Bob's Links and Rants -- Fair and Balanced

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Be sure to check out my Post 9/11 website for links to lots of stuff I care about. I have put all of my 2002 rants into a single file.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Wild Speculation. Serious journalists are not supposed to engage in it, but I'm not a serious journalist! My speculation du jour is that the sniper shootings in Montgomery County, Maryland and the parachute-cord cuttings at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina are the work of soldiers or marines recently returned from Afghanistan, just as at least three of the wife killings at Fort Bragg were earlier this summer. I believe that the disillusionment and frustration on the part of servicemen that was so widespread among Vietnam vets, which also affected Timothy McVeigh after the Gulf War and the soldiers in Somalia described in "Black Hawk Down" (book and movie), is bound to be epidemic among soldiers returning from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other targets of the "War on Terrorism." I recall back in February or March when Rumsfeld was visiting US troops in Uzbekistan, and one of them asked "How long will we be here, sir?" Rummy answered flippantly: "As long as it takes." He didn't say for what, and these poor GI's are stuck in Uzbekistan indefinitely, which as far as I can tell is pretty much Antarctica without the nightlife. So, just as with McVeigh and Nichols, we will once again be treated to the return of a bunch of angry, disillusioned people who are highly trained in the use of weapons. I'm speculating a military killer in Maryland in large part because of the accuracy: Five bullets, five fatalities. I certainly don't mean to imply that most returning soldiers are or will be dangerous or should be treated with fear or any disrespect. Just that there are always some people on the edge, and giving them advanced weapons training and sending them on a disillusioning mission is a good way to push them over.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

According to the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, the company contributed $1.5 million to presidential and Congressional campaigns between 1995 and 2000. Occidental also spent nearly $8.7 million lobbying American officials on Latin America policy, largely regarding Colombia, from 1996 to 2000, according to disclosure forms filed with Congress. Other oil and energy companies also spent handsomely to influence Colombia policy, with Exxon Mobil Corporation, BP Amoco, the Unocal Corporation, Texaco and Phillips Petroleum spending about $13 million among them on Colombia in the same period. -- from the NY Times. So what does Occidental get for the $10.2 million investment (bribe) in American politicians?

The $94 million counterinsurgency program is also an important element in the offensive by Colombia's new government against two rebel groups and a paramilitary force that dominate much of the country.
So Occidental gets a 900% return on its investment, not counting the lives of the soldiers who will be killed defending their pipeline, or the thousands of Colombians who will continue to die to keep American SUV's running.

You say you want a revolution, well, you know--you've got one! Ted Rall points out how the Bushies' peripatetic changing of the subject of discussion and object of hatred is an example of "permanent revolution," a concept introduced by Trotsky in 1915 and a favorite of Stalin, Mao, and yes, der Fuhrer himself. Thanks to Lester Yesterday for sending me that link.

Leaflets dropped on Iraq. That's right--we've already started the war on Iraq, and we're dropping leaflets warning Iraqi soldiers not to defend their country. Is it just me, or is this more than a little arrogant?

(Rhetorical question. Correct answer: "This is more than a little arrogant." So is this parenthetical paragraph.)

Saudi popup ads! That's right, I've started seeing popup ads for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. All that oil money buys a lot of good old American PR (aka BS).

Torricelli: New Jersey has two "Democratic" Senators, both of whom make Richard Nixon look like a socialist pinko by comparison. According to this WSWS article, Torricelli has been a tool for right-wing groups including the anti-Castro Cubans in Miami and foreign interests from Taiwan and Korea. The Korea gig is what has him in hot water, leading to his withdrawal from his race for re-election. Both parties immediately took their predictable positions on replacing Torricelli's name on the ballot: Republicans saying that it's too late, Dems saying that it's unfair to voters to deny them a choice. Jersey Democrats are trying to put former senator Frank Lautenberg on the ballot in Torricelli's place and have won approval to do so from the New Jersey Supreme Court. The Republicans, usually champions of states' rights, are of course appealing to the US Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, I'll have to agree with the Republicans on this one. The Democrats made the mistake of re-nominating their own crooked Republicrat instead of coming up with a viable candidate, but waited until it looked like he was going to lose to change horses. William Safire makes the case pretty clearly in the NY Times today. I dread the prospect of a Republican-controlled Senate, but when you realize that the "Democrats" include Torricelli, Lieberman and other warmongering corporate drones, the sad news is that we already have a Republican-controlled Senate. By the way, Jersey's other "Democratic" senator is former Goldman-Sachs executive Jon Corzine, who may have his own scandal to deal with soon.

