Bob's Links and Rants

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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

George Orwell Bush says that an attack on the US by Iraq could cripple the economy. Are there still people out there who believe this clown? A country 6000 miles away, that the US beat decisively in a conflict twelve years ago destroying much of its military might, and which has been further crippled by years of sanctions, inspections and bombings, poses a threat to the country with the world's largest military by far, protected by two giant oceans? George W. Bush is the biggest threat to the US economy and world peace.
"Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a number out of my hat!"
"Oooh: $50 to $60 billion for a war in Iraq!"
"Gee, Mr. Daniels, Mr. Lindsey said it would cost a lot more!"
"That's why Mr. Lindsey doesn't hang his hat here anymore, Rocky."
Rangel calls for draft: Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) writes in the NY Times today that Congress should reinstate the military draft. He says that neither the administration nor Congress would be in such a rush to go to war if their own children were likely to be involved (he says that there are only a few officers and one enlisted soldier currently in the armed forces who are children of members of Congress). Rangel is a dove who voted against the Iraq war resolution in October, so this is clearly a ploy to get the public more involved in opposing the war. I hope that it at least makes George W. Bush think about the prospect of having his twin daughters go through bootcamp: he wouldn't get any sleep at all! ("But Daddy, that awful man made me do pushups! (Sob.) And not only do I have to wear these horrible boots, I have to shine them! Do something, Daddy!") Six months stationed in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait might open their eyes a bit, too.

However, it's a high-stakes game. I'm guessing that the Bushies will downplay it, saying that "our all-volunteer military does a wonderful job and is quite capable of dealing with all of the challenges facing it." They might embrace it, though, thanking (i.e. blaming) the Democrats for introducing the idea, seeing it as a way to accelerate their plans for global empire. This would then put other Democrats in the awkward position that Rangel is trying to put Bush and the other Republicans in: seeming to be protecting their own children from military service by opposing the draft.

At this point, things are getting bad so quickly that this is probably a useful strategy: Rangel's bill will be hard to ignore, and if things go well it will mobilize a large portion of the country that has been either silent or stupidly flag-waving to this point.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Too little, too late? The Washington Post ran an article yesterday describing the major role that the US, under the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, played in the buildup of the Iraqi military and its development and use of chemical and biological weapons. It mentions Donald Rumsfeld's key meeting with Saddam Hussein in 1983, offering him US support even though it was known at the time that Iraq was using chemical weapons. It also mentions something rarely covered in the US media, that the Kurds gassed in northern Iraq in 1988 were probably collaborating with Iran. So while not justifying the gassing, it makes the "gassed his own people" claim dubious at best. The article describes how the US government allowed and even encouraged the sale of chemical, biological and "dual-use technology" (items that could be used in a nuclear program) by US firms. It even dares mention the infamous meeting of US ambassador at the the time April Glaspie with Saddam in July of 1990:

When the then-U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, met with Hussein on July 25, 1990, a week before the Iraqi attack on Kuwait, she assured him that Bush "wanted better and deeper relations," according to an Iraqi transcript of the conversation. "President Bush is an intelligent man," the ambassador told Hussein, referring to the father of the current president. "He is not going to declare an economic war against Iraq."

Unfortunately, the article refrains from mentioning the so-called "green light" that Glaspie gave Saddam when she stated that the US had no opinion on the Iraq-Kuwait dispute. While Saddam did not tell her that he was planning on invading Kuwait a week later, he certainly must have been surprised at the vehement "worse than Hitler" response from someone who had "no opinion" and who "wanted better and deeper relations." Unless, of course, as many in the Middle East believe, Saddam has been a US agent all along, providing a ready excuse for the ever-increasing military presence in the region. Saddam has stayed alive and in power, either with US help or due to US reluctance (or whatever it was that stopped Desert Storm from storming Baghdad in 1991), while the Iraqi people pay again and again and again: war with Iran, Gulf War, sanctions, no-fly zone bombings, Desert Fox, and now, probably, Gulf War II.

