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, November 02, 2002

"One way to make sure our judges get approved on a timely basis is to change the leadership in the United States Senate," Bush said at a rally yesterday morning. -- from the Washington Post
. So if you want judges who will rule in favor of polluters and corporate crooks while declaring the rest of us enemy combatants without rights, stay home on Tuesday and let W get his way. But if you want to see at least a glimmer of hope for the future, do everything you can in the next three days to make Tuesday's vote a clear referendum against Bush and his evil ways. Find a close race near you and volunteer (I went to South Bend, Indiana yesterday to work for Democrat Jill Long Thompson), or make some phone calls to get out the vote in Oregon. Show Bush that the majority of us are voting against him--again.

Among unanswered questions are why the plane made a slow turn to the south, away from the airport, and why it descended at a steeper-than-normal angle, before crashing into the woods. Witnesses have said the plane seemed to be flying low and sounded like it might be in trouble. Investigators have said the plane's last known airspeed was 85 knots, close to stall speed. from AP via NY Times. I'd say that these facts are completely consistent with my poison gas theory or something else that incapacitated the pilots quickly. I'll have to reinstall Flight Simulator on my computer and try preparing for a landing--flaps and gear down, trying to line up on the runway, and then just stop controlling the plane and see what happens. I think that a slow continuation of an already-started turn, followed by a stall leading to a steep dive to a crash, is a realistic possibility. The scenario of the Wellstone crash seems inconsistent with a major mechanical failure. If there was engine trouble, the pilots would have radioed in a mayday and asked for help in locating a road or field to land on if they couldn't make it to the airport. If they lost directional control of the plane, as the wide turn might suggest, they would have responded by adding throttle to gain altitude and buy time, and they would have radioed in the situation. The airliner that crashed in Iowa in 1989 lost most directional control (ailerons and rudder), but used different throttle settings on the left and right engines to steer the plane, with some success, towards an airport. It certainly seems to me that Wellstone's plane simply lost its sense of direction--that is, the pilots were incapacitated somehow. And it is hard to imagine that happening to both pilots at the same time unless foul play was involved. An alternative to the poison gas would be a suicide terrorist among the staff or the pilots.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Given the close connections between Bush and members of his administration with Enron and other corporations involved in multi-billion dollar looting and swindling, it is perhaps not surprising to find “Enron methods” being transferred from the sphere of business to politics. Enron and the other corporate looters developed a method of accounting known as “backing in”. Instead of objective facts being brought together and reported in the balance sheet, the accountants started from the figures they wanted on the balance sheet and then worked back to make the accounting “facts” fit that outcome. The same method—outright lying—is being used on a daily basis to prepare for war against Iraq. -- from The WSWS.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Ted Rall weighs in on the possible assassination of Wellstone.

Ever wanted to be a telemarketer, but just never felt the time was right? Well, there are some good democrats out in Oregon who might not actually fill out and return their ballots, which might allow Senator Smith to remain Senator Smith, which might make Trent Lott the Senate Majority Leader, which would certainly make this an even scarier and more unpleasant world in which to live. Frankly, I hate cold-calling people, but I made a bunch of calls to Oregon this afternoon on behalf of Democrat Bill Bradbury. You can too! Go to and sign up to help with the get-out-the-vote calls (actually, in Oregon they are send-in-the-vote calls). If you've got extra minutes on your cell phone like me, it may not cost you any extra, and it might keep some Antonin Scalia clone off the Supreme Court. It might keep us out of war with Trinidad AND Tobago (I know, we have no good reasons for going to war with either Trinidad OR Tobago, but that's not stopping us in Iraq, is it?). So why just let Oregonians hand out candy tonight? Give 'em a call, tell 'em to vote for Bradbury! (The website has complete scripts for you and gives you twenty names and numbers to call at a time.)

Albanian and Russian Observers Sent to Monitor American Elections.

