Archive for January, 2004

Armin Meiwes – Euthanasia By Cannibalism

Saturday, January 31st, 2004

(I can NOT believe we haven’t mentioned this story on before)

Armin Meiwes was found guilty of manslaughter in a German court this week, and sentenced to 8.5 years in prison. Armin recieved this sentance for castrating his victim, eating his flesh while the victim bleed to death, and then butchering and freezing his body to eat over the course of several months — all of which he recorded on video for later sexual gratification.

Now brace yourself — none of that is the bizarre part.

The bizarre part is that the victim was a willing participant in the whole experience — and even choose to eat some of his own flesh before dying. (I know, it sounds like i’m plagiarizing “Hannibal” but I’m not.) Like Meiwes, his victim “Bernd-Juergen Brandes” was a cannibalism fetishist, with a Hansel and Gretel obsession, who prepared a very detailed will, and sold most of his property before going to Meiwes’s house and asked to be eaten. The two met had met online, when Brandes responded Meiwes’s Internet chat room post: “Gay male seeks hunks 18-30 to slaughter.”

This all happened back in 1995. Meiwes wasn’t arrested until December of 2002 when police were tiped off by chat room users after Meiwes posted again, looking for another victim.

The German news organization “DW World” seems to have the most comprehensive coverage, so Here’s a breif timeline of their articles…

(That last video link includes a great straight faced delivery by the News anchor asking the reporter why legal experts are saying that this case is so “unique”).

Print This Finger

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

I remember hearing about the US’s new Fingerprint & Photo rule for visitors with visas while I was in Australia earlier this year (not sure how much press it got here, it was *HUGE* overseas). And I remember hearing that Brazil had decided to reciprocate by requiring that any US citizen travelling to Brazil would have to do the same. But somehow I managged to miss seeing this story untill now….

An American Airlines pilot was detained/fined ~$13,000 for making an “internationally recognized obscene gesture while he was being photographed for identification.” Now admittedly, I wasn’t there … I don’t know what he said when the picture was taken, or what his overall demeaner was … but I don’t understand how they can possible justify arresting the guy based purely on the picture. I know lots of people who might hold up a piece of paper like that.

(Spontaneously) Exploding Whale

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

Everybody knows how gross it can be when a whale blows up. But imagine how bad it would be be if it happened all over your car. Actually, don’t bother imagining — this is why you shouldn’t drive 60-tons of decomposing flesh through the center of town.

United States of Islam

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

Between this and the Hitler-baby image, I’m running the risk of becoming the lies yellow journalist of late, but I’m a sucker for a good picture:

At last, conclusive evidence Saddam not only funded terrorism against the US, but planned to invade! Click the image for more shocking revelations!!

Pollitt on Dr. Judith Steinberg

Thursday, January 29th, 2004

Columnist Katha Pollitt has a great column in The Nation that gets right to the heart of what bugged me about Diane Sawyer’s interview with Howard Dean and his wife: Judy, Judy, Judy.

Why Bush Will Lose

Wednesday, January 28th, 2004

Forget, for the moment, the people like me, who basically hate Bush. Forget, too, the people who listen to right-wing talk radio and believe what it says. Neither of us is ever going to determine the outcome of a presidential election in this country.

Focus on the middle, the undecided, the independents. These are the people who, when it comes time to vote for president, vote for the candidate, not the party. These are the folks who are going to decide things in November.

I think these folks are going to send Bush back to Crawford. Why? Because his appeal is based largely on smoke and mirrors, and his failures as president are getting harder and harder to obscure. Also, many of those failures are in the area of national security, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is a key concern these days.

As of now, Bush has presided over two of the worst national security-related intelligence failures in the history of the country. That’s pretty sad for just three years in office. His supporters persist in trying to blame 9/11 on Clinton, but for non-partisans that’s a non-starter. With the two commissions investigating things coming out with their results, it’s increasingly clear that lots of mistakes were made. Bush can take responsibility, in which case he’s (rightly) toast; or he can claim ignorance and incompetence, in which case he’s (rightly) toast. Take your pick.

Meanwhile, we have Iraq, the war that savaged our country’s credibility throughout the world, the pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign nation for which we couldn’t get either UN or NATO support, or even a simple majority on the Security Council, but which Bush pushed through anyway, confident the post-war search would turn up smoking-gun WMD stockpiles that would earn grudging apologies from his detractors both abroad and at home. Except it didn’t. The search found the opposite: the detractors were right, he was wrong.