I don't know what the truth is, but I am quite sure that what the Bushies are telling us is lies, just as it was in 1990. Saddam is not a threat to the US: he's a convenient ongoing excuse.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Sending the troops in: While Iraq continues to jump through every hoop that Bush throws in its path, the buildup of forces continues. Even if, as I sincerely hope, they don't see combat, the expense of just sending them there is enormous. Meanwhile, back home, the states are facing massive budget deficits which will cause cutbacks in schools, hospitals, welfare, name it. George W. Bush should be impeached for flagrant dereliction of duty: worst president ever, leaving his wimpy daddy in the dust.
Bin Laden, Shmin Laden: This is what the Afghan war was all about: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan on Friday signed a framework agreement for a $ 3.2 billion gas pipeline project passing through the three countries. What an amazing coincidence that the Bonn conference of a year ago picked Hamid Karzai to be Afghanistan's president, and Karzai made this pipeline a priority, well ahead of establishing any sort of control over Afghanistan. Thanks again to Polizeros for the link.
If it ain't broke...Huey recycles last year's predictions for the new year in Boondocks.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Gag! I just saw an ad on TV for Bowflex (a home gym device), with two US Army soldiers, apparently active, doing the pitch. They say something like "We needed to stay in top physical and mental shape in Afghanistan, so we took the Bowflex with us." There is a huge American flag in the background, and martial drums going throughout. Maybe some pilots can do ads for speed next.
We've got convicted felons who didn't do the time in high-ranking posts in our government (John Negroponte, Elliot Abrams, John Poindexter), but other convicts who have served their time aren't allowed to even visit their mothers! Fourteen years in jail is not enough punishment for this kinder, gentler nation of compassionate conservatives. Ex-cons can't live in public housing, can't hold certain jobs, and aren't allowed even to vote in many states. Most grew up in rough neighborhoods, did something stupid when they were teens (or got framed), somehow survived several years in America's brutal prison system which is a giant training camp for crime, and when they get out they are third-class citizens with very few rights. What a recipe for failure!
Air Force bombs house in Texas: Just a friendly reminder that no one is safe.
Jobless benefits end for 820,000: Compassionate conservatism at work; actually, laid off.
Yemeni man set free in Michigan:
U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Pepe said prosecutors didn't prove Mohamed Alajji willfully intended to defraud the government when he applied for multiple Social Security cards. Although Alajji faced possible fraud charges, the government's true reason for having him detained was that it believed he was a terrorist threat.The ruling came after a six-hour preliminary exam to determine whether the government had probable cause to charge Alajji. Pepe ordered Alajji's immediate release.
Maybe there's still hope for justice in this country.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Stop the presses: I agree with President Bush!
President Bush is "deeply" troubled by efforts to clone human beings and wants Congress to ban the practice, the White House said Friday after a French scientist claimed her company had produced the first clone. (CNN)

I don't know about you, but I get awful chills when I see the words "Bush" and "clone" in the same sentence. Brrrrrrr!
Go to class, or go to jail: The INS has arrested several Middle Eastern college students in Colorado for not enrolling in a minimum of twelve hours of classes.
Proof? We don't need no stinkin' proof! Ted Rall points out that 15 months after 9/11, the Bush administration hasn't provided any proof that Osama, al Qaeda and the Taliban were actually behind the attacks, even though Colin Powell and Condi Rice promised us evidence. Rall says there are three logical explanations:

Al Qaeda and the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. Possible, but unlikely. Who else would have done it?

What with the war and all, the Bushies simply forgot to write up a report. Impossible. If proof existed, the Administration would have released it to make people like me shut up.

The evidence is circumstantial at best. Now we're talking. More likely than not, American intelligence strongly suspects bin Laden et al. but can't prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

As a matter of fact, FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted in a speech last April that he has no evidence: "In our investigation, we have not uncovered a single piece of paper – either here in the U.S. or in the treasure trove of information that has turned up in Afghanistan and elsewhere – that mentioned any aspect of the September 11th plot. The hijackers had no computers, no laptops, no storage media of any kind."

So, as Rall points out, we've killed 3500 civilians and 10,000 Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan without any evidence. And it's on to Iraq, based on allegations of a crime, possession of weapons of mass destruction, of which the US is the world's leading violator. And we are given no evidence that Iraq is not obeying the UN resolutions, outside of Rumsfeld's "obviously they aren't."

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Are Americans really this stupid? George W. Bush was named their "most-admired man" by 28% of Americans in a CNN poll, far more than any other (Jimmy Carter was second with 9%).

Just a brief reminder about how W got where he is, on the off chance that one among those 28% might be reading this blog (chances are, they read nothing at all). I've been meaning to make a cartoon out of this, but I'm not really much of a cartoonist. So I'll just make it a little dialogue between the wealthy corporate powers-that-be and our thought-challenged president:

Harken Execs: Well, Mr. Bush, your little Spectrum Oil Company has had some rough times lately. How 'bout we buy it out for much more than it's worth and give you a place on the Harken board? It pays really well, and you don't have to do anything.

W: Cool!

Harken Execs: Oh, and say "Hi" to your father the Vice-President for us, won't you?

Harken Execs: Well, George, we all know Harken stock is going in the tank in a few months, but because we like you so much, we've arranged a secret buyer for your stock so you can cash in now while the price is still high. Go buy a baseball team or something, and say "Hi" to your dad in the White House, okay?

W: Excellent!

Co-owners of the Texas Rangers: You know, Governor Bush, we've been glad to have you on our team as we've grabbed private land at taxpayer expense to build this fancy new ballpark. Never mind that the Rangers never win anything: your work is done here. Here's your ownership share in the Rangers back, and an extra twelve million for being such a swell guy. Don't forget about us back at the governor's mansion, or if you ever move to a bigger house--in Washington, say.

W: Cool!

(August 2000)
Republican Party Leaders: Well, George, we've paid an ungodly amount of money and slandered a war hero to buy you the nomination for president, overcoming your obvious lack of qualifications. Don't you forget who paid to get you here!

W: Don't worry--I love you guys!

(December 2000)
Supreme Court: Mr. Bush, since you came in such a close second in the election, we're awarding you the presidency! Of course, some of us wouldn't be here if it weren't for your dear old dad--say "Hi" to him, will ya?

W: Cool!

(September 2001)
American Public: President Bush, since you happened to be vacationing in Texas while intelligence about a massive terrorist attack sat on your desk unread, leading to the worst attack on American shores since the Civil War, we're giving you this gigantic mandate to do whatever insane things pass through that little mind of yours. Kill, maim, or detain innocent people anywhere in the world, destroy the constitution, destroy the environment: whatever you want.