Football Team Added to List of Terrorist Groups

Secretary of State Colin Powell announced today that the Oakland Raiders have been placed on the State Department's list of organizations with ties to terrorists. Raiders' General Manager Al Davis and quarterback Rich Gannon have been arrested, and are believed to be on their way to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said that at first he was shocked to hear that one of his teams was a front for terrorism, but when he heard that it was the Raiders he said "Well, yes, I guess I can see that." In a video released on al Jazeera TV in the Middle East, former Raider Jack Tatum was seen talking about the many terrorist activities of the Raiders. "People assumed I was called 'Assassin' because I hit receivers real hard," said Tatum. "And compare pictures of Sirhan Sirhan and John Hinckley with old Raider team photos--I think you'll discover something very interesting."
Tagliabue said that the remaining Raiders would be allowed to continue playing through the remainder of the season, but that any team losing to them or referee favoring the Raiders with a call would also be added to the State Department's list. Sources wouldn't confirm that one of the Raiders' acts of terror was picking the candidates in California's gubernatorial election.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Ron Eibensteiner, the state Republican chairman, accused his opponents of exploiting a tragedy for political gain, and called on local television stations, which broadcast the service live, to provide his party equal free air time. -- from the NY Times. I swear, Republicans know no shame. They've been exploiting three tragedies for political gain throughout the campaign. One past tragedy: the September 11 attacks. One future tragedy: war on Iraq. And one ongoing tragedy: the Bush presidency. W gives free rides in Air Force One to Republican candidates and forces the war resolution vote before election day, and Republicans complain that Democrats use a memorial service for political gain. They just lost one of their best senators in a plane crash. I'm pretty sure that Wellstone would have liked that his death served as a rallying cry rather than an occasion for wailing and gnashing of teeth. I hope that Democrats keep control of the Senate and gain control of the House; that they remember what they are supposed to stand for (what Wellstone stood for) and start to act like a real opposition party; and that they get those impeachment proceedings started right after they have repealed USA Patriot and the war resolution. I hope Jeb and Katherine lose in Florida. Amen.

Military Training and Violence "The result is we have become a nation full of people who are going to make others feel their pain. Whenever you feed death and violence and destruction to your children, you reap what you sow in about 15 years," he added. -- retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a former Army Airborne Ranger infantry officer and West Point Academy psychology and military science professor, quoted in the article linked to above.

Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom you can decide you don't much care for. Is the person who prescribes your eyeglasses qualified to do so? How deep will you be buried when you die? What textbooks are your children learning from at school? What will happen if you become seriously ill? Is the meat you're eating tainted? Will you be able to afford to go to college or to send your kids? Would you like a vacation? Expect to retire before you die? Can you find a job? Drive a car? Afford insurance? Is your credit card company or your banker or your broker ripping you off? It's all politics, Bubba. You don't get to opt out for lack of interest. -- from Molly Ivins.

I, for one, am trying to make up for lost time. To be sure, I have voted in most elections since 1976, frequently for the wrong candidate, as I found out later. But this year I've hit the streets, made the calls, written the checks, and blogged away. My newfound activism can be traced most directly to one politician whose speeches and policies have inspired me like no other. I wish I could say that it was Paul Wellstone or Dennis Kucinich, but in fact it was none other than George W. Bush. Fear and loathing are powerful motivators.

I had vague feelings listening to Reagan and Clinton that they were lying, but I didn't really believe that they were rotten to the core. The elder Bush was certainly disturbing, but he at least seemed to possess some intelligence. Currently I think that he is and was pure evil, but I recall that I didn't think that back when he was president. But this Bush so clearly has no morality or compassion and lies constantly in pursuit of bizarre and dangerous policies, and every time he opens his mouth you realize what a moron he is. His speeches after 9/11 convinced me that there is something very wrong with the world today, and George W. Bush represents the core of it. Since then I have read books, magazines and thousands of web pages to find out more about what's wrong and what I might do about it. This blog is my attempt to share what I've learned and what I believe. There is no more important cause in the world today than stopping the Bush-Cheney war on everything.

What we don't know will hurt us: And, frankly, there is a piece of information which is still classified which I consider to be the most important information that's come to the attention of the joint committee. We hope that it will be declassified. I think it is an important part of our judgments as to where our greatest threats are and what steps we need to do to protect the American people here at home. -- Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham (D-FL), quoted from Face the Nation.

The Halloween Truth Man: Excellent Boondocks comic!