From today’s extremely Web-challenged LA Times: Bush defends Iraq war, intelligence agencies. I’m going to quote fairly extensively, since they like to change URLs:

Days after the top U.S. arms inspector, David Kay, said he did not believe that Iraq had stockpiled chemical or biological weapons or had a substantial nuclear weapons program, Bush did not answer directly when reporters asked about his own earlier claims.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat to America and others. That’s what we know,” Bush said. “We know that he was a dangerous man in a dangerous part of the world.”

Bush said he wants to wait until the Iraq Survey Group, which Kay headed until he resigned Friday, completes its work “so we can find out the facts and compare the facts to what was thought”…

Bush’s remarks immediately reverberated on Capitol Hill and among the Democrats competing to run against him in the autumn.

In a meeting later in the day between Bush and congressional leaders about this year’s legislative agenda, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) confronted Bush with the questions raised by Kay about the justification for the Iraq war, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

Daschle complained that lawmakers had based their votes on the war on erroneous information about weapons of mass destruction. Bush interrupted to defend the war as “a worthy effort.”

Daschle said he was not questioning the worth of the war but insisted that the government needed to get to the bottom of the intelligence failure. A senior Republican at the meeting, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), reportedly backed Daschle on that point…

“Clearly, the intelligence that we went to war on was inaccurate, wrong,” Kay told NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw in an interview aired Monday evening, one of several he has given in recent days. Kay also said the intelligence community owed Bush an apology.

But the president Tuesday expressed “great confidence” in the intelligence apparatus.

“These are unbelievably hard-working, dedicated people who are doing a great job for America,” he told reporters.

As with 9/11, Bush is on the horns of a dilemma. Either he played an active role in perverting the intelligence, lying to the world and his own people about the threat represented by Saddam, which would make him a very bad man, unworthy of the presidency. Or he is presiding over a spectacularly flawed intelligence process that leaves him unable to distinguish real threats from illusions, but he still believes the intelligence folks are doing a fabulous job, which would make him a doofus, and again, unworthy of the presidency.

He’s doing his best to avoid either horn by obfuscating (“weapons of mass destruction-related program activities,” anyone?) and changing the subject (steroids! we’ve got to do something about steroids!), but with Dean having given a backbone transfusion to the previously timid field of Democratic hopefuls, criticism of Bush’s national security failures is going to be a central theme of the debate between now and the election.

Unlike last time, Bush has a record. And it sucks. He can’t run on it, and he can’t run away from it. What’s left?

Hmm. Maybe this Onion article points the way: Bush 2004 campaign promises to restore honor and dignity to White House.

Update: Adam takes a contrarian view.

Parrot Has 950-Word Vocabulary

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

One of my favorite books as a young boy was Vinson Brown’s How to Understand Animal Talk. With a little imagination and patience, learning to communicate with another species really isn’t all that hard.

Here’s an example of that sort of communication going in the opposite direction: Parrot’s oratory stuns scientists. The stuff about telepathy, and the generally breathless nature of the story, make me worry that what we’ve really got here is the Brit equivalent of the Weekly World News, but still, it’s fun.

Al Franken, Celebrity Wrestler

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

It’s sobering to think that this presidential campaign is only just beginning, given how ugly things are getting already. Tighten your seatbelts, folks.

Anyway: Al Franken knocks down Dean heckler.

Chait, Moore on Bush’s AWOL Incident

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

Here are a few more followups to the story about Michael Moore calling Bush a “deserter” for his time spent AWOL while in the National Guard. First up, Moore’s take on the story: You say deserter, I say more dessert. And from Jonathon Chait, senior editor at The New Republic, this piece, which focuses on the very focus-worthy issue of the double standard that some in the media are employing: Standard issue.

GYWO Does the SOTU

Tuesday, January 27th, 2004

Get Your War On offers its response to the State of the Union address: Page thirty-one. Heh.

McNamara on the Iraq-Vietnam Parallel

Monday, January 26th, 2004

Here’s an interesting article based on an interview with former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara: ‘It’s just wrong what we’re doing’. McNamara is haunted, apparently, by the many ways in which the Bush administration’s Iraq policies betray a profound lack of appreciation of the lessons of Vietnam.

Thanks to Jerome Doolittle of Bad Attitudes for the link.