W: God bless America.

(November 2002)
American Public: Mr. Bush, in less than two years you have taken a nation that was wealthy, confident, and at peace, with a budget surplus, and turned it into one which is struggling, afraid, at war, and broke. Therefore, we're giving you Republican control of both houses in Congress.

W: Excellent! You ain't seen nothin' yet. Let's roll!

Moral to the story: Nothing succeeds like failure.
Bad year for retailers: Good! Buying worthless imported crap from community-destroying big-box stores is supposed to be good for the country. It isn't. A bad retail season is the opposite of the Bush tax cuts--it hurts the rich the most. When manufacturing and retailing return to being local concerns, employment will rise and pollution will fall. A "good" retail season would have meant more money for the world's richest family (Wal-Mart's Waltons), along with increased high-interest debt for much of the working class. Buy local, buy used, don't buy at all: it's GOOD for the country!
Update from the "War of Terrorism":
According to Americans with direct knowledge and others who have witnessed the treatment, captives are often "softened up" by MPs and U.S. Army Special Forces troops who beat them up and confine them in tiny rooms. The alleged terrorists are commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep. The tone of intimidation and fear is the beginning, they said, of a process of piercing a prisoner's resistance. -- from the Washington Post.

Read the whole article for a reminder of what the "land of the free and home of the brave" is doing to mere suspects detained in our name.

Big Sister (Kroger) is watching: I've already torn up my Kroger Plus card and boycotted that Orwellian grocery chain for many months now. And now they're introducing fingerprint checkout. So some geeky programmers (completely different from totally cool programmers like my brother and me) will have access to your name, address, credit card number and fingerprint on the Kroger computers. If you'd like to be framed for some terrible crime, you'll be well positioned. Even if Kroger's computer people are completely honest and well-intentioned, they could be blackmailed or extorted into sharing that information, and not just by Ashcroft and Poindexter. Go to the CASPIAN web site for more on Supermarkets' invasion into our privacy, and stay away from Krogers!
Big Brother (the FBI) is watching ... (from a letter to the editor in the Bellingham (Washington) Herald)

The FBI now can get our list of library books, e-mails, telephone records and so on. When I was worried about an overdue book after the library closed, I called the FBI for help.

"Please check on a book for me, will you," I told the agent.

"What? Do you think we work for you?"

"Is Bernard Lewis's book on the Middle East overdue?" I pleaded.

"Well, okay, I'll look it up. Hey, you've also checked out 'Lawrence of Arabia.'"

"It's a great book," I protested.

"Did you see the movie, too?"

"Yes," I said.

"Have you checked out the video - never mind, I'll check. Yeah, just last week."

"Honest," I replied, "I wanted to see the restored version."

"A doubtful story. And, yes, you're overdue on the book."

"Darn," I said. "I guess I'm not getting my mail on time."

"Mail? Well, let me check. Nope, no card from Bellingham library, but your long-distance phone bill shows you've called Mahoud's Diner. Who's Mahoud?"

"He's a great cook and what are you doing with my phone bill?"

"Just checking. By the way, you are behind in the phone payment. Want me to pay it from your credit card?"

"You've got my credit statement?"

"Of course. There, I charged it on your card."

"Thanks," I said. "What a service."

"Saved you a penalty. Anything else we can do for you?"

"Yes," I replied. "Did my neighbor pay cash for his new car?"

"What! Do you think we spy on people?"

Lyle E. Harris


What logic and compassion couldn't do, impending bankruptcy accomplishes quickly: Michigan, along with many other states, is eliminating harsh mandatory sentences for drug crimes. Fiscal emergencies are forcing states to find ways to cut costs, and the outrageous expense involved in locking up non-violent offenders for ten or twenty years is a compassionate and logical place to start. From the NY Times.

Rooting Out Evil: Mission USA

In the new year, Rooting Out Evil will be sending a team of volunteer weapons inspectors into that greatest of rogue nations, the United States of America.

We have selected the US as our first priority based on criteria provided by the Bush administration. According to those criteria, the most dangerous states are those run by leaders who:

1) have massive stockpiles of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons;
2) ignore due process at the United Nations;
3) refuse to sign and honour international treaties; and
4) have come to power through illegitimate means.

The current US administration fulfills all these criteria. And so, again following Bush’s guidelines, Rooting Out Evil is demanding that his administration allow immediate and unfettered access to international weapons inspectors to search out their caches of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

If they refuse to comply, we will assemble as many volunteer weapons inspectors as possible at a major border crossing between the US and Canada and attempt to cross into the US on a mission of peace. We will be greeted on the US side by Americans who favour true global cooperation, an end to weapons of mass destruction, and a regime change in the US at the next election.

Go here to sign up as a volunteer inspector and lend support, in person or in spirit, to our Canadian friends trying to bring a little sanity across the border.

Look out Coke and Pepsi, here comes...

Don't drink idiotic anymore, drink committed. -- Motto for Mecca Cola, which gives ten percent of either revenues or profits (my French isn't that good) to Palestinian causes, ten percent to European causes. According to an Indonesian blogger, Mecca Cola is selling out in Europe.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Protest! It's good for you!

Taking part in protests and demonstrations can be good for your physical and mental health, a new British study suggests. -- from Reuters.
Don't you hate it when good columnists go bad? I was ticked off yesterday when I read Nicholas Kristoff's op-ed from yesterday entitled "In Praise of Snowmobiles," but couldn't quite form a coherent rant about it. Well, I think I can, now.

