April 2003 Archives

Bush's thanksgiving turkey was fake

Joins hallowed ranks of other Bush lies, deceptions and omissions.

It was just a prop, says the Washington Post (via the Howard Dean blog).

The White House are still insisting that the British Airways / Air Force One story is true, even though British Airways are in turn insisting that it isn't. Given that BA have no reason to lie about this...

The whole thing is looking increasingly dodgy. In fact, it's increasingly likely that Bush only slunk into Baghdad for 2 and a half hours, in total secrecy, flying blind for fear of an attack, because Hillary Clinton was due to spend two days in Iraq the next day. The man is a despicable coward, and he deserves to go.


Stuff I can't be bothered blogging at length, but that you should know anyway.

OK, here goes.

September 11th, the American Empire, the US balance of trade deficit, winning the Cold War, Iraq, and why they're all related: Wes Clark has a pretty convincing analysis. I do really hope he plays some part in the next US administration, whether it's VP, Secretary of State or (gasp) President. I'm not certain that he could be President, but he's too smart to waste. There's some more background reading at Calpundit.

Also from Calpundit, how libertarians should feel about cannibalism.

Oh, and read his piece about how Texas educational achievements are nothing more than a crude attempt at cooking the books.

Meanwhile, a much-linked-to post from David Raitt solves the problem of how Bush could have claimed to have got rid of the WMDs in Iraq.

And Atrios reminds us that we should read this Guardian article about Guantanamo bay. The Guardian since reports that the US military has fired defence lawyers who were over-zealous on such extreme stuff as representing their client without the prosecution breathing over their shoulder.

Old news, and I'm not sure why the Democrats have linked to the French-language version, but I hadn't ranted about the sheer crassness of that backdrop behind Bush. Everyone in the UK refers to the place Bush had his speech as Banqueting Hall - which seems reasonable, as it appears to be only part of the original Whitehall Palace - but the Bush people had to bring in a huge backdrop and bludgeon into Faux News viewers' heads that he was in the UK. Sigh.

And finally (yes, this is the joke link), there's a LiveJournal community dedicated to scurvy (via JWZ, mostly because I read his blog before Boing Boing who also have it). They hate vitamin C and tell happy war tales of their teeth falling out. Most odd.

Food allergies, and how we can bio-engineer them away

Not, obviously, with current technology.

Shona is allergic to tomatoes. It took her a long time to work out that she had an allergy, as opposed to something wrong with her digestive system, because you get tomatoes in so many things. When she came up to see us, bringing her progeny with her, and we decided to go to Café Andaluz for lunch, it was decidedly non-trivial to find things that she could eat (onions were out as well, because she was breast-feeding and onions disagree with Jonathan, apparently).

I've met in passing people who have even more strenuous allergies - gluten, for instance, is a right bastard, because it means you effectively can't eat anything baked, or pasta.

On the other hand, we know that Cleodhna is allergic to something, but we don't know if it's lamb, coriander, or something else. It's not something that crops up that often, annoyingly, so even keeping a food diary is unlikely to work.

Eventually we'll find a way of identifying exactly what it is in our genetic makeup that causes food allergies, and zap it. In the mean time, though, the best thing we can do is reduce to a minimum the likelyhood of food being allergic.

Which means that we should find something that nobody is allergic to, and put it in everything.

The latest rising death-toll argument

A black soldier is less likely to die fighting in Iraq than living in Washington DC

Stefan Sharkansky points out that, according to some statistics, a black man is 36% more likely to die under normal circumstances in Washington DC, than during combat operations in Iraq. (Link via Instapundit.)

Now, of course, you could achieve the same drop in mortality by shipping those black Washington DC inhabitants to somewhere else in the US. It seems slightly specious to single out the black 25% of the military, then narrow it down further to those who live in Washington DC (or, I imagine, similarly violent and/or dangerous areas of the US), and say that for them, well, they're better off in Iraq. What about the rest of the troops?

But even if this drop in mortality applied to all of the troops stationed in Iraq, it would still be disgracefully small. Consider the resources available to the US Army - prior investment in R&D and procurement, staffing levels, logistical support - compared to the similar resources applied to reducing violent crime in the streets of America. Consider the sheer imbalance in strength and equipment between the US soldiers and the insurgent forces in Iraq.

If, despite all that, the death toll in Iraq, after "major" combat operations have ended, is still only 36% lower than one of the deadliest places in peacetime USA, then we have to conclude that something has gone dreadfully wrong, either politically or militarily, in the way the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq is being carried out.

My next super-hero character: Good Hitler

Germany's most famous painter.

