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 09, 2002

Mr. Hussein has proven to be a vicious adversary, and senior administration officials have mounted a campaign to warn Iraq's military commanders that they will be charged with war crimes if they unleash weapons of mass destruction. This week, Mr. Bush hinted at another concern, that the Iraqi government would purposefully sacrifice its population to stain an American military victory with civilian blood. -- from an abominable NY Times article worthy of the worst of Nazi or Soviet propaganda. The US is planning an unprovoked act of agression against Iraq, and is preparing to blame Iraqis if US forces kill Iraqi civilians, which they undoubtedly will. And the Times just spouts this nonsense as if it were logical and obvious. Hussein a vicious adversary? The "Mother of all battles" in 1991 caused approximately the same number of US casualties as the Somalia campaign against a few disorganized warlords. And several of the casualties were friendly fire. Iraq was formidable and vicious against Iran, but they had the help of US arms and intelligence back then. Our planes have been bombing Iraq regularly for years now, and I don't think any have been shot down. The US is planning on stomping on a country that was crushed in 1991 and has had no opportunity to recover since. This sounds like the Michigan football coach saying "We're not looking past Rice, they've got some great athletes over there" before Michigan fries Rice 56-3. Except we're adding that "If they do try to beat us, not only will we crush them on the field, but we're going to rape their cheerleaders and shoot their coaches after the game."

At the very least, the Times could insert a sentence like this: "War appears imminent now that Mr. Bush's campaign of lies, distortions and intimidation has given him approval from the US Congress and the UN Security Council to proceed with this criminal endeavor."

Hundreds of Thousands in Italy Protest War

Estimates ranged from 450,000 to 1 million. I think it's about time for marches this big here. Take to the streets. Repeat as needed.

Getting to the heart of the matter: President Bush is a liar. -- from Eric Alterman. Alterman wonders why the press is so reluctant to point out the lies of presidents, and especially why lies leading us into war are seen as less important than lies about sex.

Birds of a feather:

Reporter: Mr. Bush, did you know about 9/11 before it happened?
W: Iraq!!
Reporter: What about all those innocent civilians killed in Afghanistan?
W: Iraq!!
Reporter: Tell us about your Harken stock sale.
W: Bbbbbbbbbb...
Reporter: Who did the vice president talk to to come up with that insane energy policy, anyway?
W: Iraq!!!!
Reporter: And whatever happened to Osama bin Laden?
W: Iraq. (waddle, waddle)

UN resolution on Iraq: a cynical cover for US aggression -- from the WSWS. Executive summary: The terrorists have won. Osama bin Laden and George WW III Bush have gotten pretty much everything they could have hoped for from the UN. Life is going to seriously suck for the foreseeable future, and not just in Iraq.

Ain't no stopping a bad idea: SUV's. Reality TV shows. Those silly "Whatever on Board" diamond-shaped signs back in the '80's. Car flags. Suburbs. Republicanism. The chicken dance. This country is an ideal medium for growing bad ideas, like old bread is for mold. While good ideas like universal health care and public funding of campaigns go nowhere, an incredibly stupid idea like going to war with Iraq just won't die. Killing Iraqi people to save them, using weapons of mass destruction to eliminate them, and burning huge amounts of fossil fuels to steal even more. It's criminal, it's insane, it's exceedingly dangerous to everyone. Its main proponent is an inarticulate ne'er-do-well who bought and cheated his way into the world's most powerful job. He has made his case using obvious lies and ridiculously inflammatory logic. In a sane world, this idea would have died stillborn, sort of like Hillary's 1993 health care plan. Unfortunately, this world is far from sane, the bad idea has grown from a single virus to a life-threatening disease, and the mayhem is about to begin. May God, Allah, Mother Nature, and the Great Pumpkin help us all.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Politics in the Zeros has started a voting reform page, leading off with an article on "Instant Runoff Voting" (IRV). I'm frequently amazed at how many Americans seem to accept that choosing between the lesser of two evils on the first Tuesday of November is a good enough approximation to democracy. There are many ways, both simple and complex, to improve the system so that it more accurately reflects the "will of the people." IRV is one way. Proportional representation is probably a better way, since it leaves a lot fewer people unrepresented. A combination of the two could easily be worked out. Polizeros promises an article on proportional representation soon.

