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.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Fighting over the sniper suspects: Maryland, Virginia, Alabama and the Feds all want a crack at Muhammad and Malvo. Some seem to be arguing that they should be charged in a jurisdiction most likely to give them the death penalty, probably Virginia or Alabama. Just the option of the death penalty in any jurisdiction skews the proceedings, making it more likely that the suspects will cop a plea to save their lives (like John Walker Lindh). While the circumstances of their arrest certainly make them look guilty, we should remember that this is still America, sort of, and they should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The presence of the death penalty increases the chances that they will scared guilty to save their lives rather than proven guilty. The death penalty also guarantees a harsher jury to try the case, if it gets that far, since jurors opposed to the death penalty are not allowed on juries in capital cases. And if somehow these guys have been framed, the injustice of their incarceration would be made irreversible by executing them. Of course, with their pictures plastered all over the papers and CNN, the chances of their getting a fair trial anywhere on the planet are basically zero at this point.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Jeb endorses his opponent--well, sort of. I guess it's fair game since Jeb has been running negative ads against McBride, but it is unlikely to increase civility in politics. Pols will be careful about saying anything nice about anyone if they fear that it will be used against them. I hate to see any candidate's generosity, honesty or candor used against him or her--even Jeb's.

To paraphrase my favorite Harry Truman quote: The only new things in the world are the Bush lies that haven't been uncovered yet. Many, including me, noted that it supposedly took the Bushies twelve days to reveal what they knew about North Korea's nuke program and speculated that it was delayed because of the Iraq war resolution. Well, it turns out that they have known about NK's nuke program and Pakistan's involvement for much longer.

Paul Wellstone, 1944-2002

Unfortunately, my paragraph below was the last one about Wellstone's chances. Senator Wellstone died in a plane crash this morning. Am I sad? Very. Am I suspicious? Absolutely. This stuff is supposed to happen in Colombia and Pakistan, not the US. Let's have the Canadian authorities investigate this one--I don't want anyone who works for George W. Bush involved.

Anti-war vote hasn't hurt Wellstone. This Reuters report says that the Senator's chances for re-election may have improved since he voted against Bush's Iraq war resolution. I'm going to Minnesota next week to volunteer for his campaign, just to make sure. I chewed out another online organization yesterday. A couple of weeks ago I discovered that the supposedly anti-war Council for a Livable World was still collecting donations for several candidates who voted for the Iraq war resolution. And now there's MoveOn. had conducted a major campaign to call and write members of Congress prior to the war resolution votes on October 10, but now that the votes have been cast, MoveOn is still raising funds for several who voted for war, including Senators Harkin, Carnahan and Johnson. I don't see how we can expect these Republicrats to oppose Bush on other wars, or environmental issues, or Supreme Court nominees, if they fail to vote against an unnecessary, unjustified, and just plain evil war. MoveOn brags about Wellstone's vote, but doesn't mention the votes of Harkin, Carnahan and Johnson. You'd think there would be somebody out there you can trust!

Krugman! Krugman! Krugman! How can you tell when George W. Bush is lying? His smirk is moving.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

[What would I] do in Bush's shoes? Easy: I'd honour Kyoto. Join the world court. I'd stop subsidising earth rapers like Monsanto, Dupont and Exxon. I'd shut down the nuclear power plants. So I already have $200bn saved from corporate welfare. I'd save another $100bn by stopping the war on non-corporate drugs. And I'd cut the defence budget in half so they'd have to get by on a measly $200bn a year. I've already saved half a trillion bucks by saying no to polluters and warmongers.

Then I'd give $300bn back to the taxpayers. I'd take the rest and pay the people teaching our children what they deserve. I'd put $100bn into alternative fuels and renewable energy. I'd revive the Chemurgy movement, which made the farmer the root of the economy, and make paper and fuel from wheat straw, rice straw and hemp. Not only would I attend, I'd sponsor the next Earth Summit. And, of course, I'd give myself a fat raise.
-- Woody Harrelson, quoted in the Guardian. He's no idiot, even though he used to play one on TV.