Kristoff praises the Bush administration for allowing snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. He says that the new four-stroke snowmobiles are much quieter and less polluting than the two-stroke variety, and I'm sure that's right. But Kristoff claims that "when the roads are closed in winter, the only alternative to snowmobiles is snow coaches, which are like vans on treads." This is a lie: Yellowstone is open to cross-country skiing and snoeshoeing, according to its web site. He makes another statement which is true, but still ridiculous: "It's pretty clear that without snowmobiles very few Americans will get the thrill of seeing Yellowstone in winter." Ridiculous, because even with snowmobiles, very few Americans will see Yellowstone in winter. I couldn't find the numbers for snowmobile rentals in Yellowstone, but I would hazard a guess that the number of Americans partaking in this is far below the number of Americans who will get the thrill of seeing Iraq this winter. Kristoff claims that animals don't run from the newer, quieter snowmobiles because he saw some. Well, Nick, you didn't see the ones that did run, now did you?

We have boxed nature into tiny little corners in this country, and now Bush and his publicist Kristoff think that it's okay for us to use our expensive toys to trample around even in those little corners. Rather than allowing snowmobiles in Yellowstone, we should be eliminating them, along with SUV's and cars in general, from more and more places, so that Americans won't have to go to Yellowstone to experience nature.

I hope that, somewhere, Bing Crosby is happy:

Merry Christmas, everybody!
Republican Logic:
See if you can follow the logic behind a proposal to cut taxes on dividends:
Republicans close to the White House said there were several reasons why officials were attracted to the idea of letting taxpayers exclude about half of all dividend income from taxes. Eliminating all taxes on corporate dividends would drain so much money from the Treasury — about $300 billion over 10 years, according to some estimates — that President Bush would have no room for other tax cuts. Reducing dividend taxes by about half, to about 20 percent for people in the top tax bracket, would not only reduce the drain on revenue to the Treasury but also bring dividend taxes in line with those on capital gains. (NY Times)

It's sort of like a doctor explaining to you why he is amputating your left arm by saying "if I amputated both arms, you would be in really bad shape." That is, they are comparing their stupid idea to an even stupider idea, rather than to the already stupid enough status quo. Another comparison, which I'm surprised Bush hasn't used already: "We have to attack Iraq because if we attacked Atlanta I would probably lose votes."

You know, you Republican corporate drones, you could also bring dividend taxes in line with those on capital gains by raising both to 90%, which would mean that those who make money by having money would have to pay more taxes than those who make money by working.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Just say NO to Joe
With Gore dropping out, Senator Joe Lieberman is now considered one of the favorites for the Democratic nomination for president. A good choice, if you're trying to make Bush look too liberal. This guy is a super-hawk, a shill for the insurance companies, a co-inquisitor with Lynne Cheney in her witchhunt for "un-patriotic" Americans. Progressives need to make it clear to the Democrats that we're all going Green if this polite monster is going to be the Democratic nominee in 2004. From the NY Times:
"I think the party is open to a different kind of Democrat," he said. Mr. Lieberman said that while he "may be more conservative, more pro-defense, more pro-security than a lot of Democrats are," for the most part, he was "in tune with the mainstream of my party."

Mr. Lieberman sponsored the Homeland Security Act, and was at Mr. Bush's side last fall as he pushed through a Congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. By noting that he had also voted in favor of the first resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, in 1991, Mr. Lieberman drew an unstated contrast with other Democrats in the race like Representative Richard A. Gephardt and Senator John Kerry, who opposed that resolution.

Thom Saffold, a fellow member of the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace and publisher of the Street Wall Journal sent the following message to our group:


Today I am ashamed to be a Christian. Tomorrow will be worse.

The center of my spiritual life is Jesus, a/k/a the rabbi, Yeshua bar Yusef who--according to Himself--was NOT the Son of God, but came "to give [humanity] the power to become the sons and daughters of God"; can you imagine how different the world would be if we recognized that all people--regardless of our differences--are truly sons and daughters of the Creator? We might actually relate to and treat everyone else as our sisters and brothers, even if they were Muslim, even if they were Iraqis.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the birth of Yeshua in Beth-lehem, the city of bread, a town under military occupation, governed by a corrupt and hypocritical king, backed by the Empire of Rome. The infant Yeshua grew into a man who embraced the finest teachings and characteristics of Judaism/the faith of the Hebrew people and became known as the Prince of Peace. His radical philosophy of equality of all people (including women, eunuchs, and the poor), of the necessity of resistance to injustice (he made it a condition of discipleship), commitment to what we call creative nonviolent direct action/civil disobedience, and devotion to love--even love of enemies--got him crucified, but also inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Church, beginning in the Third Century when it sold out its principles to Constantine in return for worldly power, has consistently perverted Yeshua's message and meaning, despite the fact that a few each century (like Dr. King and many of the civil rights activists) have rediscovered His essential message and sought to manifest it. The Church, in response, has tended to kill such "heretics," of course.

And so it is that tomorrow, good Christian Church folk in nearly all the churches in our area will sing Christmas carols about the Prince of Peace and Bethlehem, and IGNORE their responsibilities as followers of Yeshua. They will be ignorant of (or is it, rather, out of callousness) the fact that the real, live, flesh-and-blood people of Bethlehem are today living under a brutal military occupation, run by a corrupt and hypocritical government backed by the Empire of Corporate America.