I was talking to Cleodhna how, the next time I play a super-hero, I want to play a truly, honestly good guy - but with, nonetheless, a bit of an edge. Maybe the incarnation of a country or concept, or the reincarnation of someone from the past (with superpowers). And Cleodhna suggested Good Hitler.

After a while, we decided on a good origin story.

This guy - let's call him Marc Shostrum - goes back in time and shoots Hitler, ideally before he's done anything particularly evil. Satisfied, he then goes back to his original time, only to discover that Hitler didn't die, and did all the things that Mr Shostrum remember him doing. So what happened?

Well, clearly, when Marc shot Adolf Hitler, he created a rift in the space-time continuum. Where there was just one universe, there were now two parallel universes: one where Hitler lived, and one where Hitler didn't. When Shostrum went back to his own time, he went back to the time he remembered - because he didn't have any experience of the new timeline he had created. Thus, nobody from outside had any knowledge of the new without-Hitler timeline.

According to the observer effect, therefore, the alternate reality had very little internal stability, and promptly collapsed. The representative, or perhaps the incarnation, of this alternate reality, Good Hitler, therefore finds himself suddenly in Marc Shostrum's time, with no real knowledge of where he came from.

Oh, and needless to say, as Adolf Hitler's Good Twin, he does not have a moustache.

Tonight's blog roundup

Chocolate and furniture.

The End of the American Century? (via Eschaton): the US is turning to the UN (including the chocolate makers) for help in Iraq, only months after claiming it could go it alone, and has in the process demonstrated the limits of its military power. This may be a turning point.

IKEA's naming convention (via Boing Boing): men's names are reserved for chairs and desks, women's names apply to materials and curtains, and apparently the only use for Danish is to apply placenames to carpets.

The first of the people I regularly roleplay with has just spawned

firstsprog.com isn't taken, incidentally.

Most of my social circle consists of people I've been roleplaying with since University, and it's been interesting to observe how things have changed over the years. As we all got older, most of us have got jobs and started accumulating things that cost money: suits, animals, computers, cars, houses.


Mike (of SomeWhat fame) and Shona have just had their first baby, shortly after paying off their mortgage; his name is Jonathan Douglas Charleston, which trips nicely off the tongue, and doesn't at first glance to seem to lend itself to any obvious playground bastardisations. Mother and baby are, according to reports, fine - the whole thing took roughly 2 hours, which is amazingly good luck, and a sure sign that when they have their next kid it will take absolutely ages.

(There almost certainly will be a second kid: Mike didn't sound too convincing when he suggested they might quit when they were ahead, especially when he refused to tell me what they might have called the child if it had been a girl, on the grounds that they might use those names later. Mike: let me know if it turns out you were going to pick the 2003 equivalent of Sharon or Tracy.)

According to the rhyme, as Cleodhna pointed out, Wednesday's child is full of woe, which is pretty rough on him, as I don't believe you can be a goth if you're called Jonathan. And annoyingly, his birthday is far more numerologically interesting in the broken bastardised data format Merkins use (06/04/03). Bah.

I know a couple of people who have spawned already (Danny, for instance), but Mike is the first person I a) know pretty damn well, and who b) really meant to have a baby. Which is slightly scary, even if Mike is older than most of us - I mean, he works for a stockbroker (albeit a stockbroker who deals with funky brain-hurting maths), who gave him a lift home this afternoon in, according to stereotype, a flash convertible. I look forward to future developments with interest - like, for instance, how long it takes for young Jonathan to outweigh our own surrogate child Laszlo.

Incidentally, I vaguely thought of buying a domain - jonathancharleston.me.uk or something - to commemorate the birth of Mike and Shona's first child, in the same sort of way that my mother plants a tree whenever my cousins have babies. But I decided against it, on the grounds that a domain name should be your own choice: it's going to be (potentially) part of your identity for life, so it should damn well be something that you're happy with.

So firstsprog.com remains unregistered. For now.

Lucille Marie Gordon can't serve jury duty

They got her name from the Kennel Club rather than the electoral roll. An easy mistake to make.

According to the Sacramento Supreme Court, Lucille is a 38-year old woman, living in Carmichael, California. They've called her up for jury duty twice in the last year, and are looking for a reason for why she shouldn't serve this second time - and they don't just want the standard rubbish excuses.

The rest of the Gordon family have a very good one: she's a dog. "I guess she could [serve as a juror]", reckoned Caryn Gordon, "but if you had a dog-and-cat case, I don't think Lucy could be impartial."

More at the Sacramento Bee website - thanks to Seth for this one.

The poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld's press briefings quite wonderfully laid out as poetry.

This has been going around, and you may have seen it, but damn, it's good enough to post yet one more link. So, ladies and gentleman, The poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld (U.S. Defence Secretary).