The other Gulf War syndrome? Chief Moose may be trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat (again?), but it looks as though the sniper(s) may have been caught. John Allen Muhammad and his stepson were arrested early this morning at a Maryland rest stop. So, with all appropriate caveats that this may be another wild moose chase, let me point out that CNN says that Muhammad is a veteran of our last Bush war against Iraq. So was Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who had been a top-notch soldier and patriot before participating in the brutal slaughter of the Gulf War. Osama bin Laden (you remember, that guy who actually did attack us) started his anti-American jihad because of the stationing of hundreds of thousands of US troops in Saudi Arabia (largely on false pretenses--the supposed huge number of Iraqi troops on the Saudi border were a complete fiction) and their failure to depart after the war was over (then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney had promised the Saudis that US troops would not be there a minute longer than necessary). As noted left-wing pacifist Pat Buchanan pointed out, the price of empire is terrorism. The last Bush war against Iraq was at least partially responsible for every large-scale terrorist attack on the US since then, and possibly the sniper attacks as well. How much more can we expect from another one with even less justification and almost no support from the Islamic world?

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Our choice for president in 2000, Bush or Gore, was terrible (I voted for Nader). Our choice for vice-president was even worse: evil incarnate Dick Cheney versus weasel incarnate Joe Lieberman.

Just because we did it once doesn't mean we'll do it again:

Officials on Wednesday also urged any witnesses to come forward without fear of potential problems with their immigration status, despite authorities detaining two men on Monday in a white van and turning them over to federal authorities for deportation proceedings.
"We just have concerns that some people in the immigrant community didn't come forward,'' Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose said Wednesday. He said witnesses' immigrant status is not the concern of the sniper task force.
-- from AP via NY Times . They managed to get out of the train car alive, evade the vigilantes in Arizona, and now they're going to be dumb enough to take the word of Chief Moose that he won't use the sniper hunt to round up any more "illegal" immigrants? Chief Moose must think they're complete idiots. And I'm not making fun of his name. Neither is Natasha.

Where have all the dollars gone? Gone to bombing everywhere. When will we ever learn?

Bush noted the many tasks being placed on the military's shoulders: ``bring justice to agents of terror ... liberate a captive people on the other side of the Earth ... prepare for conflict in Iraq if necessary ... serve in many places far from home and at great risk.''

Are "liberate a captive people" and "conflict in Iraq" two separate things in W's tiny little mind? If so, what captive people is he talking about? Is he already planning the next war while the current one in Iraq is still in the occasional bombing phase?

Coyote Ugly.
Hey Mexicans! We stole Arizona and California from you fair and square back in the 1840's. Just because our multi-national corporations have forced you off your land and NAFTA hasn't provided enough slave-wage jobs for all of you is no excuse for you to try to sneak back onto your land. We've got vigilantes out there in the desert to make sure you don't get far.

What exactly does it say on the Statue of Liberty? Does America stand for anything anymore? (Anything good, that is?)

More sniper speculation, since you're probably not getting enough from TV:

  1. The attacks are completely calculated, and there is very little element of thrill-seeking to the killings. They are designed to create maximum terror for the public, not to satisfy the killer's bloodlust. If this were someone who decided to play a video game for real, he would have fretted for days or weeks before shooting his first victim, and then probably retreated in fear for a week or two before the desire to regain the thrill took hold. I would expect this type of killer to increase the rate of killing until he got careless trying to shoot too many people in one day, which would lead to his arrest or death. But this guy (sorry for the sexist assumption) did his big killing spree at the beginning to get attention, not thrills, and has spaced out the killings ever since to extend the terror and minimize his chances of being caught.
  2. The sniper is a terrorist. I don't know if he's domestic or foreign, part of some group like a right-wing militia or al Qaeda or acting on his own, or if he has any coherent political agenda. But I'm sure that his main goal is to spread terror throughout the population, which I think is the best definition of a terrorist. He had nothing against any of his victims--his real targets are the millions in the area who are scared to go outside or buy gas.
  3. The cops have become much too predictable with their dragnets following the shootings. The sniper could easily use this against them. Cars backed up for miles on freeways are sitting ducks. Imagine, for example, the sniper driving away from his latest shooting, parked in the middle lane of the highway with thousands of others. He pretends to have car trouble, out of gas maybe, grabs a gas can from the trunk, and starts walking for the nearest exit. Five minutes later he blows up his car by remote control, starting a fire in the middle of the traffic jam. Okay, I've scared myself now.