The overwhelming majority of these Christians (apparently "Christ" has NOTHING to do with Yeshua!) will celebrate their holiday by engaging in a consumeristic orgy and then eat too much, and go to bed feeling very self-satisfied. They will NOT be organizing or demonstrating or committing acts of civil disobedience to stop Bush's insane vision of total, unending war, or to stop US funding of Israel's cruelties. And after tomorrow, they will continue to be blind to the reality of what's happening in the world, and to the true meaning of their faith.
It looks like the Sierra Club leadership has finally decided to oppose war--sort of. It has signed on with other groups, including the NAACP and NOW, in a watered down anti-war message. According to the press release, The new group, Win Without War, represents millions of Americans and seeks to prevent bloodshed and loss of life on all sides by slowing the Bush Administration's apparent rush to war so that U.N. Arms Inspectors have time to carry out their mission.

While I would have preferred a stronger statement, it is good to see that the pressure put on the Sierra Club leadership by the Utah and San Francisco area chapters had some effect. Who knows, maybe I had a little impact, too. When I read about the objections raised by local chapters to the Club's apparent support of war (which, admittedly, was just as watered-down as this new opposition), I had a Sierra Club fundraising request on my desk. I wrote "No more $ until oppose war" on the form (there wasn't room for complete sentences) and put peace signs all over the envelope, and mailed it back without a donation. I mean, you can recycle until the genetically-modified cows come home and you will do less to preserve the environment than stopping just one "little" war. So I'm glad to see the Sierra Club tiptoe over the line from mildly supporting war to mildly opposing it. I've got another envelope on my desk now; I'll give them something now. I mean Bush hates the environment almost as much as he hates Iraq, and the Sierra Club is the biggest environmental group out there. We've got to keep pushing them not to sell out.
Molly Ivins on Bush's new economic team:

According to The Wall Street Journal, "In Dec. 2000, nine months after he took over, Mr. Donaldson told investors that the company's problems with skyrocketing medical costs were finally under control and projected rosy 2001 earnings, driving Aetna's stock price up.

"It turned out that Aetna's system for calculating costs was out of whack (oops!). In April, four months after Mr. Donaldson's upbeat predictions, Aetna announced that earnings would be 'significantly lower' than expected, driving its stock price down by 18 percent in one day.

"Mr. Donaldson had retired 10 days before the profit warning. Aetna's board months earlier had set his compensation for his 10 months of service as CEO in 2000 at a $1 million salary, a $6 million bonus and more than $11 million in restricted stock and options." Our kind of guy.
But what a payoff on the investment! A mere $5.9 million in campaign contributions over 13 years and they got $164 million in the last four years in tax rebates without ever paying taxes. I'm telling you, this guy Mr. Snow is a genius, and I have perfect faith that as the Bush team moves ahead to cut more taxes for the rich, fight a $200 billion war and increase defense spending, the books at Treasury will balance nicely. It all makes perfect sense to me.

One of five technically legal signs that can be posted in a library to warn patrons of intrusions on their privacy. Politics in the Zeros has more.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Harboring Terrorists

Most controversially, at the request of Jeb, Mr Bush Sr intervened to release the convicted Cuban terrorist Orlando Bosch from prison and then granted him US residency.

According to the justice department in George Bush Sr's administration, Bosch had participated in more than 30 terrorist acts. He was convicted of firing a rocket into a Polish ship which was on passage to Cuba. He was also implicated in the 1976 blowing-up of a Cubana plane flying to Havana from Venezuela in which all 73 civilians on board were killed...Bosch now lives in Miami and remains unrepentant about his militant activities, according to Bardach.
-- from a Guardian article about the book Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana, by Ann Louise Bardach. Read the whole artice; it will give you a good idea of the criminal nature of the whole Bush clan. Probably a good idea to read the book, too, but I haven't done that yet (reserve requested at the library).

I may have been wrong months ago when I said that the biggest mistake this country ever made was readmitting Texas to the Union after the Civil War. Florida may have been even bigger. When you've got a chance to lose corrupt Bush-voting cesspools like these, you've got to take advantage. Or, to paraphrase Trent Lott, if the Navy hadn't pulled George H. W. Bush out of the Pacific after his plane went down in WWII, we wouldn't have had all these problems. No October Surprise, no Iran-Contra, no "read my lips", no Panama invasion, no Gulf War I, no Gulf War II, no World War III.

Plane Crashes in Iran, Killing 46

The report said the plane was carrying aerospace experts from the Ukraine. The Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera said there were 46 victims, most from Ukraine. It was not immediately clear why the plane crashed. -- from AP. I should have you trained well enough by now to read between the lines of that one.

Two Wars? No Problem, says Rumsfeld. Happy Holidays. Rummy says we can take on Iraq AND North Korea at the same time.

Asked about Baghdad's assertions that it is complying fully with the United Nations, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "Well, they obviously aren't."

That's what passes for proof in the Bush administration. Obviously.

Promise Breakers

PLA points out how the Bushies broke their promise to the 9/11 families on the makeup of the commission investigating 9/11. The families had been promised that they could pick one of the five Republican members of the commission: they picked former senator Warren Rudman. But all five Republican places are now filled: former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson, Fred Fielding, a former White House lawyer, former Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington and John Lehman, former Navy secretary. No Warren Rudman.

