Friday, September 30, 2005

Blagues du vendredi

Mon copain Bernouille m'a prêté ces quelques blagues, pour m'éviter d'avoir à me creuser le cerveau pour écrire quelque chose d'intelligent. Merci Bernouille!

Les cinq préceptes de la sagesse chinoise destinés aux femmes
1. Il est important de trouver un homme qui t'aide dans les tâches ménagères et travaux pénibles, et qui ait un bon emploi.
2. Il est important de trouver un homme d'esprit, ayant beaucoup d'humour, qui te fasse rire.
3. Il est important que tu trouves un homme sur qui tu puisses compter, en qui tu aies confiance et qui ne te mente jamais.
4. Il est important de trouver un homme qui soit bon au lit, qui aime te faire l'amour.
5. Il est important que ces quatre hommes ne se connaissent pas.

La pessimiste est une femme qui pense qu'elle ne pourra pas garer sa voiture entre deux autres dans un espace visiblement trop étroit.
L'optimiste est un homme qui pense qu'elle n'essayera pas.

Proverbe arabe
Le mariage est comme un mirage dans le désert: palais, cocotiers, chameaux...
Mais soudain tout disparaît et il ne reste que le chameau.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

It's the stupidity, Stupid!

The British daily The Times has published the results of a study showing that religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide. (

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: “Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

I don't want to brag, but I could have told you that, without the cost of an extensive research. It is obvious that religiosity is a symptom of a narrow, closed mind deadset against science, logic and common sense. Most religions are centuries old, and to try, in the 21st century, to blindly follow ancient precepts, formulated for Hebraic nomadic tribes and mistranslated and modified throughout the ages by corrupt medieval priests, is such an absurd proposition that failure is not only expected, but automatic. Religious fundamentalists can reject evolution all they want, it will still come back to bite them on their collective butt, for it would be like rejecting gravity. The more anti-science they get, the more stupider their homeschooled kids will be, and sooner or later, Darwin's law will kick in: smart will survive, stupid will go extinct. And in the case of the United States, there is an extra hurdle to jump in the race for supremacy among nations: their immature fear and loathing of sex. Is it any surprise, really, to find that the red states have the highest rate of divorce, abortion, teen pregnancy and STD infection? They are too busy trying to prevent homosexuals to marry or to adopt children, to notice that their priests are raping children and nuns.

God is just a facade for most people, an excuse to make them feel superior to non believers. So let's do away with all the religious mumbo jumbo and cut to the chase: the source of all sins is not a mythical devil, but ignorance.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Be All You Can Be - Just Don't Be A Soldier

Y'all know how I feel about war and soldiers and armies. Fred Reed at Fred on Everything ( has an article that needs to be read, even for non-American readers or for people who are not planning to go to Iraq or elsewhere to kill other human beings who didn't do anything to them. Here's what he has to say:

A Grand Adventure ... Except That it isn't
September 18, 2005

A friend recently asked me what I would tell a young man thinking about enlisting in the military. (He had in mind his son.) I would tell him this, which I wish someone had told me:

Kid, you are being suckered. You are being used. You need to think carefully before signing that enlistment contract.

First, notice that the men who want to send you to die were draft-dodgers. President Bush was of military age during Vietnam, but he sat out the war in the Air National Guard. The Guard was then a common way of avoiding combat. Bush could do it because he was a rich kid who went to Yale, and his family had connections.

He dodged, but he wants you to go.

Vice President Cheney, also of military age during Vietnam, also didn’t go. Why? When asked by the press, he said, “I had other priorities.” In other words, he was too important to risk his precious self overseas. He dodged, but wants you to go.

If you take the time to investigate, you will always find this pattern. The rich and influential avoid combat. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton do not send young men to Iraq. The editors at magazines that support the war, National Review for example, didn’t fight. They are happy to let you go, though. The reason for the All Volunteer military was to let the smart and rich avoid service and instead send kids from middle-class and blue-collar families. It works.

In talking to recruiters, you need to understand what you are up against. You are probably nineteen or twenty years old, full of piss and vinegar as we used to say, just starting to know the world. Which means that you don’t yet know it. (Do you know, for example, what countries border Iraq?)

You are up against a government that hires high-powered ad agencies and psychologists to figure out how to lure you into the military. Over many years they have done surveys and studies on the weaknesses of young males to find out what will get them to join. They know that young men, the ones that are worth anything anyway, want to prove themselves, want adventure, want to show what they can do. Everything a recruiter does is carefully calculated to play on this. They go to recruiting school to learn how.

“The Few. The Proud.” You don’t think that came out of the Marine Corps, do you? These phrases—“An Army of One,” “Be All You Can Be"--come from ad agencies in New York. Nobody in those ad agencies, I promise you, was ever in the Marine Corps. New York sells the military the way it sells soap. It has no interest in you at all.

Recruiters know exactly what they are doing. They are manly, which appeals to gutsy young guys who don’t want to be mall rats. They are confident. They have a physical fitness, a clean-cut appearance that looks good compared to all those wussy lawyers in business suits. They invite you to come into a man’s world. They promise you college funds. (Check and see how many actually ever get those funds. Read the small print.)

And of course the military is a man’s world, and it is an adventure, and it does beat being a mall rat—until they put you in combat. Driving a tank beats stocking parts in the local NAPA outlet—until they put you in combat. Days on the rifle range, running the bars of San Diego far from home and parents, going across the border into Mexico—all of this appeals powerfully to a young man. It did to me. It beats hell out of getting some silly associate degree in biz-admin at the community college.

Until they put you in combat. Then it’s too late. You can’t change your mind. They send you to jail for a long time if you do.

Combat is not the adventure you think it is. Know what happens when an RPG hits a tank? Nothing good. The cherry juice—hydraulic fluid that turns the turret—can vaporize and then blow. I saw the results in the Naval Support Activity hospital in Danang in 1967. A tank has a crew of four. Two burned to death, screaming as they tried to get out. The other two were scalded pink, under a plastic sheet that was always foggy with serum evaporating from burns where the skin had sloughed off. They probably lived. Know what burn scars look like?

The recruiters won’t tell you this. They know, but they won’t tell you. Ever seen a guy who just took a round through the face? He’s a bloody mess with his eyes gone, nasty hole where his nose was, funny white cartilage things sticking out of dripping meat. Suppose he’ll ever have another girlfriend? Not freaking likely. He’ll spend the next fifty years as a horror in some forsaken VA hospital.

But the recruiters won’t tell you this. They want you to think that it’s an adventure.

Other things happen that, depending on your head, may or may not bother you. Iraq means combat in cities. Ordinary people live there. You pop a grenade through a window, or hit a building with a burst from the Chain gun, or maybe put a tank round through it. Then you find the little girl with her bowels hanging out, not quite dead yet, with her mother screaming over what's left. You'd be surprised how much blood a small kid has.

You get to live with that picture for the rest of your life. And you will live with it. The recruiter will tell you that it doesn’t happen, that it’s the exception, that I’m a commy journalist. Believe him if you want. Believe him now, while you can. When you get back, you’ll believe me.

A lot of things in America aren’t what they used to be. The military is one of them. The army didn’t always use girl soldiers to torture prisoners. For that they had specialists in the intelligence agencies. You won’t get assigned torture duty, almost certainly, because the Army got caught. Ask your recruiter about it, just to be sure.