George Bush: AWOL

Monday, January 26th, 2004

Orcinus has a nice discussion of the ongoing flap regarding Michael Moore’s having called Bush a “deserter,” and Peter Jennings (and other media types) then pushing Wesley Clark to repudiate the statement. More specifically, Orcinus focuses on the too-hasty effort by Bush supporters (like Donald Sensing) to sweep under the rug the question of just what Bush might actually be guilty of, assuming that a strict reading of the Uniform Code of Military Justice exonerates him from a charge of desertion: AWOL Bush: Debunked? Hardly!

CIA Worries About Civil War in Iraq

Monday, January 26th, 2004

So, with Bush determined to bolster his domestic political position by handing over power in Iraq to some sort of authority (any sort of authority, apparently) by the end of June, we seem to be heading toward a very nasty time for Iraqis. For example, the CIA now joins Steve Gilliard in worrying about the prospect of open conflict between Iraq’s Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish populations: CIA warns of Iraq civil war.

(Steve Gilliard, by the way, has landed in the hospital with a heart-valve infection, and will apparently be having surgery soon. Having been through a similar experience with my daughter a few years back, I sympathize, and wish him the best in the operation, and a speedy recovery. More details as they emerge at his weblog.)

Marshall on the Fragility of US Empire

Monday, January 26th, 2004

Besides being a politics-obsessed weblogger, Josh Micah Marshall has a PhD in history, which is very much on display in this review of several recent books on US empire that he has written for the New Yorker: Power rangers.

The basic notion here is that by ignoring the more subtle diplomatic consensus-building that went into creating the current US empire, and opting instead for the naked exercise of military and economic power, the Bush team has dramatically, perhaps fatally, weakened our position in the world.

Interesting stuff.

Drum on Bush’s Politicization of the War on Terror

Sunday, January 25th, 2004

Here’s one of the better things I’ve read from Kevin Drum (of Calpundit) lately: Terrorism and elections. He ties together some things really well, pointing out how Bush has undercut the war on terror by reducing it to a political wedge issue. An excerpt:

After 9/11 George Bush had a chance to build a bipartisan consensus about terrorism and how to respond to it. But he didn’t just fail to do that, he deliberately tried to prevent it, and by transparently treating terrorism as little more than a chance to boost the prospects of his own party he has convinced everyone who’s not a Republican that it’s not really a serious threat. After all, if he quite obviously treats it as simply a political opportunity, it’s hardly reasonable to expect anyone else to take it seriously either.

Update: And now Drum writes more on the same topic: Bush at war. Great stuff.

Lileks’ Dean Remix

Saturday, January 24th, 2004

On some level it pains me to reinforce the silliness surrounding Howard Dean’s too-excited response to the Iowa results, but it really is pretty funny: Lileks’ Dean remix.

Go on; get it out of your system. There’s more here, if you like them: Dean goes nuts.

You might consider viewing this video, too, shot from within the crowd at the event: What we saw. I don’t know; viewed in context, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. And Timothy Noah at Slate, after watching Dean’s interview with Diane Sawyer, thinks Dean should stop apologizing: Dean, lobotomized.

Kay: There Are, and Were, No WMD

Saturday, January 24th, 2004

So, David Kay is off the hunt. That is, he’s stepping down as head of the Iraqi WMD search, and has told Reuters in an interview that he doesn’t believe there are any WMD in Iraq, that there weren’t any at the time of the US invasion, and that it wasn’t that the WMD had been destroyed in the run-up to the war, but rather that they never existed in the first place.

Rejection of Conspiracy Theories Considered Harmful

Friday, January 23rd, 2004

Here’s a fun item from The Spectator’s John Laughland: I believe in conspiracies.

Is Dick Cheney Senile?

Friday, January 23rd, 2004

I think it’s time that we, as a country, take a serious look at the mental health of the vice president. When an aging loved one clings stubbornly to beliefs that fly in the face of reality, we’re inclined to look the other way, to make excuses, to quietly cover up the problem.

But when the person losing his grip is the vice president, it’s a different matter. It would be okay if we could just put him into ‘safe’ mode and have him send beeps back to the home planet every so often. But it’s not working out that way; he’s continuing to beam corrupted data to the gullible mind at Mission Control. And there’s that “only a heartbeat away” thing, too.

Righties will dismiss this as snark, but I’m serious. I think there is real evidence that Dick Cheney is actually, literally, senile.

Something to think about.

Human Stories of Mars, by Stephen Baxter

Thursday, January 22nd, 2004

In case you haven’t heard, NASA has lost contact with Spirit — which makes this Stephen Baxter article I recieved today all the more interesting. It’s got just the right mix of historical factoids and pragmatic optimism to put the past, present and future of Martian exploration into perspective…