The reason the families wanted to pick Rudman was that they wanted six of the ten commission members to be independent of the White House, thereby increasing the likelihood that key administration figures like Attorney General Ashcroft, CIA Director Tenet, and even W himself might be subpoenaed. Clearly Bush is more dedicated to his cult of secrecy than he is to keeping a promise to victims of his own administration's incompetence. Absolute, total sleazebag.

PLA further suggests that the promise made to moderate Republican senators Chaffee, Snowe and Collins that the porkbarrel provisions added to the Homeland Security bill would be revisited in the new congress in January. Those provisions included the incredibly sleazy protection of drugmaker Eli Lilly from lawsuits over thimerosal, the mercury-containing vaccine additive which may be linked to autism. (PLA is the father of an autistic child and blogs on the issue a lot.)

US jails Arabs who comply with new law

-- Headline from an article in a South African newspaper.
The United States administration has dismissed as a stunt Iraq's offer to admit CIA agents to assist United Nations arms inspectors. A White House official said the burden of proof rested with President Saddam Hussein to show that he was not developing weapons of mass destruction. On Sunday, Iraq said it was ready to answer any questions raised by the US and UK governments on its weapons declaration to the UN. An adviser to the Iraqi leader, General Amir al-Saadi, said all available information had been provided. He invited CIA personnel to direct arms inspectors to any suspect sites. But the White House official rejected the offer, saying Baghdad appeared "not to have made the strategic choice" to renounce weapons of mass destruction. "While we have not given up on disarming Iraq through the United Nations, we are now entering a final phase in how we compel Saddam Hussein to disarm," the official told Reuters news agency. -- from BBC

{SARCASM}Ari Fleischer added that the administration believed that the Japanese surrender on the battleship Missouri in 1945 was "all hat and no cattle," and that the burden of proof is on Japan to show that it has stopped fighting World War II. He also said that it is "way past time" for Great Britain to recognize American independence, and that Paraguay had better come clean about its ladder to Saturn or "face the consequences."{/SARCASM}

The Iraqis have called Bush's bluff, but it looks like Bush will insist on knocking the table over before anyone sees the cards. This is soooooo embarrassing! Why did we elect this clown? (Oh, right, we didn't.)

Last month the Jordanian government asked the Israeli government to formally renounce any idea of mass expulsions. Sharon's government refused.

The first transfer in 1948 was replete with massacres large and small. This one would be even more violent. Palestinians are much more determined not to leave now. On the Israeli side their Prime Minister is a man who has personally led the slaughter of Palestinians for 50 years and who has never suffered any long term political reverses because of it.

Let me lay out a possible scenario, the U.S. invades Iraq, a huge bomb goes off in Israel and the the IDF moves into action. Village after village is marched to the Jordanian border. The Jordanian Army refuses to let Palestinians cross the border and the IDF bombards them until they retreat. Then the Palestinians are driven across the border.

Impossible? A nightmare? Well, who would stop Sharon? Bush might if he thought it harmed the pulverizing of Iraq. If the war's going well, however, would he even lift a finger?
-- from Stanley Heller.
Michigan Democrats and Republicans claim to agree that sprawl is bad. Let's hope they're serious about this: with the state, like every state, facing a budget crisis, I hope they use taxes to discourage sprawl. A big increase in the gas tax and hefty property tax surcharges on greenfield development could make existing communities relatively more attractive to developers and commuters.

At the root of the problem, as I see it, is that communities on just about every scale are in competition with each other, to just about everyone's detriment. Indonesia and Bangladesh takes jobs from Mexico which went there from the US fifteen years ago. Alabama gives Hyundai $126 million in corporate welfare so they'll locate a plant there instead of in Kentucky (Michigan? Forget about it!). People looking for a house are lured to new subdivisions in Livingston County because of low land costs, lower taxes, low gas prices, and no tolls on the highways, to the detriment of Ann Arbor and metro Detroit, despite their existing housing and infrastructure. Competition has its place, but the government must not only provide a level playing field (which it rarely does); it must prohibit competition which is generally bad for the public welfare. Sprawl is one such form of competition. While the farmer may get more for his land than he would otherwise, and the developer makes a lot of money, and many of the people who buy houses there will at least claim to be happy, the overall impact of sprawl on society is negative, so it should be stopped.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

The violence was triggered by a Palestinian uprising for statehood that began in September 2000. -- That's Reuters' summation of the Israel-Palestine conflict: a simple blame-it-on-the-Palestinians. Ignore the ongoing and increasing occupation and the humiliation and inconvenience it causes, the arrests of Palestinian leaders, the killing of civilians. Ignore Sharon's many provocations.

I've been remiss in not giving more attention to the Palestine situation. I tend to rant about what I read in the paper, and this isn't getting much attention anymore. Maybe the Trent Lott thing was intentional just to keep focus off of this brutal issue until the troops are in place and it's a new moon over Iraq. But the fact is that there is a brutal occupation going on in the West Bank and Gaza, and there is talk of relocating the Palestinians (again); basically, ethnic cleansing. Many people in the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace are justifiably outraged over this issue and the fact that the US continues to support Israel monetarily and militarily. Of course there is some blame to be placed on the suicide bombers, but this isn't too far removed from blaming the guy in Tienamen Square who faced down the Chinese tanks. The Israelis have the power, which means they have the power to choose between peace and war. The Palestinians are left with a choice between dying or dying while fighting.