Don’t expect thanks from a grateful nation. Somebody might buy you a drink in a bar. That’s about all you get. Many will regard you as a criminal or a fool.

Wars seem important at the time, but they usually aren’t. Five years later, they are history. About sixty thousand GIs died in Vietnam. We lost. Nothing happened. It was a stupid war for nothing. Today the guys who lost faces and legs and internal organs back then are just freaks. Nobody gives a damn about them, and nobody will give a damn about you. A war is a politician’s toy, but your wheelchair is forever. If you want adventure, try the fishing fleet in Alaska.

Think about it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Chronique fourre-tout

The title of this post is in French, which makes this a bilingual posting, only because I don't know how to say «Chronique fourre-tout» in English. As can be obvious to my native English-speaking readers, I'm not completely fluent in English, my first language being French. The funny thing is, there are certain ideas that I can only express in English, others only in French and yet others only in Vietnamese. When I count, I find it faster to count in Vietnamese. Swearing is easier in English, except when I need to yell at my children, then it's all Vietnamese curses (as in : Ðồ mǎ́t vịt! = A pox on your head!). And when I have to explain something complex and abstract, then I'm more confortable doing it in French. When I'm in a country where I'm not familiar with the language, for some reasons, I tend to speak in German, of all languages! I remember when I first arrived in Bangkok, for the first few months when I could not communicate (if nobody around knew English), I would keep babbling in German!! Same thing when I was in Mexico: German all the way. I still don't know why. I also dream in many different languages. Weird heh?

Update on a previous post (
A clarification from Harper's magazine:
While widely reported, the story of doctors euthanizing their patients in New Orleans may not be true. More on the story is available at:

When I'm depressed, I go here:

A funny thing happened at work:
I was so tired in the afternoon, I decided to make myself a cup of coffee to stay awake. So there I was, sitting in front of the monitor, sipping my coffee, trying to translate the President's speech, when bam! I fell asleep and dropped my coffee mug on my keyboard and on my lap. My pants were completely soaked and I reeked coffee the whole afternoon. Have you ever heard of somebone falling asleep while drinking coffee? Now you have. You can also tell how exciting my work is.

My trip to Vietnam
I'm planning to go back to Vietnam for three weeks with my son the B-Boy next summer in 2006. We were supposed to go this year, but we were not able to save enough money. If you are interested in going, I would recommend that you read this post by Our Man in Hanoi:

I'm reproducing the main text here, in case it disappears:

Dear Traveller,

The first thing you have to realise is – nothing is what it seems.

No one has sex outside of marriage here apparently. Yet the teenage abortion rate is horrifically high. Everyone seemingly has a mobile phone and a motorbike but the average wage is a dollar a day.

Befriend a local and they will spend their last few cents on a meal for you. They will refuse to take anything towards the cost (and you probably shouldn’t offer) and they will be genuinely honoured to eat with you. You can make a friend for life in seconds. At the same time, if someone collapses in the street, people will walk by. Or worse, stop to stare but do nothing.

As a foreigner the Police will leave you alone. They know you bring money into this country. But that works both ways too. They may not help you when you need them either.

Everywhere is manic with activity yet strangely serene. Eventually your ears will filter out the noise and you’ll fall in step with the traffic. You’ll wonder why it seemed so scary when you first arrived.

I understand that when you think of Vietnam the chances are your first thought is of the American War (that’s what it’s called in these parts – and what else would they call it if you think about it for a second). By all means go to the museums, the tunnels and the rest if that is your thing. But Vietnam is much much more than that.

Seventy percent of the population were born after the war. And the American war was a blip in amongst centuries of other wars. In my experience Vietnamese tend to look forward rather than back – understand the horrors of that war. Put it in context and move on. Vietnam has.

Don’t get too tied down with that communism thing. Vietnam is communist in name only. In terms of the likes of education and healthcare the capitalist country you left is likely to provide more for its people. As for freedom, well don’t expect criticism of the government in the newspapers (or on this weblog for that matter) but you don’t suffer a nanny state here either.

And yes.. the opening up to commerce has helped Vietnam prosper. But don’t forget this is on the back of a rare 30 years of peace. I would guess that this is the most significant factor in the upswing.

Don’t worry about your personal safety. Or at least don’t panic about it. Vietnam is probably the safest place you will visit. But don’t be stupid. Hanoi isn’t too bad but by all account bag snatching is on the rise in Saigon. Just keep things close to you. Honestly money belts are not needed. Stick you wallet in your pocket, like you do at home.

People will rip you off sometimes. They need the money. But that doesn’t mean that people will ALWAYS rip you off. Sometimes the price they say is THE price. There is no need for haggling. Other times you can haggle and haggle to get a couple of cents knocked off. Why bother?

Find out what things cost. Don’t accept the rip off price but accept the reasonable price. And while we’re at it, westerners don’t always pay more than locals (transport aside). That’s a myth.

And yes people are poor here. Ignore the TV shops, the motorbikes, the cars etc. It’s for a (growing) select few. Most people still live in a one room home and sleep on the floor. Remember that.

Learn a couple of words of Vietnamese. Hello and thank-you will do it. It’ll make people smile at the very least. Smiling is important here. Smile when you’re haggling, smile when you’re arguing, smile when you’re asking for your money back. People will appreciate it and actually it’s a nicer way to live. If you’re being over charged make an “oh my god” face, but do it half smiling. They’ll realise they’ve been sussed but they’ll smile back in a “I’ve been caught” way and most likely offer you’re the real price.

Relax…they can smell nervous tourists and it’s like a red rag to a bull. At least pretend you know what you’re doing without being arrogant.

Learn to enjoy it even when things go wrong. They will go wrong. Vietnam is slapstick and bizarre and that is why so many of us love it. Vietnamese people know their country is bizarre. Get stuck in a traffic jam in a taxi and the driver will turn to you laughing, shrug and say: “Vietnam”. As if that is the reason for the madness. Remember, each cock-up is another experience and another good traveller’s tale. Learn to laugh at the problems and live with it.

Oh and they will call you fat. They will ask how much you weigh, how old you are, how much you earn, how much your camera cost. Compared to them you probably are fat – and answer the questions truthfully – who cares?

As Michael Caine says in The Quiet American: “"They say, whatever you are looking for, you can find here.".

It’s true. On every level from beautiful beaches to amazing cities. From boiled dog to bangers and mash. From street food to the Sheraton. How much you submerge yourself in Vietnam is up to you. Eat at street stalls if you enjoy the experience but you don’t have to. Don’t feel guilty if you only eat in top restaurants. Your dollars will still pay for a wage here. Likewise don’t think you understand Vietnam and its people just because you’ve sat on plastic stools and eaten noodle soup.

And there is a seedy underside, and there are drugs, and there is corruption and prostitution. But where doesn’t have these?

There is no where else like Vietnam. People who have been here longer than me, have told me that only five years ago it was all bicycles on the road. Now it’s mostly motorbikes but more and more cars are starting to appear. Vietnam is changing. And although I wish I had seen it then – now is also fascinating. The change is here but McDonalds and Starbucks haven’t arrived yet. Nothing is ruined. Not yet.

You should realise that people either love or hate Vietnam. It is that type of place. But if you at least try to love it then it is more likely to work for you. Come here already smiling and with an open mind and it will be okay. Start to lose your temper over the traffic, the service, the roads or the food and it will only get worse. Nothing works here if you stop smiling.

