spent more than a million dollars so far, Sharpton's campaign filings say he's spent only $54,500 of $114,000 in campaign donations — and nearly half was for one splashy event in Washington. But a Daily News examination of Sharpton's campaign finances raises questions about whether he has disclosed all his spending as required by law and whether he has used paid speeches, a book tour and his nonprofit National Action Network to improperly subsidize his presidential ambitions.

Sharpton and his campaign manager, Frank Watkins, insist no violations of federal election law have occurred.

But when it comes to Sharpton's finances, there often are more questions than answers.

He's the only candidate who once said under oath that he didn't own his suits but only had "access" to them.
What a guy!
Help wanted!
(Via Sgt. Stryker) Roger Friedman amuses at FOXNews:
Clinton told the audience that his Web site, which is now up and running, will soon offer his take on news events as they happen. "Now you'll know what's really going on," he promised. "Since you're not told that often these days."
Are tin foil beanies optional?

Actually, the idea that Bubba would actually do this himself himself is ludicrous - they're probably looking for a blog ghost writer right now. I've got some suitable candidates of the distaff persuasion that range from the vain to the inane, but come to think of it, they don't write their stuff either. Maybe he can persuade an intern to do it.