So every day, while the Republicans are picking a new senate leader and Bush tells more lies about Saddam's lies, people are being killed in Palestine by US-funded bullets, bombs and grenades.
In most cases, it is apparent that the INS arrested men who were simply waiting for approval of their green card applications, or those with minor visa problems caused by incompetence in the agency itself, which has been plagued by an inept bureaucracy for years. In but one example, the San Diego Union Tribune reported on July 27, 2002 that the agency recently failed to process more than 200,000 change of address forms and then unceremoniously dumped them in the largest underground records facility in the world – an abandoned mine near Kansas City – putting hundreds of thousands at risk of wrongful arrest and deportation for failing to report a change of address. -- from the ACLU.
(Emphasis added)
Oh give me a home
Where the poppy seeds grow
And Russians and Taliban played
Where never is heard
A woman's word
And the sky's filled with contrails all day.

In their apparently infinite lack of compassion, the INS is deporting a 29-year-old Texas woman to her native Afghanistan, which she left when she was 15. She works in a restaurant in Texas, and is currently the primary caregiver for her elderly mother. Having no male relative to watch out for her in Afghanistan, she will have no rights and will be lucky to survive even a year. Thanks to Ampersand for the link.
Airport security insanity: Airport cops feel up guy's pregnant wife, guy objects, gets arrested. Ugly story from George Bush's America.

How did this guy get into the Bush administration?

He's actually going after the monsters of the highway: (from the NY Times)

"The theory that I'm going to protect myself and my family even if it costs other people's lives has been the operative incentive for the design of these vehicles, and that's just wrong," said Dr. Runge, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (known by its abbreviation and pronounced NIT-sa), in a recent interview.

"Not to sound like a politician, but that's not compassionate conservatism."

Now Dr. Runge's agency is reviewing several safety issues involving sport utility vehicles that could have wide-ranging implications for motorists and automakers. Detroit's Big Three, especially, derive a lopsided share of their slim profits from these vehicles.

Intent as he is on attacking the dangers of S.U.V.'s, Dr. Runge is still part of an administration that is not enamored of regulation. Yet he says that if he cannot address this nettlesome problem, his agency has little purpose.

ABC's 20-20 show last night featured a segment on US Air Force pilots being required to take speed for long flights. The two pilots responsible for killing four Canadians, and wounding eight others, were both wired on speed when they dropped the lethal bomb. While our government is running ads blaming teenagers for funding terrorism and killing children because they smoke some pot, they are at the same time pushing uppers on the pilots of the most lethal machinery anywhere, all to make Afghanistan safe once again for producing heroin.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Eat the State!, from Seattle, has lists of the most overrated and underreported stories of 2002. Well worth reading. Two examples:

Kidnapped Children: So often the story started with "little Suzy disappeared yesterday..." and ends with "Suzy was found early this morning. She had wandered away from her backyard to visit the neighbors..." It was pointless, horrible, and pandered to parents' worst fears. And the "epidemic" of high-profile cases masked that abduction rates were normal this year, and most involve custody disputes, not strangers.

The Smallpox Vaccine Scandal: It's a tale of contractors sucking up taxpayer money to make an unnecessary product that will do more harm than good. The vaccine program was stopped 30 years ago for a reason: more people were killed and permanently injured by the shots than would ever get the disease. Nothing has changed, except the Bush PR/Terrorism campaign. And with a large population of HIV-positive people and immuno-suppressed people with organ transplants, it's sheer murder to set a live vaccine loose. Meanwhile, flu vaccine shortages are an annual ritual, while 20,000 people per year die of it.

A couple of more things about last night's concert: it was a sellout of about 400 people paying on average about $10 per ticket. Thanks to the Ark for hosting the event and to the musicians and everyone else who made it possible. To use some current terminology in a more pleasant context, it was a "dual use" experience. Not only did the event raise thousands for the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, the songs re-invigorated us and inspired us to carry on.
So what is Gore's withdrawal from the 2004 race really about? While his recent criticisms of Bush policies and call for universal health care weren't likely to persuade many of the minority Bush voters to vote for him next time, they also wouldn't have cost him many of those who voted for him in 2000 and were very appealing to Nader voters like me, and especially to the majority of voting-age Americans who don't vote at all. The millions of people working low-wage jobs who have opted to buy food rather than health care for themselves and their children would have had a great incentive to get out and vote for the candidate who would make it unnecessary for them to make that awful choice.

As the WSWS points out, the mainstream media has been lavish in their praise of Gore for dropping out. I've been disturbed by the large numbers of editorial cartoons that I've seen which show either donkeys celebrating or elephants crying over Gore's announcement. This is shear nonsense. Aside from Hillary, Gore is better known than any other potential Democratic candidate. With his apparent new approach to telling it like it is rather than what his advisers said, he was easily the Dems best chance to beat Bush--again. My guess, as the WSWS suggests, is that it was becoming clear that Gore wasn't going to get the financial backing of the corporations if he pursued a populist agenda. A more sinister thought is that he was threatened with attacks such as anthrax letters to his family if he didn't withdraw. If Gore had persisted with his attacks on Bush militarism, his call for universal health care, and had returned to his previous interest in protecting the environment (his sellout on this issue in 2000 is why I voted for Nader instead (and don't blame me, Gore still won Michigan)), he would have been well on his way to becoming our 44th president.