My final piece of advice is: play the idiot.

Play the big western lump. Catch their eye when they’re laughing at you (you are funny) and laugh with them. Pull a face at the kids.

Leave your ego and impatience behind and it’ll work out just fine.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sisterhood is powerful

The Guardian reports the following in its Monday edition:

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, probably the world's most powerful woman, has turned down a dinner date with other female foreign ministers at the UN General Assembly to discuss women's rights, citing a busy schedule.

"There is no slight intended. There are many different scheduling demands on the secretary," a state department spokesman told Reuters. Fifteen of the 17 female foreign ministers were due to attend last night with only Dr Rice and Roza Otunbayeva of Kyrgyzstan absent.

It's not as if the State Department is not aware of the tradition. It was started by Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton's Secretary of State.

Dr Rice reminds me of those girls who would rather miss the monthly girls-night-out to stay home on the off chance that their boyfriend might drop by their place that night.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Symbols of virtue, whether they like it or not

March of the Penguins has become a major hit among conservatives who say that the film offers lessons on monogamy and intelligent design. One reviewer said it was the best movie he’d seen since The Passion of the Christ.

On the right-wing Web site, an opponent of abortion wrote that the movie “verified the beauty of life and the rightness of protecting it.” And at a conference for young Republicans, the editor of National Review urged participants to see the movie because it promoted monogamy.

In Sidney, Ohio, Ben Hunt, a minister at the 153 House Churches Network, has coordinated trips to the local theater to see the film. "Some of the circumstances they experienced seemed to parallel those of Christians," he said of the penguins. "The penguin is falling behind, is like some Christians falling behind. The path changes every year, yet they find their way, is like the Holy Spirit." Mr. Hunt has provided a form on a Web site that can be downloaded and taken to the film. "Please use the notebook, flashlight and pen provided," it says, "to write down what God speaks to you as He speaks it to you."

In an interview with the French daily Le Monde, the film director Luc Jacquet expresses his surprise. "Je suis de formation scientifique, élevé au lait darwinien. Je suis contre toute forme de prosélytisme, et je rappelle que ce film n'est qu'une histoire de manchots. L'analyser en termes religieux, c'est un peu comme si l'on analysait Superman en termes de défense et de stratégie." [I had a scientific education; I was raised on Darwinian milk. I am against all forms of proselytism and I would like to stress that this film is just a story about penguins. To analyze it in religious terms is a bit like analyzing Superman in terms of defense and strategy.] He considers this recent craze as «ridicule et dangereux», quoting from the French magazine Science: « On devrait emmener les partisans du créationnisme voir La Marche de l'empereur pour leur prouver qu'ils ont tort. » [We should take the followers of creationism to see March of the Penguins to prove to them that they’re wrong.]

Of course, whatever Mr. Jacquet may say about his film is irrelevant. Numerous commentators have also pointed out the high percentage of «gays» among penguins. It doesn't matter, lalalala, we can't hear you. The religious crazies have decided that the film encapsulates the main tenets of their faith and nothing, but nothing, will change their mind.

My question is this: does religion make one stupid or is stupidity a requirement for religion? I guess it's the eternal mystery: which comes first, the egg or the penguin?

Friday, September 16, 2005


La semaine dernière, quelqu'un est entré dans mon bureau pendant que j'allais en face m'acheter une soupe-et-salade et a rafflé tout l'argent que je conservais dans un tiroir. J'avais une boîte de cigares où j'accumulais des pièces de deux dollars, ainsi qu'une collection de vingt-cinq sous. Montant total volé: 150 dollars (ma collection de vingt-cinq sous date d'une dizaine d'années). Deux jours plus tard, le voleur est revenu et a pris dans le même tiroir ce qu'il avait délaissé la dernière fois: une boîte aux lettres miniature contenant un rouleau de timbres. Valeur totale: 50 dollars.

Le bâtiment où je travaille abrite une institution spécialisée des Nations Unies et le système de sécurité y est donc particulièrement strict. Mais, comme m'a dit un des gardes, «C'est ben d' valeur, mais le système de sécurité d'icitte, y vous sert à rien pantoute, puisque l'ostie de voleur c'est un de vous autres.» [Traduction: «Je déplore le fait que le système de sécurité du bâtiment ne vous soit que d'une utilité marginale, puisque l'auteur du délit dont vous me parlez est de fait un membre à part entière de votre confrérie.»]

J'ai un salaire relativement élevé, mais j'ai aussi une surabondance de dettes, et 200 dollars n'est donc pas un montant que je peux perdre sans conséquences. D'un autre côté, je me dis que la personne qui est maintenant plus riche de ces 200 dollars doit être elle-même dans un sacré pétrin pour risquer, d'une part, de se faire prendre, et d'autre part, de se regarder dans le miroir et se dire: je suis un voleur.

En fin de compte, mes 200 dollars ont sans doute été une dépense judicieuse, étant donné les nombreuses leçons à tirer:
  • laisser du cash dans un tiroir non verrouillé est preuve de profonde stupidité;
  • n'importe qui est capable de n'importe quoi;
  • la vie est impermanence.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

If you thought collagen made from executed prisoners' skin is bad...

How do feel about soysauce made with human hair and other appetizing stuff, like used condoms and menstrual pads?

In mid-January 2004, a team of journalists of the “Weekly Quality Report” program from the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) investigated the production of the Hongshuai Soy Sauce. The Chinese journalists went to the food seasoning manufacturer in Hubei province. They pretended to be buyers and enquired about the soy sauce ingredients. They were told by a manager that the soy sauce was made from the amino acid syrup, and mixed with water, sodium hydroxide, red sugar; hydrochloric acid and other chemical additives...They also learnt that the soy sauce manufacturer purchased at least a thousand tons of amino acid syrup (or powder – the dry form) per month from another manufacturer in producing few thousands tons of soy sauce.

As a result of the preliminary investigation, the journalists decided to explore the source of amino acid syrup. The journalists then found the amino acid syrup manufacturer (a bioengineering company) in Hubei province. When asking how the amino acid syrup (or powder) was generated, the manufacturer replied that the powder was generated from human hair. Because the human hair was gathered from salon, barbershop and hospitals around the country, it was unhygienic and mixed with condom, used hospital cottons, used menstrual cycle pad, used syringe, etc. After filtered by the workers, the hair would then cut small for being processed into amino acid syrup. []

Human hair makes an alternative to soybeans because it contains the amino acids that give the sauce its flavor. Some say Chinese soy sauce makers who use hair as an ingredient are posing a cancer risk because of the powerful chemicals they use to extract the amino acids from human hair.

Chinese soy sauce manufacturers say they want to continue making human hair sauce because it's much cheaper than using soybeans. But outrage caused the Chinese government to ban the process, although many unscrupulous soy makers continue prowling barbershops for their economic alternative.

"It's not the hair that causes cancer," the soy sauce business insider says, adding that it's possibly caused by MCP, a fluid in the body associated with the breakdown of proteins and increasingly accused of having a potential link to the disease.

China is clearly treating human hair sauce as a problem. Japan bans the use of soy sauce made from anything other than organic proteins, so the animal proteins in human hair sauce are naturally banned.