While I don't think that the Democrats should be allowed to change the name on the ballot, I think that this case highlights the bankruptcy of the two-party system. There was no real choice between Torricelli and Forrester, except maybe that Forrester is honest enough to admit that he's a Republican. With a dynamic multi-party (or no-party) system, the withdrawal of a single candidate would not remove all semblance of choice from an election.

"A president against a president and vice president against a vice president and a duel takes place, if they are serious, and in this way we are saving the American and the Iraqi people," Ramadan told the Associated Press Television Network. That's right: One of Iraq's vice presidents is suggesting a duel between W and Saddam, and another between Cheney and himself. Although the article hints that the suggestion was tongue in cheek, I see real possibilities here. Here are the ground rules:

  • First, since Iraq has two vice presidents, get Rumsfeld to duel the other one.
  • Find out if Iraq has an attorney general.
  • All duels to be held in an enclosed space without ventilation.
  • Chemical weapons allowed.
Yup, we could solve a lot of the world's problems!

As far as the political situation in the US is concerned, we are facing a dangerous and extremely unfortunate administration. The way I see it, the presidential election was stolen by George W. Bush and ever since we have all been suffering the consequences. I think that the most recent thing with Iraq is absolute insanity, and I cannot believe that there is not opposition to it on a more global scale and that there is not more opposition in the country on the part of the sane people, including politicians, but also students and artists.
There has to be a movement to really oppose what Bush is proposing, because it is unconstitutional, immoral and basically illegal. I find it particularly reprehensible the way he acts like he was in a western, intimidating the rest of the world. What can I say? I hate Bush; I despise him and his entire administration, everything he represents and everything he has tried to do, not only internationally, which is horrific, but domestically as well.
In my country the atmosphere is poisoned. Unbreathable for those of us who are not on the right. So thank you for inviting me to this festival and allowing me to leave there for a few days.
-- actress Jessica Lange, quoted on WSWS . Meanwhile, as described in the same article Tom Cruise and Stephen Spielberg were in Italy recently supporting W's Iraq war. Spielberg is probably paying W back for pushing Star Wars so hard.

"We will not leave the future of peace and the security of America in the hands of this cruel and dangerous man," Mr. Bush said in announcing the deal in the White House Rose Garden. (real quote from NY Times.)

"Therefore, I am today firing Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. I'd fire Cheney, too, if I could find him." (Dream quote from a better universe.)

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I can't get the specific links to work, but the Cogent Provacateur (another blogger) has two fine, detailed articles relating to the Iraq Attaq. The first, dated September 18, lists all of the reasons given for invading Iraq and debunks most of them. It then investigates what are probably the real reasons. The other article, dated September 26 (currently the most recent) compares the Iraq "debate" to the similar "debate" 40-some years ago about Vietnam.

From a BBC reporter in Afghanistan describing an encounter with American troops:

I was hailed by two young soldiers lounging in one of those huge American Humvee jeeps. Clearly these two were not part of the guided tour. "Excuse me sir," they asked. "But do we really have to say this baloney?" The actual word they used was a little more colourful. "What baloney?" I asked. They handed me a small laminated card. On it were instructions on how to deal with journalists. Every soldier had been given one.

These were not just general ground rules. It actually listed suggested answers:

"How do you feel about what you're doing in Afghanistan"?

Answer: "We're united in our purpose and committed to achieving our goals."

"How long do you think that will take?"

Answer: "We will stay here as long as it takes to get the job done - sir!"

Thanks to PR Watch for pointing out that one. Check out PR Watch for a reality check on much of the "baloney" that you hear from our "leaders" and from the media. We are being lied to deliberately, repeatedly, and systematically.