British court objects to Gitmo detentions: Of course, the picture below is a fitting illustration for this story as well.

What this blog is like:

Thanks to the Politics in the Zeros blog for that pic!

United Nations, United States, United Airlines, United Fruit, what's the dif? The latest Bushisms:
"I need to be able to move the right people to the right place at the right time to protect you, and I'm not going to accept a lousy bill out of the United Nations Senate."—South Bend, Ind., Oct. 31, 2002

(I was in South Bend the very next day, and I didn't say anything nearly that stupid, but Bush's candidate won anyway. This world sucks.)

"John Thune has got a common-sense vision for good forest policy. I look forward to working with him in the United Nations Senate to preserve these national heritages."

"Any time we've got any kind of inkling that somebody is thinking about doing something to an American and something to our homeland, you've just got to know we're moving on it, to protect the United Nations Constitution, and at the same time, we're protecting you."—Aberdeen, S.D., same day (Thanks to George Dupper.)

You've just got to know that the Democrats had to be awfully resourceful to avoid coming up with campaign rhetoric that could beat this nonsense.

U of M punishes itself for basketball scandal, including the "Fab Five" era:
The group, and Webber specifically, was involved in one of the most memorable plays in N.C.A.A. basketball history — and one of the most painful for Michigan fans. In the 1993 championship game against North Carolina, Michigan was trailing by 2 points with 11 seconds left when Webber called a timeout, but the Wolverines had none to take. That resulted in a technical foul and an automatic change of possession. The Tar Heels won by 77-71.
So, if you look real hard, you can find a silver lining in this cloud. Since Webber shouldn't have been there, the game never happened, so he couldn't call a timeout he didn't have because there are no technical fouls in non-games. Michigan fans can stop pulling their hair out over that one now.

Still looking for a silver lining in Republican control of Congress. Nothin' yet...

The UN Security Council just passed the Iraq resolution. Bush probably gave Massachusetts to France, Alaska to Russia and Hawaii to China to buy their approval. This would totally bum me out, except that I'm already there.

With the Hummer "People told me, `I can protect my family. If someone bumps into me, they're dead.' People love this feeling." One female H2 buyer told him: "I have three kids in the car with me and no one is going to look at me as a soccer mom." -- from the NY Times. If there is a more perfect symbol for everything that is wrong with America than the Hummer, it is George W. Bush. Or vice versa. I guess the perfect symbol of the moral bankruptcy of America would be George W. Bush driving a Hummer.

I've added a link to PR Watch in the frame on the right (-->). They do a good job of spotting propaganda put out by governments and corporations. Of course that's pretty much like spotting water from a sinking boat, but most people in this country seem to be blissfully unaware of it (hence the election results). If you know someone who seems ready to have his or her eyes opened a little to the lies being told, but not quite ready to have them pried wide open by blogs like this one, point them to PR Watch.

Distrust of government was an atmospheric factor, as was cynicism about politics. Events to follow will reinforce both attitudes. This reflects the GOP's asymmetric advantages. They gain power by disparaging government; once in government they make sure it's inefficient and ineffective. They believe (and want everybody to believe) politics is merely a commodity market for preferential treatments, and a corrupt market at that. No qualms and no ideals to interfere with message development ... "All's fair in the war of words". Dem's tend to see governance as productive, and communication as information-sharing. Cynicism is a one-sided advantage.
-- from the Cogent Provocateur blog.

In the opening moments of the news conference, Mr. Bush cast the confrontation as one that pitted "the civilized world" against a murderous tyrant. -- from the NY Times. It looks like the civilized world doesn't have much of a chance against Bush, at least in the short run.