Links provided by an anonymous reader of Steve Gilliard []

Gimme, gimme, gimme

I've seen on other blogs that you could ask for donations, gifts, etc. and complete strangers would actually send you money, but try as I might, I'm incapable of reproducing that cute little donation box picture. So I'm just going to ask for a gift right here, in this post. Not very elegant, I agree, but I'm what the French call «Lay Incumpaytants».

So, here' s what I would like you to give me: a book called "U.N. Gang: A Memoir of Incompetence, Corruption, Anti-Semitism, and Islamic Extremism at the UN Secretariat" by Pedro A. Sanjuan. Here are the reviews, taken from the Barnes and Nobles site:


On the day Pedro Sanjuan moved into his new office at the UN Secretariat in 1984, he had the foresight to unscrew his telephone receiver. Out fell a little packet of high-grade cocaine. When he confronted the undersecretary to the chief Soviet diplomat--really a KGB colonel and the top Russian spy--the agent laughed good-naturedly and congratulated him on passing the test. That was the beginning of Sanjuan's long, peculiar odyssey into the looking-glass world of the United Nations Secretariat.

Pedro Sanjuan had been appointed by then--Vice President George H. W. Bush to a high-ranking UN post. His real mission: to keep an eye on Soviet espionage activities. Over the years, the Russians had managed to install nearly four hundred KGB and GRU agents in strategic positions throughout the Secretariat, and had turned it into a massive spy facility, operating openly and with absolute impunity on American soil.

But this, it turned out, was the least of the problem. Sanjuan soon discovered that incompetence, corruption, anti-Semitism, and outright criminality were rife throughout the UN Secretariat. Among the shady activities that he personally observed or documented were rigged bidding for major service contracts; drug transactions conducted in the UN's parking garage; sale of shotguns and beryllium directly out of the UN building; ties to global organized crime figures; use of UN Information Centers and other agencies to disseminate anti-US and pro-PLO propaganda; systematic theft and abuse of UN facilities and budgets in East Africa; graft and corruption in Vienna; widespread sexual harrassment; use of the UN employee's lounge to plan anti-Israel and anti-US activities by Muslimdelegates; open celebration of 9/11 by said delegates in the halls of the UN; and inexplicable tolerance of all of the above on the part of the secretary general and the US government.

Sanjuan's cast of characters includes every secretary general from Kurt Waldheim to Kofi Annan, and a large number of bureaucratic rogues and scoundrels. Much of what he documents in The UN Gang is absurdly comical. But its seriousness should not be overlooked.

Ultimately, Sanjuan argues, the weakness and corruption of the UN is our own responsibility. During the Cold War, the superpowers conspired to render it a useless forum for international pronouncements and posturing. Now, however, it has become the focal point of global resistance to American interests and policies. Will we continue to host an unholy convention of anti-Semitic, America-hating hypocrites? Or will we take steps to reform this once-proud institution and make it serve the ends of peace, justice, and international order? Only time will tell.


Publishers Weekly

The United Nations headquarters appears as a byzantine bureaucracy riddled with lazy staff, rampant sexual harassment, hectoring anti-Semitism and flagrant drug dealing in this contemptuous memoir. And worse: Sanjuan alleges that the U.N. library housed the largest KGB intelligence operation in America and hints darkly - with no apparent evidence - that the 9/11 attacks may have been plotted by Islamic jihadists at the U.N. Sanjuan served as policy planning director in the U.N. Secretariat, but his real job, he says, was to "spy" on the organization's inner workings for the Reagan and Bush administrations. It's hard to see how he accomplished either of these delicate assignments, given his bristling, bull-in-the-china-shop approach to the tasks. He loathes everyone at the U.N., from the "pusillanimous" former secretary-general Javier Pérez de Cuellar to the security guard he upbraids for not saying "please," and he delights in verbatim accounts of the long dressings-down he metes out to those who step on his toes. "I used a very strong expletive with reference to the Soviet undersecretary-general's mother" pretty much sums up his attitude toward diplomatic niceties. The author delivers a lively, preening, sometimes eye-opening insider's account, but his obvious polemical intent and the enormous chip on his shoulder overshadow his critique of the U.N.'s failings. (Sept. 20) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

Appointed to the political affairs department of the New York headquarters of the UN Secretariat in 1984, following a 27-year career in the U.S. federal government, Sanjuan (War) has written a scathing insider's memoir. Vice President George H.W. Bush asked him to monitor the Soviet KGB agents whom he might find working at the UN. He found many, strategically placed throughout the bureaucracy for maximum espionage effectiveness (he describes the UN Library as "probably the most comprehensive intelligence collection machine the USSR has in the United States"). He also found a bloated bureaucracy, offices with similar names and apparently overlapping functions, rampant nepotism, and excessively high contract prices on everything. When he complained to Washington, he found no one interested in taking corrective action, even though, as he frequently reminds the reader, U.S. taxpayers were paying 25 percent of the UN budget. Sanjuan tells his story with both sarcasm and genuine humor while causing outrage. Other recent UN memoirs, such as Giandomenico Picco's Man Without a Gun, have concentrated on UN activity outside of its bureaucracy. Readers with a negative view of the UN will find their opinions reinforced; those hoping that the UN can be reformed will find this account sobering. Highly recommended for its unusual perspective.-Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

A veteran U.S. government official blasts the UN Secretariat for . . . well, see the subtitle. Appointed by Vice President Bush in 1983 to monitor Soviet espionage activities at the Secretariat, Sanjuan tells us that he immediately began taking notes, so presumably we can take as accurate the many verbatim exchanges he records between himself and folks ranging from general secretaries to Secretaries General. He portrays a culture that sanctions incompetence, revels in anti-Semitism, winks at drug sales in the UN parking garage, encourages espionage (at which the ubiquitous Soviets were especially adept), promotes an anti-American agenda, celebrates nepotism and enriches the likes of Saddam Hussein while failing to execute its fundamental mission to improve the quality of life around the globe, especially in areas ravaged by disease, war and economic collapse. For good measure, he implies strongly that members of the Secretariat implicitly supported, and perhaps facilitated, the 9/11 attackers. The author disdains all the Secretaries General who followed Dag Hammarskjold (1953-61) and argues that before the fall of the Soviet Union, both the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.desired weak UN leaders because they were easier to control. In his view, this was why Kurt Waldheim (1972-81), whose Nazi background was well-known, nonetheless ascended to the highest post. Sanjuan sketches an especially devastating picture of Javier Perez de Cuellar (1982-91), who comes off as an ineffectual fool. There is more than a touch of self-righteousness in these pages. The author speaks bluntly to incompetents, stands tall among ethical and moral midgets, refuses to be sullied or intimidated, speaks harshly of MadeleineAlbright and strongly for John Bolton. One suspects there will be no grateful rush at the UN to implement his recommendations for remediation. Fortunately for readers, Sanjuan is as amusing as he is opinionated, using swift, ironic sentences and juxtapositions to expose the Secretariat's blotches and blemishes. Powerful ammunition for those who wish to reform or abolish the UN.

So, whip out your chequebook!!
Krr..Krr..Krr...Krr..[cricket sound]

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

R.I.P. Chivalry

Aunt Jenna at The Girl Gets Away ( describes one of my pet peeves :

«Hey, fat sweaty guy, just get on the damn elevator already.