The 2000 Democratic presidential nominee said Bush doesn't have to change his basic philosophy but does need to make economic adjustments to match current conditions. ``I am not asking the president to abandon his ideology,'' Gore said in a speech at the Brookings Institution. ``I am suggesting that he should try to reconcile his ideology with the realities now being faced by the American people.'' -- from AP via NY Times.

How depressing. If Gore agrees with Bush's basic philosophy then we had no chance at all in 2000, no matter whom the Supreme Court elected. The two-party system was bad enough--this one-party crap has got to go.

Check out Ted Rall's War Cry, which describes Iranian President Mohammad Khatami making a speech to the UN to support action against the US. An excerpt: "Bush has invaded Afghanistan and is now threatening Iraq. We cannot stand by and do nothing while danger gathers. We can't wait for this tyrant to strike first. We have an obligation to act pre-emptively to protect the world from this evildoer," Khatami said.

Yahoo! News - White House: assassination of Saddam would be cheaper than war: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has suggested at least three times in the last 1 1/2 weeks that Saddam might be allowed to go into exile with his family.

Maybe Rummy can work out a deal with Sharon: Saddam Hussein for Yasser Arafat. And two suicide bombers to be named later.

Doonesbury answers the question: "Does the Attorney General have any shame at all?"

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

U.N., Iraq Agree on Inspection Terms The chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq said on Tuesday that tentative agreement has been reached with Baghdad on the return of his team to check for the presence of illegal, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
The Iraqi representatives have said ``that they accept all the rights of inspections that are laid down'' in previous resolutions authorizing U.N. inspections, said the chief inspector, Hans Blix.

It has been about half an hour since AP filed this report. Where's Ari to denounce it? Did he have something disagreeable for lunch? Rummy will be out shortly to tell us that Judas was Saddam's ancestor and that links between the Iraqis and Darth Vader are "bulletproof." Condi will then state that there is "indisputable evidence," which she won't provide, that Iraq was behind Europe's victory in the Winona Ryder Cup. W will be along later to unintentionally contradict all of them.

In case you were wondering where W stands on the labor-management issue: President Bush urged West Coast longshoremen Tuesday to ``get back to work,'' saying the labor dispute that has shut down ports from San Diego to San Francisco threatens the nation's economy. Given that there's a lockout in effect, not a strike, that could be difficult. About halfway through his babblings W remembered what the facts are: ``Any strike's a tough situation but this one happens to come at -- or, a lockout is a tough situation or no work is a tough situation -- this is coming at a bad time,'' Bush said. (Source: AP via NY Times)

"Officials said the attack was not related to terrorism, and said Tuesday morning they did not know the motive" for the attack on a Greyhound bus in California which killed two and injured dozens. Now, according to the Bushies recently-released "National Security Strategy," terrorism is defined as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents." The guy cut the driver's throat, knowing this would cause the bus to crash. Certainly premeditated violence against innocents--if his motive was political, it was terrorism. But "officials" say they don't know the motive, but it isn't terrorism. What they probably mean is that the guy is Latino and not Arab.

Fleischer said that since September 16, when Iraq indicated in a letter to the U.N. it would allow the return of weapons inspectors "without conditions," Iraq has tried to shoot down coalition aircraft 67 times, with 14 instances this past weekend.

"Their actions are in defiance of international law, international rule, military attacks on coalition aircraft who are flying to patrol the no-fly zones that Saddam Hussein agreed to in 1991," said Fleischer.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was even more blunt. "They have lied over and over and over again."

"With each missile launched at our air crews, Iraq expresses its contempt for the U.N. resolutions, a fact that must be kept in mind as their latest inspection offers are evaluated," he said.
from CNN.

You hate to be in the position of actually defending Iraq, but the Bushies are making it impossible not to. I'm sure that's part of their plan so that they can make people committed to the truth, like Representatives McDermott and Bonior, look like traitors. But this latest batch of nonsense from Fleischer and Rumsfeld is so completely false that you just have to say "They have lied over and over and over again." To set the record straight, the "no-fly" zones are not in the UN resolutions, Saddam has not agreed to them, and those air crews that the Iraqis have been shooting at have been bombing Iraq regularly for years. Without approval from the UN or Congress the Bushies are already at war with Iraq, and they are trying to convince the world that Iraqis attempting to shoot down planes bombing their country is a reason to proceed with all-out war. I guess the Bushies got tired of playing their "Two-part Invention" (weapons of mass destruction in counterpoint with links to terrorism) and are adding a third part (shooting at our bombers). Stay tuned: I see a full-blown fugue in the making!