Where's the beef? All gone by recall time. Check out Stephanie McMillan's Minimum Security cartoon on meat recalls.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

General Anthony Zinni places Iraq way down on the priority list:
The question becomes how to sort out your priorities and deal with them in a smart way that you get things done that need to be done first before you move on to things that are second and third. If I were to give you my priority of things that can change for the better in this region, it is first and foremost the Middle East peace process and getting it back on track. Second, it is ensuring that Iran's reformation or moderation continues on track and trying to help and support the people who are trying to make that change in the best way we can. That's going to take a lot of intelligence and careful work.

The third is to make sure those countries to which we have now committed ourselves to change, like Afghanistan and those in Central Asia, we invest what we need to in the way of resources there to make that change happen. Fourth is to patch up these relationships that have become strained, and fifth is to reconnect to the people. We are talking past each other. The dialogue is heated. We have based this in things that are tough to compromise on, like religion and politics, and we need to reconnect in a different way. I would take those priorities before this one.

My personal view, and this is just personal, is that I think this isn't No. 1. It's maybe six or seven, and the affordability line may be drawn around five.
-- from Salon.

Monopolizing the food supply--and proud of it! I've seen several ads on TV lately for Conagra Foods bragging about how many different food brands they own. Hunts, Healthy Choice, Orville Redenbacher, etc., etc., etc. I checked their website to see which brands are owned by Conagra. Want to buy some popcorn? Maybe you prefer Act II or Jiffy Pop to Conagra's Orville Redenbacher. That's fine with Conagra--they own all three brands! A little margerine for your popcorn? Choose between Blue Bonnet, Parkay and Move Over Butter--they're all Conagra. Hot dogs? Armour, Ekrich and Hebrew National are all Conagra. Check some of the other major food companies: Kraft (Philip Morris), Coca Cola...the variety of colorful packages in the supermarket aisles hides the fact that you really have very few competing products from which to choose. This means higher prices and less real choice for you. It also means that these huge conglomerates are able to put the squeeze on farmers, forcing the few remaining independents into the jaws of the likes of Cargill, ADM and Monsanto. The number of people who have any say in what these corporations do is tiny, but they are basically establishing a monopoly on food production. And if somebody controls your food supply, he controls you.

And Conagra and the others are not only evil enough to pursue this goal, they are brazen enough to brag about it on TV.

Sniper Hyper
British news website Ananova reports that a top marksman from the French army deserted while vacationing in the US. There is speculation that he is of Yugoslav origin.

Thanks to the Politics in the Zeros blog for that link. Polizeros also questions why the wounded sniper victim from Saturday (outside the Ponderosa near Richmond) has not been identified, while every other victim, including the FBI anti-terror agent, has been publicly identified. The Ponderosa shooting is the one that began the cryptic phone-tag.

That's my snipe hype du jour. I stand by my previous assertion that the sniper threat is minor compared to the daily carnage from ordinary shootings and car wrecks, but it's hard not to get caught in all the speculation, y'know?

Tabloid headline spotted: Iraqi Submarine in Lake Michigan, Awaits Orders. I think it was the "Weekly World News" that featured that one. I guess security must be pretty lax on the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Welland Canal if an Iraqi sub was given a lift at the many locks between the Atlantic and Lake Michigan. Is the "Weekly World News" the place Ari Fleischer used to work? For a sample of WWN journalism, check out "India and Pakistan Shouldn't Nuke Each Other." Opinions expressed are absolutely NOT those of this blog, although I do agree that they shouldn't nuke each other.

Bombs away--again. While the UN debates war on Iraq, the war on Iraq continues.

According to Arianna Huffington, Scott Burns, co-creator of the "Got Milk?" campaign, has prepared two ad scripts that parody the "I fund terrorism" anti-drug ads: The first one feels like an old Slim Fast commercial. Instead of "I lost 50 pounds in two weeks" the ad cuts to different people in their SUVs: "I gassed 40,000 Kurds," "I helped hijack an airplane," "I helped blow up a nightclub," and then in unison: "We did it all by driving to work in our SUVs."

The second, which opens on a man at a gas station, features a cute kid's voice-over throughout: "This is George." Then we see a close up of a gas pump. "This is the gas George buys for his car." Next we see a guy in a suit. "This is the oil company executive who makes money on the gas George buys." Close up on Al-Qaeda training film footage: "This is the terrorist organization supported by money from the country where the oil company does business. " It's followed by footage of 9/11: "We all know what this is." And it closes on a wide shot of bumper to bumper traffic: "The biggest weapon of mass destruction is parked in your driveway."