The following scenario happens to me at least once a day, and it's driving me crazy. I work in a large office building downtown, and there are a bank of elevators in the lobby. If you want to go up, sometimes you have to wait a few minutes for one to arrive. Often a small group of people will collect in front of this bank of elevators, because everyone is waiting to go up. In front of whichever elevator door opens first, a sort of loose impromptu line will form, based on where these individuals had been standing before the elevator arrived. Only, there's a catch. Instead of just getting on the damn elevator so we can all get back to whatever it is we were doing, the men will suddenly stand to one side and wave us ladies into the elevator as if they were traffic cops and the elevator was a bustling intersection with the stoplights out. They would never just get in the stupid elevator, no, they have to make a big show of what gentlemen they are. They will also perform the traffic cop gestures while actually inside a crowded elevator, which is annoying.

For instance, after the elevator has gone all the way down and is stopped in the lobby, men at the front of the elevator will not just step off the elevator and get on with their lives like normal human beings. They will attempt to squish themselves to one side so that the women at the back of the elevator can get off first. This makes absolutely no sense, and I would like them to know that I am not impressed. This is not chivalry, this is Keeping an Eye on the Womenfolk. They are herding us like sheep and we're supposed to be grateful for it. Into the elevator, out of the elevator, nipping at my heels the whole time. It is an expression of control. They decide who will get on the elevator and in what order. From a practical point of view, these exaggerated courtly gestures are completely useless. They serve no purpose other than to express one's joy in traditional gender roles. And oh, they make me feel so special. Hooray, I got into/out of the elevator .5 seconds before some mook in a suit.

If you think I'm overreacting, well, I didn't say anything the first 1,375 times it happened and I've never punched anyone over it, so I think I've exercised a great deal of restraint.»

When that situation happens with me, I would ostensibly roll my eyes, sigh loudly and shake my head à la Mr. Bean, before stepping out and walking away, visibly exasperated. Rude? You betcha! But because I’m fat and homely, what happens more often than not is that those men would step back on my toes or squeeze me with their attaché cases against the elevator wall, in their haste to let the young perky secretaries get out first, before filing out after them, since I’m invisible to their eyes.

And don’t get me going about those morons who would block the elevator doors so that they can finish their conversation with the people who just got off. That’s when I go into a rêverie, where the elevator doors would slam bang! bang! bang! on their heads.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Samsara Horrors

The life of an animal
After seeing pictures of a bunch of alligators circling around an abandonned dog in New Orleans, I am posting this warning to the members of my family: if we ever have to be evacuated in case of an emergency or a disaster, I want everyone to know that I'd rather kill myself on the spot than leave without the dog. And don't try logic to dissuade me.

The life of a human 1
With gangs of rapists and looters rampaging through wards in the flooded city, senior doctors gave massive overdoses of morphine to those they believed could not make it out alive.

"I didn't know if I was doing the right thing," a doctor said. "But I did not have time. I had to make snap decisions, under the most appalling circumstances, and I did what I thought was right. I injected morphine into those patients who were dying and in agony.

"If the first dose was not enough, I gave a double dose. And at night, I prayed to God to have mercy on my soul."

The life of a human 2
An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian has revealed that a Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from executed convicts and aborted foetus to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, mainly collagen. (

The company's representative suggested that the use of skin and other tissues harvested from executed prisoners is not uncommon. "In China, it is considered very normal and I was very shocked that western countries can make such a big fuss about this", he said. Speaking from his office in northern China, he added: "The government has put some pressure on all the medical facilities to keep this type of work in low profile".

The agent said his company exported to the west via Hong Kong. "We are still in the early days of selling these products, and clients from abroad are quite surprised that China can manufacture the same human collagen for less than 5% of what it costs in the west. "Skin from prisonners used to be even less expensive, he said. "Nowadays there is a certain fee that has to be paid to the court."

The uselessness, stupidity and irrelevance of organized religions

The September 11 attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States were a lesson from God to the "powerful of the Earth", the head of the Greek Orthodox Church said in a sermon released by his press office today.

Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday he was praying for victims of Hurricane Katrina and urged rescue workers to persevere in bringing comfort to survivors.

Pat Robertson, host of Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club and founder of the Christian Coalition of America, called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Hurricane Katrina, which some say bears striking similarities to recent events in Israel, was punishment from God for President Bush's support of the evacuation of Jews from the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli rabbi announced.

Two days after 9/11, Jerry Falwell took to the airwaves to proclaim that God had allowed the United States to be attacked because "the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians" had tried to transform America into a secular society. Just this weekend, wingnuts from the Westboro Baptist Church turned out at the funerals of two fallen soldiers to say that God is punishing the United States in Iraq for its tolerance of homosexuality back home.

In an e-mail message, a group calling itself Columbia Christians for Life alerts the world to the fact that a satellite image of Hurricane Katrina as it hit the Gulf Coast Monday looks just like a six-week-old fetus. (

Notwithstanding former provincial Attorney-General Marion Boyd's claim that there is no evidence women were being discriminated against in faith-based arbitration, the Ontario provincial government has decided to reject the use of a set of centuries' old religious rules called Shariah law to settle Muslim family disputes and will ban all religious arbitrations in the province.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It Was Like This

Jane Hirshfield is a prize-winning poet, translator and essayist born in New York, in 1953. Three of her poems were reproduced in a recent issue of Tricycle, the buddhist magazine. I would like to present one of them to you, because I think it's a perfect description of life according to the buddhist philosopy. I hope that I won't get in trouble with the copyright thingies.

It Was Like This: You Were Happy

It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent - what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness -
between you, there is nothing to forgive -
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn't matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Le Haiku de George Bush

Haiku lu dans La Presse du samedi

Bush en manque d'excuses
N'en finit plus d'embrasser
de jeunes enfants noirs

En anglais (ma traduction):

Running out of excuses
Bush won't stop kissing
Little black kids

Friday, September 09, 2005

Dedicated to the one I loathe

As a follow up to the video with Vice-President Cheney in the previous post, go check out :

Go f... yourself

This is just a test. I'm trying to put a video on my blog, so might as well use the «Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney» film. Here goes:

Wow! It works! Now to figure out how....

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Not just any joke... THAT joke!

So this guy walks into a talent agency and says to the agent, "Have I got an act for you! It's a family act, you'll love it."

The agent says "Alright, lay it on me."

The guy says, "Well, first the grandpa comes in, this is in the thirties, mind, deals with the Nazis and makes a ton of money off German banking and mining, see. He gets nailed for trading with the enemy in the war, but it doesn't matter much cause by now his family is incredibly wealthy. His son, the Father, flies a plane in the Second World War and later becomes head of the CIA, then later, vice president, and after that, a one term president. He does a half ass job and gets out, kinda sets things up for later. It's the kid, he's the real lynchpin of the act. It gets better."

The agent nods, doodling on his dayplanner. "Please, continue."

"The kid comes in, and starts off with avoiding Vietnam by getting a nice position in the National Guard, see? But he skips out on that gig when he doesn't need it anymore. Then he runs a series of businesses into the ground. He can't run an oil company, he can't manage a baseball team, tries to run for Congress and fails, he does drugs and boozes, has trouble with basic life skills. But since his daddy's Vice President, or later, President, he gets whatever he wants. Gets bailed out every time. He runs for governor of Texas and wins, and sets a new record for executing people. He likes to joke about the executions, too, mocking the pleas for leniency. 150-odd prisoners go to the chair under the Kid as governor. And the Kid is wearing a cowboy hat and talking in a Texas drawl the whole time, even though he's from Connecticut. But it gets better, this is just the start."