Don't miss Mike Thompson's cartoon for today.

Huey from Boondocks is having trouble composing a "nice" letter to President Bush about Iraq. Check out these cartoons:

I regret to inform you that the "W holds the book upside down" picture is a fake. So is the president in the picture.

The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know. -- Harry S. Truman

I've been reading Howard Zinn's wonderful book, A People's History of the United States. Anyone who has a shadow of a doubt about the real reason for Bush's warlust should read Zinn's chapters on the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. Using cheap jingoism to rally the masses, the government has always used a combination of patriotism and repression to drag the country into wars which were undertaken for the basest of motives to benefit the richest of men on the flimsiest of excuses. War is a tool which has always been used by those in power to repress and control the public, and it is truly scary how large a proportion of the American public doesn't know that particular bit of history. The story of the Espionage Act of 1917 is eerily similar to the USA Patriot Act of 2001. The Espionage Act declared speech which might hinder the war effort or the draft as illegal, and thousands of socialists and pacifists were locked up for years. Worse yet, according to Zinn the Espionage Act is still the law of the land!

Even with all the nonsense going on now, it is still hard to doubt that the US is one of the best countries on Earth. But it is so far inferior to what we think it is, or what we are told it is supposed to be, or what it could be. We can't just settle for saying "We are freer, richer and more democratic than Iraq or Syria or Russia or Bangladesh or Argentina; therefore we are completely wonderful and can do whatever we want." Let's reject leaders who want to revel in arrogance and stupidity and use the outrageous power they have stolen to control us and subjugate the world's billions. (Sorry--Zinn quotes speeches from Eugene Debs and other great socialist orators of the past and he's got me fired up!)

Monday, September 30, 2002

"I have never heard anything like what you've read, I have no knowledge of it whatsoever, and I doubt it," Rumsfeld said. -- from AP.
Rummy was "answering" charges from Senator Robert Byrd that Iraq got its bio-weapon starter kit from the US.

I've read about the US providing Iraq with lethal bacteria and viruses for at least months. If there was any doubt before, there is certainly no doubt now that Rummy is either a dispicable liar or a total ignoramus, both of which qualify him for immediate removal from being in charge of the world's most powerful military.

Do you think that maybe if we stopped trying to piss off the rest of the world that we could relax a little? Someone in the Hart Senate Office Building found a scrap of paper with the word "smallpox" on it, and the building was shut down for 40 minutes. I mean, smallpox vaccinations were a major topic of discussion last week: do you think maybe somebody took some notes? I'll bet you wouldn't have to look very hard to find papers there with "anthrax", "Iraq", "chemical weapons", "bombs", "al Qaeda", and a bunch of other scary words on them. (There's probably a few copies of the Washington Post in the trash cans, for example.) As a matter of fact, I encourage them to look! Shutting down the Senate for a while might keep them from approving Bush's war resolution, which would probably result in a lowering of any real terrorist threat, which would allow the Senate to stay open more in the future!

Uranium-shmanium! Apparenty Turkish officials included the weight of the lead container in the supposed 34.6 pounds of uranium seized from two guys in a taxi. It is now believed to be 3 ounces, and they're not really sure what it is. Thanks to CNN for once again reporting nothing as something. Makes me proud of my unflagging skepticism, although I apologize to my readers for bringing this non-issue to your attention.

Making a deal with the Russians: See this Jeff Danziger cartoon.

Speaking of the administration, [Rep. of Washington State Jim] McDermott said, "I believe that sometimes they give out misinformation." Then he added: "It would not surprise me if they came up with some information that is not provable, and they've shifted. First they said it was Al Qaeda, then they said it was weapons of mass destruction. Now they're going back and saying it's Al Qaeda again." When pressed for evidence about whether President Bush had lied, Mr. McDermott said, "I think the president would mislead the American people." But he said he believed that inspections of Iraq's weapons programs could be worked out. -- from the NY Times.