Name that war: Norman Solomon writes about the pretentious names given to recent military adventures: "Just Cause" in Panama (just 'cause we can); "Desert Storm", aka Gulf War I; and "Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan, where they have been enduring freedom for over a year now. So while we try to stop Gulf War II, you can bet that W's PR folks (aka the administration) are hard at work coming up with a name for it. Here are some suggestions for them:

  • Operation Oily Residue
  • Operation Infinite Deception
  • Operation Arrogant Imperialism
  • Operation Oedipal Redemption
  • Operation Tolerating Liberty

Any suggestions from the audience?

U.S. Would Seek to Try Hussein for War Crimes ( It takes a war criminal to know a war criminal, I guess. The article doesn't mention prosecuting the many Americans who aided and abetted the various crimes mentioned, including Ronald Reagan, George Bush I, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. It also fails to mention prosecution for the greatest war crime of all: unprovoked pre-emptive strike on a sovereign nation.

And That's the Way It Is:
“The threat from the White House is to go in anyway,” Cronkite said. “Our only ally would probably be Great Britain. That is not good enough. I see the possibility if we do that of really setting forth World War III.”
“They applauded as Hitler closed down the independent newspaper and television stations and only gave them his propaganda,” Cronkite said. “When they did not rise up and say, ‘Give us a free press,’ they became just as guilty.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Just in case it comes up, I don't want Dick Cheney to come to my funeral, either.

One fact is not in dispute: the Russian government used poison gas against its own citizens. This, of course, is one of the main accusations levelled by the US and other governments against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to justify Washington’s plans for an invasion and occupation of the Persian Gulf nation. Not surprisingly, this bitter and tragic irony has been passed over in silence by the Bush administration and virtually every media outlet. from the WSWS.

Kachoong! Kachoong! Kachoong! Kachoong! 24 starts tonight! It's probably more a part of the problem than part of the solution, and some of the money goes to Rupert Murdoch and the other criminals at Fox, but "24" is a way cool show. And seeing somebody else be the president sure feels good. I'll have to watch "The West Wing" sometime.

Who says crime doesn't pay?

Once again, a picture says a thousand words:

From the Daily KOS blog.

It's all about the price of oil -- a song from Billy Bragg.

Only 8,000 U.S. soldiers are currently stationed in Afghanistan--less than three percent of the 300,000 the Army says that it needs to properly "Marshall Plan" the country--and most of those are traipsing through the mountains near Khost in search of Al Qaedans who fled for Pakistan in 2001. Actual "peacekeeping" is limited to Kabul; the vast majority of Afghans live under the same feudal warlords whose brutality led to the rise of the Taliban in the mid `90s. Rape, robbery and violent clashes are routine.

We did Afghanistan on the cheap, and it shows. The place is such a mess that the main objective of the American invasion--building a trans-Afghan pipeline to carry landlocked Caspian oil and gas to the Indian Ocean--will likely never be realized.

We won the war but we lost the peace. Will we do the same thing in Iraq?

Count on it.
-- from Ted Rall.

Bush signs voting bill. Wish it were retroactive.

Do I have all the answers to the world's problems? No, I do not. And neither do you. But I know when I'm being treated like a mushroom--i.e., kept in the dark and fed a steady diet of bu**sh**--and it's utterly clear that that's what's happening now. We must set the bar a hell of a lot higher before we instigate a bloodbath whose outcome is extraordinarily uncertain--and right now, that bar seems to be about two inches off the ground. -- from Tom Tomorrow's blog (Asterisks added by me both to try to keep this a family show and because it clearly demonstrates that you can't spell "bu**sh**" without "bush.")

The World Socialist Web Site raises questions about the Wellstone crash. In the context of the Carnahan crash two years ago and the anthrax letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy last year, the idea that the crash was murder/assassination doesn't seem far-fetched. And none of the initial reports provide any information to rule it out. The apparent lack of any distress call or mayday seems most suspicious to me. Obviously I don't have enough facts to prove anything, but it seems as though something that incapacitated the pilots would be consistent with the facts available. Perhaps a capsule of poison gas released as the plane descended through a certain altitude, or set off by remote control, caused the pilots to lose consciousness as they were preparing to land. The plane then continued in a turn they had begun and eventually crashed pointing away from the airport. A bomb or missile is also a possibility, although either would be much more obvious to observers on the ground and would leave more evidence in the wreckage. A gas would either be destroyed by fire or dispersed by the wind long before investigators could detect any traces of it. Of course, investigators can conclude whatever they want to conclude, regardless of evidence, as they showed in the TWA 800 investigation.