The agent nods, dropping his pen. "Umm.. alright.."

"The Kid doesn't just wanna be a governor, he wants to be President. So he runs for President and.. tough luck, he doesn't win. So get this, his buddies on the Supreme Court have to squeeze him in. They push and push, and finally he's President. He doodles around for a few months and then boom! Some terrorists come in and flatten a couple skyscrapers in New York. Thousands of people die, jumping out of skyscrapers and getting flattened in plane crashes, and the Kid swings into action. He starts bombing where the terrorists are hiding, and looking for them. I mean, wouldn't you? But when he can't find them in a couple months he goes after a totally different country, attacking them 'cause they had oil and his Dad had trouble with them ten or twelve years ago. He says it's because this country was the real guys who flattened those skyscrapers, because they'll do it again with weapons of mass destruction if they get the chance. So the audience is right behind him. Now there's a big ass war right on stage and bombs are flying, people getting killed left and right. And the Kid, you'll love this, underequips the soldiers being sent in, not enough armor, and makes them do police functions in a hostile country for months and months and then years after he says we won the war. And we get to torturing the Iraqis, making them stand around with electrodes on their nutsacks, raping their wives and kids in front of them, attacking them with vicious dogs, pissing on their holy books, and the audience loves it, they clap and applaud. A real crowd pleaser, that sequence. But soon the kid has gotten 1800 American troops killed, wounded thousands more, and get this there were no weapons of mass destruction at all, the whole thing was for oil, and they keep lying about it, lying and lying and lying. And now there's tortured people all over the place. Meanwhile the economy's sputtering along, and another election comes up. The Kid wins this one, by a squeaker, 'cause the other guy wasn't likable enough. So people are starting to question the whole war thing, just a little, and the country we invaded is in the shitter two years later, and nobody wants to leave for fear it'll get even worse. And then.."

The agent leans forward in his chair. "NOW what?"

"Okay, big finish now. A category 4 hurricane comes in and wipes out half the Gulf Coast! Just flattens everything for hundreds of miles around. And the levees in New Orleans break, cause the kid cut the budget for them to finance the war, and the whole city is flooded! Now, the rich white folks got out for the most part, but the poor folks, mostly black, get stuck at the Superdome and the Convention Center by the thousands. And get this, the kid's on vacation so they wait for four days, sleeping in their own shit, starving to death, dying of thirst, we got dead grannies in their wheelchairs and dead bodies lying on the streets and floating in the water, godawful spread of disease and filth, looters running around shooting guns, we got no organization from the government, total chaos. And the Kid, the Kid's in charge and he blames the governor for not signing the proper forms, even though she did. And the Kid turns back offers of aid and says he'll handle it, and that's what he does, he handles it right into the ground. So we got 3,000 corpses in New York, 10 or 20,000 corpses in New Orleans, we got 1800 military corpses quietly shipped home in boxes, we got untold thousands of dead Iraqis, we got Iraq in chaos, we got guys with electrodes attached to their nutsacks and piss all over their Korans, we got New Orleans underwater, we got refugees packing domed stadiums and living in shit, we got five years of blood and carnage and the economy in the crapper, and we got $4/gallon gas. Everyone gets up and takes a bow, except of course the mounds of corpses littering the stage."

The agent is completely flummoxed. Just flabbergasted. "So what the hell do you call this act?"

The guy says, with a flourish, "The Aristocrats!"

For the culturally impaired, go read about the original Aristocrats joke:

Geek Jokes

I dedicate the following jokes (found at Angry Bear - ) to my son Asparagus to cheer him up during his period of sadness:

First Joke:
There are three men on a train. One of them is an economist and one of them is a logician and one of them is a mathematician. And they have just crossed the border into Scotland (I don't know why they are going to Scotland) and they see a brown cow standing in a field from the window of the train (and the cow is standing parallel to the train).
And the economist says, "Look, the cows in Scotland are brown."
And the logician says, "No. there are cows in Scotland of which one at least is brown."
And the mathematician says, "No. there is at least one cow in Scotland, of which one side appears to be brown."
And it is funny because economists are not real scientists, and because logicians think more clearly, but mathematicians are best.

Second joke:
An engineer, a physicist and a mathematician are each asked to enclose a flock of sheep using the smallest amount of fencing possible. The engineer arranges the fence in a loose circle around the sheep. The physicist arranges the fence in a circle around the sheep, then draws it tight. The mathematician makes a very small circle of fence, steps inside, and declares, "I am on the outside."

Third joke:
A mathematician, an accountant and an economist apply for the same job. The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks "What do two plus two equal?" The mathematician replies "Four." The interviewer asks "Four, exactly?" The mathematician looks at the interviewer incredulously and says "Yes, four, exactly."
Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question "What do two plus two equal?" The accountant says "On average, four - give or take ten percent, but on average, four." Then the interviewer calls in the economist and poses the same question "What do two plus two equal?" The economist gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and whispers "What do you want it to equal?"

In case you're wondering, I don't find any of these jokes funny, either. I guess you have to be a geek. So I'd like to conclude with a geek joke that I do find funny.

Funny Geek joke:
A group of geeks are hanging out in a basement, telling jokes. One of them would say: «32!» and the whole gang would roar in laughter. Another would say «129!» and they would all roll on the floor laughing. Intrigued by the noise, the mother of the hosting geek comes down and asks what they are doing. Her son explains that his group has categorized and numbered the jokes, so that they could be told more efficiently just by calling out the appropriate number. «Oh, says the mother, in that case I have this funny geek joke for you guys» and she calls out randomly: «87!» In the deafening silence, sounds of crickets can be heard. The embarrassed son cries out: «Mo-o-o-o-m! Can't you tell a joke without screwing up the punchline?»

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Being Poor

Someone directed me to writer John Scalzi's post about Being Poor. I read it with a pang in my heart because it hit very close to home. It reminded me of the time, not so long ago, when the children and I survived for weeks on eggs, potatoes and macaroni and cheese. We stayed in an apartment without any furniture and our car was a rust bucket without a radio or a heater. I remember that time as one of the happiest in my life. Except for the no-money situation, I have never been so free.

Being Poor []

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they're what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there's not an $800 car in America that's worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends' houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won't hear you say "I get free lunch" when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.

Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn't mind when you ask for help.

Being poor is off-brand toys.

Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.

Being poor is knowing you can't leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.

Being poor is hoping your kids don't have a growth spurt.

Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn't have make dinner tonight because you're not hungry anyway.

Being poor is Goodwill underwear.

Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.

Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.

Being poor is your kid's school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.

Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.

Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.

Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.

Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger's trash.

Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.

Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.

Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.

Being poor is not taking the job because you can't find someone you trust to watch your kids.

Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.

Being poor is not talking to that girl because she'll probably just laugh at your clothes.

Being poor is hoping you'll be invited for dinner.

Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is your kid's teacher assuming you don't have any books in your home.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually lazy.

Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn't bought first.

Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that's two extra packages for every dollar.

Being poor is having to live with choices you didn't know you made when you were 14 years old.

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

Being poor is knowing you're being judged.

Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.

Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.

Being poor is deciding that it's all right to base a relationship on shelter.

Being poor is knowing you really shouldn't spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.

Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.

Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won't listen to you beg them against doing so.

Being poor is a cough that doesn't go away.

Being poor is making sure you don't spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.

Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.

Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.

Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.

Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn't leave.

From my own experience:

Being poor is having your kids casually distancing themselves from you at the cash in case you don't have enough money for the groceries and you have to ask the cashier to remove a few items.

Being poor is paying more for everything because you can't afford to buy in bulk or pay in time or have enough in your bank account to avoid the fees.

Being poor is getting flustered when your credit card is refused and the saleswoman is icily polite about it.

Being poor is being invisible in the stores because everybody else, including the sales staff, is better dressed than you.

Being poor is being watched and followed around in the stores because everybody expects you to shoplift.

Being poor is thinking about money all the time.

A Blogthing Break

Your Blog Should Be Green

Your blog is smart and thoughtful - not a lot of fluff.
You enjoy a good discussion, especially if it involves picking apart ideas.
However, you tend to get easily annoyed by any thoughtless comments in your blog.

Well, at least they got one thing right: my blog is green

Monday, September 05, 2005

From The News Blog

A Kos diary lists the aid awaiting the US, if someone accepts it

The Feds are STILL refusing assistance!!!!!!
by Ptolemy [Subscribe]
Sun Sep 4th, 2005 at 21:34:13 PDT

NGOs are still being held at the borders of NOLA and other affected areas. Refugees are often being bused directly past these staging zones to the processing centers in TX.

Physicians are going by the thousands to the Gulf of Mexico, but they are being turned away in many cases or told to wait at the periphery.

And International Aid? The inmates are still running the State Department.

CNN is reporting that the White House and the State Dept. refuse to say whether they've refused or accepted most of the aid pledged.

International aid listed below the fold ... appreciate the enormity of the Federal callousness. And the good will of the world to Americans.

The US has only officially accepted first aid kits, blankets, water trucks and 500,000 MREs from the EU and another set of MREs from NATO. That's it. The EU and NATO want to give more, but that's all that's been taken in so far.

All help from the UN still awaits the green light from the White House. They have offered medical teams, cash grants, and tents. None of it has been accepted.

The UN has also offered to take the burden off of the US State Department and organize the aid effort, but State has refused that offer.

The OAS stands ready to offer anything we ask for. We've asked for nothing.

WHO has offered the same. Our response has been the same.

The UN Commission for Refugees ... same offer, same response.

Nigeria wants to give 1 million dollars.

China has offered 5 million, divisions of its armed forces, and physicians.

Japan has offered 200,000 dollars, tents, blankets, and power generators.

India is offering 5 million, as well as any requested medicines.

Singapore offered helicopters. The Feds said no, and TX took them. TX National Guard is deploying the helicopters directly to NOLA.

South Korea will give us whatever we ask for. We've asked for nothing.

Afghanistan wants to give us 100,000.

Sri Lanka wants to give us 25,000

Taiwan wants to give us 3 million.

Canada's Navy is still on hold. That's rescue workers and supplies just being held at bay by mild threats of being attacked if they go against the Federal level refusal.

Cuba has offered 26 tons of medicine and 1,100 physicians. He has offered to send it to NOLA. Then he offered to send it to Houston. No acceptance.

Mexico is taking the "Canada route." They have 15 truckloads of water waiting at the border, with food and medical supplies. The Mexican navy has offered to send two ships, two helicopters and 15 amphibious vehicles. All waiting. No answer. 1 million dollars as well.

Venezuela is offering as much cheap fuel as we ask for. AS MUCH AS WE NEED TO FIX THIS MESS. No answer. Chavez also wants to send relief workers with supplies.

Australia's 10 million hasn't been accepted either.

The French are offering rescue teams, civil defense forces, tents, camp beds, generators, motor pumps, water treatment units and emergency kits, two CASA cargo aircraft, a ship (Batral Francis Garnier), the frigate Ventose with its Panther helicopter, and a hurricane disaster unit. France also has offered several aircraft. In addition, the NGO Telecoms Sans Frontieres, which specializes in restoring phone lines and Internet service in disasters, is ready to send a team of experts and equipment. Veolia Environment, which has facilities in Louisiana, has offered to make its local water management resources available. Nothing. Not a one of these has been given the green light.

Germany has offered a range of assistance, including medical and transportation services, water treatment capabilities and aid in searching for victims and supplies. Germany also has said it is ready and willing to "dip into its own emergency oil reserves" to release some 2 million barrels a day for 30 days. Someone try to convince me that Bush isn't trying to drive up the price of oil.

Italy has offered to send aid and evacuation specialists immediately, Italy's civil protection unit said. Authorities have prepared two military transport planes to fly amphibious vessels, pumps, generators, tents and personnel to New Orleans, Louisiana, and other areas. They were awaiting word from U.S. officials, the unit said.

The Netherlands will provide teams for inspecting dikes and for identifying victims if there is a formal request from the United States. It also will send a frigate from Curacao in the Netherlands Antilles to New Orleans shortly to provide emergency assistance, the Dutch government said.

Russia has offered to help with rescue efforts but is awaiting a reply from Washington.

Spain expects to receive a formal request to release gasoline stocks to the United States and is prepared to grant it, an Industry Ministry spokesman said.

Sweden's Rescue Authority said it was on standby to supply water purifying equipment, health care supplies and emergency shelters if needed.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said his country stands ready to help the United States in whatever way it can.

Qatar has offered the United States $100 million to assist in the humanitarian crisis triggered by Hurricane Katrina.

Saudi Refining, a Houston-based subsidiary of state oil firm Saudi Aramco, will donate $5 million to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts for hurricane victims.

Iran has offered to send humanitarian aid to hurricane victims.

Vive la non-différence!

In today NY Times, Warren Farrell wrote that despite the well known statistics showing that women are paid only 76 cents to men's dollar for the same work, there are fields where they earn more than men and “only by abandoning our focus on discrimination against women can we discover these opportunities for women”.

What Mr. Farrell is advocating seems to be a strategy tailor-made for women, who are supposed to be less competitive than men, less demanding in their needs, more docile and receptive to authority. The reasoning is thus: granted, there is discrimination, but instead of worrying their pretty little heads over it, women should leave these less rewarding jobs to men and instead choose those fields where they can make as much if not more than men. In other words, the message is what women have been hearing all their life: “yield and sacrifice”. Remember what was said to the first women who expressed the wish to become priests? «A woman can be just as influential in church, if not more, by virtue of her sex, for isn't Mary, our Lord's mother, a woman?». When I was small, I was constantly reminded to defer to my brothers, to let them have the last piece of chicken, the first turn on the pony ride: «You wouldn't want to make them sad, would you, pumpkin?».

I’m obviously not qualified to counter Mr. Farrell’s theories. After all, he is the author of the book "Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap - and What Women Can Do About It", and I’m not, so I won’t try. What I notice however is that, in his article, Mr. Farrell never really clearly describes the mechanism of discrimination against women, or even acknowledges that there is discrimination, answering his own question with: “yes and no”, and explaining wage disparities by the differences in the jobs themselves. The fact is, the 76 cents figure is an 2004 average (which gets worse for African American women [66 cents] and Hispanic women [54 cents]), and if one wanted to, one can always find some jobs where a woman makes more than a man. Mr. Farrell himself gives such examples: “There are 80 jobs in which women earn more than men - positions like financial analyst, speech-language pathologist, radiation therapist, library worker, biological technician, motion picture projectionist. Female sales engineers make 143 percent of their male counterparts; female statisticians earn 135 percent.”