I think that raising the federal gasoline tax is the most straightforward way to break our addiction. This letter to the NY Times from a fellow Michigander offers an interesting approach:

To the editor:
Thomas L. Friedman ("Drilling for Freedom," column, Oct. 20) convincingly explains that Middle East tyrannies will end when their oil revenues decline. The United States can help this happen by consuming less fuel.

The only way the United States can reduce fuel use is to increase the fuel tax. Adding a nickel per gallon every month until the United States buys its last barrel of imported oil would cause no more than minor disruption of the economy. Yet fuel use would decline almost immediately.

Our political process refuses to discuss a tax increase, the only measure that can work. We are like a 300-pound patient asking a doctor how to lose weight but insisting that the answer must not mention eating or exercise.
Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Oct. 20, 2002

Leonard must be really popular with his neighbors, since Bloomfield Hills is home to many very wealthy auto execs.

Little known fact: The letters in "Ari Fleischer" can be rearranged to spell "Fear rich lies" and "I relish farce." Fleischer denies it.

Bush lies--Washington Post. It's good to see him finally get the national recognition that he deserves.

Monday, October 21, 2002

Goodbye, Goofy. My sweet and beautiful calico cat, who has been with me for over 16 years, died today.

Goofy: 1986-2002.

Dennis Kucinich! I went down to campus this afternoon to hear Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) talk about peace and global justice. He spoke for about 30 minutes without any script or notes, and then answered questions eloquently for another 45 minutes. (Try that, W, I dare ya!) Someone asked him whether he would leave the Democratic party, given the wholesale sellout of leaders like Daschle, Gephardt and Lieberman. He responded that Gephardt "led" by ignoring the members of the House Democrats, 2/3 who voted against the war resolution. He said for now he says he is a Democrat, but sees his role as a missionary. Anyhow, if you get a chance to hear Kucinich speak sometime, don't pass it up. Hopefully, I shook the hand of our next president today.

A nation returning to its senses:

No Methodists to His Madness: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are supposedly United Methodists, as, technically, so am I (haven't gone to church in several years). And what does the UM Church think of war with Iraq? "Without any justification according to the teachings of Christ," according to Jim Winkler, head of social policy for United Methodists. See this Guardian article for details.

Universal Health Care--one state at a time. There's a proposal on the ballot in Oregon for a Canadian-style single-payer system.

A Common Misconception:

(From the Doonesbury website)

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Poison Ivy League: The WSWS has an interesting article about the ties between Harken Energy (W's old company), Enron, and Harvard University. "Two current members of the Bush administration—chief economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey and US trade representative Robert Zoellick—are also involved in the Enron-Harvard nexus." W himself got an MBA from Harvard, putting to rest any possible claims of academic standards there. The article suggests that Harvard was the mystery purchaser of W's Harken stock, allowing him to get the millions to purchase his share of the Texas Rangers. And I did a quick search of Carlyle, too. Twenty of Carlyle's 71 partners and directors have Harvard degrees.

The Carlyle Director of the Day for today is Kesuke Shizunaga of Japan. I don't have any serious dirt on Mr. Shizunaga, but I highlight him today to show the international flavor of the Carlyle Group. While so many members of the Reagan, Bush I and Clinton administrations were supposedly working to keep or make America competitive in international markets, they were quietly preparing themselves a place on the Carlyle board where they could collude with Mr. Shizunaga and others from around the world the strip the earth and the vast majority of its population of their wealth for the benefit of themselves and the other members of the ruling class. Isn't this vaguely, or not so vaguely, treasonous?

Kensuke Shizunaga
Managing Director
Japanese Buyouts
Tokyo, Japan

Mr. Shizunaga is a Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, where he focuses primarily on Japanese investment opportunities. He is based in Tokyo.

Prior to joining Carlyle in June 2001, he was a General Partner responsible for buyout investments at Schroder Ventures K.K. There, he played a key role in closing management-led buyout transactions and executed a trade sale to exit one of the buyout investments. Mr. Shizunaga has nearly 20 years of experience in a broad range of corporate finance and M&A transactions, advising primarily large Japanese and non-Japanese industrial companies and financial institutions. At Lehman Brothers, where Mr. Shizunaga spent more than 11 years, he was a Managing Director and head of Investment Banking in Tokyo.

Mr. Shizunaga has a B.A. in political science from Waseda University and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.