At the Pentagon today, the department's spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, declined to identify the detainees by name or nationality, even after Afghanistan and Pakistan said they were receiving repatriated prisoners. "We've said all along, we have no desire to hold large numbers of these people for a long period of time," Ms. Clarke said.

"If we can go through all those factors, determine someone doesn't have intelligence value, is not a real threat to the United States or our friends or allies, and we think there will be a proper handling on the other end, then we'd like to get rid of some of these people. So we're working a lot of those issues with countries, but it takes time."
-- from the NY Times. No hearings, no trials, no contacts with families. Just grab 'em in Afghanistan, whisk them half a world away for ten months, then get rid of them. Lack of liberty and injustice for all.

Monday, October 28, 2002

What a Difference Four Years Makes: Why U.N. inspectors left Iraq--then and now -- FAIR looks at quotes from many major news sources about the withdrawal of weapons inspectors from Iraq in 1998. In '98, all of the sources said that the inspectors withdrew or were ordered out by the UN. In 2002, the same sources all claim that the inspectors were "kicked out" by Saddam Hussein. Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for the link.

President Vladimir V. Putin said today that Russia was prepared to strike at international terrorist groups and the countries that harbor them, explicitly echoing the arguments that President Bush made after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to declare a war on terrorism...

Russian officials have said, so far without providing evidence, that the theater takeover was organized and planned with the help of Islamic extremist groups abroad.

Mr. Putin ordered Russia's military to draft new doctrine that would adapt its forces and tactics to counter the threat from terrorism both internally and externally, presaging sweeping changes for a military that has been slow to change.
-- from the NY Times.

Wonderful. Another nuclear-armed cowboy declaring war on anyone he decides is a terrorist, and on any country he decides is harboring them. What if Putin determines what is probably the case, that is that the Chechen rebels are supported by Saudis and Pakistanis? Will the Russians be bombing Islamabad and Riyahd? Perhaps this is the start of Putin's ploy to counteract Bush's oil grab in Iraq (see William Safire's optimistic and scary predictions for the Iraq war if the Russians vote against it in the Security Council for a scenario where Russia, China and France are left out in the cold). Control of Saudi Arabia would certainly keep Russia in the superpower sweepstakes. And Bush's Afghanistan and Iraq rhetoric has given Putin all of the justification that he needs. Bush has already agreed with Putin to call the Chechen rebels "terrorists." He has argued that countries not only have the right to attack terrorists and those who harbor them, but that countries must do so or face consequences from the US.

Putin will probably have a much easier time coming up with actual evidence of Saudi involvement in Chechnya than Bush has had coming up with evidence of either weapons or terrorism in Iraq. He says, "Look Georgie Porgie (remember, W calls him Pootie-Poot), these guys are terrorists, you said so yourself. Here's the evidence of support from the Saudis. You said we had to go after terrorists and those who harbor them. I'm with you, Georgie Porgie, not against you. Therefore, I have no choice but to invade Saudi Arabia. I know you understand." In the less likely scenario, Bush agrees, saying "you're right, Pootie-Poot, go ahead," at which point both the US and Russia are hit with terror campaigns unlike anything anyone has seen so far, and China attacks Taiwan and other neighbors (Malaysia, Indonesia, Phillipines, South Korea, Japan) so as not to be left out of the superpower game, and World War III begins in earnest. In the more likely scenario, Bush decides Pootie-Poot isn't his friend after all, makes up some lies to counter Russia's evidence, sends more troops to defend Saudi Arabia, and World War III begins in earnest. The rhetoric and actions of the Bush administration have made the world a more dangerous place than ever, and I fear we are nearing the precipice.