Even in fields where pay equity has been achieved, there are ways and means to ensure that women earn less than men. We all know of some trades or professions traditionally «reserved» to men, such as teachers or doctors, which once women are «allowed» into, begin to lose their prestige and authority. In Russia, the majority of physicians are now female and except for specialists or surgeons, doctors in general are less respected. As for teachers, we are all aware of how well regarded they are nowadays by the students, the parents or the government. There is also the reverse phenomenon. In Bangkok, where I used to work, most of the secretary positions, normally a female fiefdom, are occupied by men when the employers are the prestigious United Nations. And I can still remember my previous (male) boss explaining to me why I cannot have a promotion, all the while acknowledging that my productivity and the quality of my work are superior to my male colleagues’: “You have a rich husband, you don’t need the money”.

Notwithstanding all this, if one is to use simple logic and common sense, the key question should be: why should anyone, man or woman, be forced to limit their career choices in order to avoid discrimination? Why should a female motion picture projectionnist be paid more than her male counterpart? Or why should she be paid less, for that matter? Wouldn’t it make more sense to eliminate such discrimination and ensure pay equity for everyone, regardless of sex or race?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Yay! Tax relief for hurricane victims!

From the Los Angeles Time: "Republican leaders said they were considering an economic stimulus package that probably would include tax relief for hurricane victims".

«Tax relief», as in: the destitute refugees who lost everything they owed (which wasn't much to start with, since most of them were too poor to leave the city) will now be able to remind their accountants to enter government-allowed deductions in their income tax returns, that type of «tax relief»?

"There is a substantial chance that it will carry over into the 2006 elections" if the relief efforts do not improve and reconstruction projects falter" the newspaper opined.

Ya think?

I'm hoping that Bush will be impeached before he can step down in 2008, but I know that all he has to do now is to appear on TV to deliver one of his 9-11 mantra speeches, in front of an appropriately patriotic background, surrounded by an appropriate number of grateful-looking black tokens and he will be hailed once again as a strong compassionate Dear Leader. Will this horrifying disaster be enough to snap the Bush-loving population out of its hypnotic trance or will the ethnicity and social status of its victims condemn it to be a simple entry in the 2005 Book of Records?

I don't know which is more despairing: the level of incompetence and callousness of the Bush administration or the fact that they will get away with it.

Friday, September 02, 2005

When it rains it pours

I'm quoting below the whole comment posted by NHL at Sadly No! (

«Google News "Typhoon Talim" = Proof of US Impotence.

AP has now picked up the story.

"NEARLY 600,000 people were evacuated as Typhoon Talim ploughed into southern China yesterday, packing winds of up to 114mph..."

AP link

"Fujian authorities evacuated 286,000 people, ordering boats into port and placing rescue teams on standby, according to the Web site of the Fujian Meteorological Bureau.

Just to the north in Zhejiang province, more than 291,000 people were moved away from the coastline, rivers, aging reservoirs, mountain villages and dilapidated housing..."

Meanwhile in America, Patrick Rhode, FEMA's deputy director, commenting on his agency's performance in New Orleans, insisted that "this has been probably one of the most efficient and effective responses in the country's history."

It's over, people. I pledge allegiance to President Hu. Maybe he can annex us when he visits the US next week.

To all the wingers: Hang your heads in shame, and stfu. A country you still consider "third-world," "evil," and "communist" has bested us.

Posted by NHL at September 2, 2005 11:54 AM»

Otaku* in Love

My firstborn Asparagus and his girlfriend M spend a lot of time in my apartment, because they don’t have easy access to a kitchen or a TV/living room. This arrangement suits all parties : I get to see them almost every day and they have complete, uncensored, free use of my place with all its comforts and amenities.

As with many young couples, they tend to fight frequently and for what seems to me like frivolous reasons. One minute they’re exchanging bitter words and the next they are cooing at each other like turtledoves. I try my best to remain uninvolved, but sometimes I cannot help stumbling into a dispute where I get tricked into taking side for one or the other. I really hate it, because no matter what I say, I will end up upsetting somebody. I don’t want my son to feel betrayed by his own mother, nor do I want M to feel like we’re ganging up on her.

The thing is, I can see where most of the fights are going, based on my long life experience and my own battle scars. But one’s experience is only useful to oneself and there is no point in trying to explain or to warn the younger generations. Every person has to make his/her own mistakes and hopefully learn from them.

So to my two young otaku in love, I’m saying this : Go ahead, love, fight, break up, make up, etc.. Whatever you do, do it with honour and compassion. That’s all I’m asking of you. That and to clean up the kitchen counter after you’re done cooking.

From Wikipedia :
In English, an otaku (plural usually otaku, since Japanese words are not pluralized using an "s") is a variety of geek (or an overly obsessed fanboy / fangirl) specializing in anime and manga. A simplistic English translation might be 'culture hermit'.

The word is a loanword from the Japanese language, in which it is derived from an honorific term for another's house or family that is also used as an honorific second-person pronoun. The modern slang form appears to have been coined by the humorist and essayist Akio Nakamori (Nakamori Akio) in the 1983 series "An Investigation of Otaku" (Otaku no kenkyū), who observed that this form of address was unusually common among geeks and nerds.

In modern Japanese slang, therefore, an otaku is an obsessive fan of any one particular theme, topic, or hobby, sometimes to the point of mental instability. Perhaps the most common uses are anime otaku (one who sometimes enjoys many days of excessive anime watching with no rest) and manga otaku (a fan of Japanese comic books). Japanese culture has many other varieties, such as pasokon otaku (personal computer geeks), gēmu otaku (playing video games), and otaku that are extreme fans of idols, heavily promoted singing girls.

Otaku culture outside Japan often makes extensive use of Japanese loanwords. This can create an effect that is similar to Engrish, where the otaku will use Japanese phrases in conjunction with English. Such "reverse Engrish" can lead to the loanwords taking on different meanings from their original Japanese use (for example, otaku). Use of these loanwords are sometimes known as otakuisms, and they are (ideally) used when precise English equivalents to concepts or terms either do not exist or sound awkward.

Anime and manga are two words that were once solely otaku vocabulary, but are becoming more and more common in everyday English.

[The title of this post comes from the English title of the Japanese film «Koi No Mon»]

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Hurricane Katrina has created havoc and desolation on its path. The whole city of New Orleans is under water and the number of dead is still unknown but said to be in the thousands. The people who were not evacuated are now completely isolated, cut off from the rest of the country, without food, drinking water, electricity, telephone lines, working toilets, etc. Looters and armed gangs are roaming the flooded streets.

So what happened next?

«Idiots in New Orleans start shooting at the rescue helicopters.
Boat rescues suspended - conditions considered too dangerous (CNN).
FEMA suspends rescue operations in New Orleans due to chaos and disorder, lawlessness, and danger to rescuers (CNN).
Homeland Security blocks Canadian urban search and rescue team from entering US to help with Katrina rescue efforts.
Misadministration rejects Russian offer for help after Katrina

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