Krugman: Into the Wilderness.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Build up the Gestapo and expand the War on Everything: Now that the checks have bounced and the balances have all tipped over, W is ready to speed up his agenda of repression, greed, and war. I've been reading the post mortems on the Democrats' sorry excuse for a campaign, trying to figure out what to do next. Can the Democratic party be saved? Is it worth saving? If they are committed to choosing among Republicrats like Daschle, Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Lieberman, Kerry or Gore for their 2004 presidential candidate, I'm inclined to jump straight to the Greens and make an all out push for progressive Democrats like Kucinich, Feingold and Barbara Lee to jump ship as well. Let the Republicrats either join their buddies in the Republican party or just simply disappear from public life. None of them offers any hope of addressing the major disasters facing the world. If we have to be stuck with a two-party system, let's make the Republicrats be one and the Greens be the other. And then let's help the Greens sweep the Republicrats out of office in 2004 and forever more.

Can't Gitmo Satisfaction. Just because the "detainees" at Guantanamo Bay have been there for eleven months now rather than one or two doesn't make their imprisonment any less illegal or immoral. It makes it that much more so. I'm ashamed that my country is continuing to do this.

Bowling for Columbine: I saw Michael Moore's latest movie last night. It is scary, thought-provoking, and funny. The theater was sold out, but, unlike Sunday, we got there while tickets were still available. I had seen clips from the movie on the Donahue show earlier, so there weren't many surprises. The main question the movie leaves you with is: Why are Americans so much more likely to shoot each other than citizens of almost any other country on earth? Moore debunks many of the common explanations offered by Charlton Heston and others in the movie: we have a history of war (but Germany and Japan have far fewer gun murders); we watch too much violent TV and play violent video games (the Japanese have us at least tied on this one); our population is ethnically diverse, we have a lot of poverty, and there are lots of guns around (all three apply at least equally to Canada, where gun violence is very rare). The comparisons with Canada are especially interesting, since they seem so much like us in many ways, but they live with less fear and more compassion. In any case, the movie is wonderful and I highly recommend it. If you're in the Ann Arbor area, tonight is the last night "Bowling for Columbine" is playing at the Michigan Theater. Check here for showings in your area.

One other note of interest (at least to me). I had pointed out before that there were connections between Gulf War I and pretty much every terrorist attack against the US since then--the first WTC attack, Oklahoma City, the African embassy bombings, the Cole, and 9/11 of course. I also noted that John Allen Muhammed, one of the sniper suspects, was a Gulf War I vet. In "Bowling for Columbine" they mentioned that the father of Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters, was a bomber pilot in Gulf War I. Violence begets violence, and the cities of this country are going to be more like Jerusalem than Toronto after Gulf War II starts in earnest. And I'm not sure that terrorism (as the Bushies like to call the small-scale warfare of our enemies who don't have countries) is our main concern. Our naked imperialistic grab for the world's resources will not go on for long without waking the Russian bear and the Chinese dragon, and 9/11 will be recalled, by those of us who survive, as a quaint little incident by comparison. Of course, I hope I'm wrong.

The Democrats did not provide a single reason for the oppressed layers of the population to rally to their support.
This is the real source of the Republican victory, not mass support for Bush and his right-wing program. The picture presented by the media of a people enthralled by their war-time leader is absurd. Working people in America have not suddenly and unaccountably decided that they passionately desire war, tax cuts for the wealthy, handouts to corporate interests, and the destruction of jobs and public social services.
-- from the World Socialist Web Site: US midterm election: the meaning of the Democratic debacle.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

A defiant Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, said: "We're not going to go away. We may not be in the majority, but we're going to fight just as hard for the things we believe in now as we have before." -- from the NY Times. Oh great. A lame, wet-noodle effort to fight back by continuing to appease Bush. That's how you lost the "majority" part of your title, Mr. Daschle.

Dirty tricks at the polls: this blog has a long list of election day shenanigans.


Except for here in Michigan, yesterday was pretty much a total disaster. The idiots have won. Even Harvey Pitt's resignation can't brighten the day, since with the Republitrons controlling the Senate there will be no stopping W from appointing someone even worse. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the new head of the SEC, Ken Lay! Coleman's win in Minnesota proves that crime does pay. And Democrats selling out on the Iraq war resolution wasn't a great election strategy, its total immorality aside. Of those who voted for war, Senators Carnahan and Cleland are out, while the re-elections of Johnson and Landrieu are still in doubt. While Senators Baucus, Biden, Harkin, Kerry and Rockefeller were re-elected after voting for war, Senators Durbin, Levin and Reed were re-elected after voting against it. The only senator who voted against war who won't be returning is Paul Wellstone, and they had to kill him to accomplish that. Vote for war: between 2 and 4 out of 9 Democratic incumbents rejected by voters. Vote against war: 3 of 3 Democratic incumbents returned to Senate by voters. Mr. Daschle's "leadership" has led him out of the Senate majority leader position.
Once again:


Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Taking it to the streets! 4:20 am, election day, 2002. The dark steets of South Bend, Indiana. Agent Bob and his team of guerilla Democrats are sneaking onto doorsteps and putting Jill Long Thompson door hangers on unsuspecting door handles. The goal: Maybe three of the two-hundred or so hangers will remind someone to vote, giving Jill a two-vote victory, thereby giving the Democrats a one-vote majority in the House, hopefully returning the country to some semblance of sanity. The hope is slim: lots of people won't see the hangers until tomorrow; many will have been turned off by the attack ads and decided not to vote; some may even be upset that Agent Bob and the Guerillas were lurking on their porches at 4:20 am and decide to vote for the Republican out of spite. Even if Jill gets elected, chances are slim that all of the other close House races will go Democratic, and even if they do, many Democrats, Jill included, have staked out positions close to 20 in the left-right scheme (see next post below). But Agent Bob knows that if Jill wins by a small number of votes and the Dems take the House by one vote, he will be one agent who is very happy that he went to South Bend and got up at 3:30 on a cold November morning.

And to borrow a schtick from Dave Barry: "Agent Bob and the Guerilla Democrats" would be a great name for a rock band.

Metaphor Alert!

Remember "pick a number," a method for picking who bats first or some other either/or decision? To pick a winner between two people, a third person says "I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 100." He then asks one of the two to take a guess and then the other, with the closest guess winning. At some point in your childhood you perhaps were impressed when the guessing went like this. A: 19. B: 20. B has realized that by picking 20 that he now has an 80% chance of winning, since any number between 20 and 100 will be closer to 20 than 19. I wish I could say that I figured this out myself and used it before seeing anyone else do it, but at least I recognized it when it happened. It seemed pretty brilliant at the time, but I realize now that its success depended on certain assumptions. The first assumption is that all numbers between 1 and 100 are equally likely. If the person picking the number was a three year old who could only count to 30 (he's heard rumors of 100, but doesn't know anything about it), 18 is probably a better guess for B than 20. The second assumption is that there are only two contestants. If a third person C is involved, 60 is probably a better guess than 20.

So, if haven't already seen where this metaphor is leading, allow me to (metaphorically) beat you over the head with it. The person picking the number represents the range of political positions in the American public--1 is far right, 100 is far left. A is the Republicans, B is the Democrats, and C is the Greens or other third parties. Both A and B have realized that their chances are improved by not allowing C to pick a number, so they do everything they can (which is a lot) to prevent that from happening. B, the Democrats, think they are pretty smart, picking 20 to the Republicans 19, figuring everyone to the left of 20 will vote Democratic. The problem is that by debating between 19 and 20 and excluding anyone who would pick higher numbers, the voting public has become like the kid who can only count to 30. Many are deceived that the Democrats are actually liberal, while others are up in the 70's and 80's, from which no real difference between A and B is discernable, so they don't vote at all. The Democrats, considering themselves brilliant by picking 20, have actually put themselves at a disadvantage by helping the Republicans reduce it to a game of 1 to 30. And any Democrat who starts to figure this out gets killed in a plane crash.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Control of House Expected to Stay in Hands of G.O.P. Can't let this happen! I'm heading back to South Bend to volunteer for Jill Long Thompson in her close congressional race, so no more blogging 'til probably tomorrow night, which will hopefully be a victory blog. If we fail then the idiots win! (see picture below)

Sunday, November 03, 2002

David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

from Steve Benson.

Battle cry: This battle will determine whether our families pay $1.60 for a gallon of gas--or $2.20! --from Ted Rall's latest cartoon. For it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for? I don't know and don't give a damn, we're gonna beat Saddam. For it's five, six, seven, open up the tailgates--whoopee! We all gotta drive. At what price?