It is politically very dangerous to appear to be defending terrorists, but we have to put a stop to the idea that terrorism is worse than other forms of military action. Osama bin Laden, the Palestinians, and the Chechens would all prefer, I'm sure, to begin with stealth bomber attacks on radar installations followed up by F-16's and B-52's, than to have to blow themselves up in order to inflict damage. But they don't have these weapons, and they have been backed into a corner by those who do. They have been given the choice (or at least they perceive it this way) of either just dying or dying for their cause. So-called terrorist attacks are the only types of attacks they can launch. I don't think they are right to do so, but they are no more wrong than we are to bomb Iraq. Killing people with explosives is bad, no matter how they are delivered.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

What a disaster. Russia used gas to knock out the Chechen rebels holding hostages in a Moscow theater, but killed at least 115 of the hostages with the gas, and most of the rest (646) are in the hospital, many in critical condition. It looks like Putin screwed up big time on this one.

The press doesn't count, starting with the Quote of the Day:
"Here I'm not being spit on, people aren't throwing tomatoes at me and Joan Baez isn't singing," said protest veteran Dot Magargal, 77, from Media, Pa. -- from the Washington Post article about yesterday's peace rally in DC. The post article is quite exuberant about the DC rally, estimating the turnout at 100,000 and saying that it was probably the largest anti-war rally in Washington since the Vietnam era. The Post appears to have gotten its numbers from rally organizers, who might tend to be optimistic. Meanwhile, the NY Times downplays the turnout, saying it was "thousands" and "fewer than hoped for" by organizers. CNN says there were "tens of thousands" without citing a source.

Meanwhile, I was in downtown Ann Arbor yesterday participating in our own march and rally. The Ann Arbor News covered the rally. Their article states: "Ann Arbor police estimated about 2,500 people attended the demonstration, but others said the crowd seem not quite so large. One participant put the number at 700 or 800." The reporter doesn't comment further on the size of the crowd.

How hard can it be to get a good estimate of crowd size? In Ann Arbor it would have been simple. The march started in a well-defined space and proceeded linearly to another well-defined space. A single photo from above (the top floor of the grad library, for example) would have included most of the crowd. From such a photo you could easily get an almost exact count within half an hour (less than that with copies and more people to count), or a good estimate in five minutes. Alternatively, counting people as they pass by a certain point on the march for a minute and multiplying by the number of minutes for the entire crowd to pass would also give a good estimate. In DC it would have been harder, especially the last method, but the resources on hand would have been greater. A few photos taken nearly simultaneously from the top of the Washington monument or somebody's news helicopter could have been used to get a decent estimate. We should see discrpancies between say 89 thousand, 97 thousand and 103 thousand, not huge disparities between thousands, tens of thousands, and 100 thousand.

Scumbag change?
[Ahmed] Chalabi, the London-based leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), is front man for the latest incarnation of a long-time neoconservative strategy to redraw the map of the oil-rich Middle East, put American troops -- and American oil companies -- in full control of the Persian Gulf's reserves and use the Gulf as a fulcrum for enhancing America's global strategic hegemony. -- from The American Prospect. Chalabi has been indicted for bank fraud in Jordan, among other things, but he appears to be the leading candidate to be Iraq's own Karzai. He's already making deals for Iraq's oil.

Right on top of things: I don't know who writes the headlines for AP articles on the NY Times website, whether the headlines come with the articles from AP or the Times add them. Whoever it is should at least read the first two paragraphs before writing the headline. Here are the first two paragraphs from the latest article about the Wellstone crash:

Federal investigators today sorted through the wreckage of a plane crash that killed Senator Paul Wellstone and seven others, but efforts to determine the cause of the crash could be hampered by the absence of a cockpit voice recorder.

Carol Carmody, the acting chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said in a news conference here that the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air A100 was not required to have a voice recorder under F.A.A. regulations, and was not equipped with one.

And the headline? Cockpit Voice Recorder Is Focus of Search for Cause of Crash. Fortunately, the rest of the article does not substantiate the headline's claim that investigators are combing the woods of Minnesota for a recorder they know doesn't exist. It does say that the investigation may take many months, for reasons I can't begin to understand. Unless, of course, investigators are under orders to make sure that the investigation takes many months, just like it did for TWA 800 and like it has for AA 587.