Actually, I think his withdrawal makes him in some ways even more appealing as a candidate. I think maybe Lincoln was the last president we've had (well, perhaps Eisenhower or Carter) who wasn't just drooling over the prospect of being president. The result has been that most candidates, no matter how well-intentioned when they started, have sold their souls to get elected. Gore did this in 2000, and it worked until the court-ordered coup threw him out. But now it seems as though he is trying to buy his soul back, and if he succeeds he would be an excellent candidate for 2004. Maybe we should start a "draft Al" campaign in either the Democratic or Green parties.
I chased Osama all across Afghanistan
From Kandahar to Tora Bor'
Now it's onward to Iraq
Another televised attack
But I ain't marchin' anymore...

-- Corndaddy, from the song "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" which was performed at the concert last night and is on the CD I'm listening to now.

Click here for details.
Excellent, excellent, excellent concert! I went to The Ann Arbor Musicians for Peace Benefit Concert at the Ark in downtown Ann Arbor. I'm listening to the CD now as I write this (it's available at the downtown Borders (at least)--the title is "Tell it, Think it, Speak it, Breathe it."). The musicians were wonderful, some singing original songs, others doing classic anti-war songs like "For What It's Worth," "Down by the River," and "One Love." Proceeds from the concert went to our very own Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace. Check out the concert web page for details on the artists and how you can purchase a CD (if you're in Ann Arbor, Borders is probably the easiest way to get the CD; if you're related to me, check your mail; otherwise call one of the numbers on the concert page).

Ann Arbor's own military unit.

I'm not going to question the people at the 406th Corps Support Battalion: I probably went to high school with some of them, and I wish them all a healthy and fairly boring 2003 (no long trips abroad, for example). Well actually, I do have one question for them, but I think I'll ask my readers first (the two groups are probably mutually exclusive). The question is: what does the motto "First Without Demand" mean? One year free subscription to this blog for the most creative answer.

Friday, December 20, 2002

In America, power isn't earned; it's inherited. Former Alaska senator and new governor Frank Murkowski has just appointed his 45-year-old daughter and fellow Republitron Lisa Murkowski to join Washington's neposquad, joining the sordid ranks of government officials who are there because they chose their parents, siblings or spouses carefully: Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Dole, Michael Powell, Evan Bayh, John Rockefeller, John Dingell, and of course the ultimate crime of nepotism, George W. Bush himself. (I'm sure there are many others that I've missed.)

Wal-Mart Loses!

A jury in Oregon found that Wal-Mart managers had required employees to work overtime without pay, violating Federal labor laws. Wal-Mart is a true force of evil in this country, using its immense size and purchasing power to destroy downtowns, shut down American factories by buying from overseas sweatshops, and lower labor standards for workers. May they lose again, and again, and again...And don't you dare shop there!
Just one more thing to worry about. Just as with the anthrax case, the biggest danger to this country from biological weapons, intentional or unintentional, comes from within this country. All sorts of nasty stuff is stored and/or experimented with at Plum Island in New York, Fort Dietrick in Maryland, the CDC in Atlanta, and numerous industrial and academic labs around the country. In addition, we've got untested genetically-modified organisms infecting crops and other plants, threatening the food supply. Whatever Saddam has hiding under his bed is nowhere near as dangerous to Americans as the stuff in our own backyard.
Merry Christmas, lads, it may be your last. Tony Blair tells British troops to get ready for war. Bloody fool.
Immigrants being released. The feds still won't give precise numbers of those arrested or released, but the article seems to indicate that most of those arrested were being released. Let's hope so. Even so, it's a very nasty slap in the face for people attempting to comply with government orders.
Though only the United States and Russia are known to store the virus, U.S. intelligence long has suspected that Iraq and North Korea also possess illicit amounts. While those in government and in public health circles believe chances of a smallpox attack on America are small, the news of the vaccination program is a stark reminder to everyone that the threat of terrorism where we live and breathe is real nonetheless. -- from an Ann Arbor News editorial.

No! The vaccination program is evidence that our warmongering government wants us to believe that the threat of terrorism is real so they can continue with their agenda of domination and repression, abroad and at home.

In Michael Moore's book Downsize This! and his movie The Big One he shows a photo of the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building after it was destroyed by a truck bomb, and a photo of a Buick plant in his hometown of Flint, Michigan as it was being demolished by General Motors. The two pictures are nearly identical, and Moore asserts that the death toll may be similar as well. While 158 people were killed in Oklahoma City in a very short time, the economic devastation caused by GM's abandonment of Flint would lead to suicides, drug abuse, domestic violence, and health problems which might eventually match or exceed the death toll from Oklahoma. It continued last night, with five killed in shootings in the Flint area.
Lott quits leadership post, but will stay in Senate. Worst outcome for those of us hoping for a Republican crash and burn.

from Paul Conrad.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

More on the immigrant roundups. Atrios has lots of rants about this.
A fellow member of the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace posted this--it's excellent:

How dare the supporters of war call themselves the supporters of the troops? Exactly what rights of the troops do they support?

They support the right of poor young people to put their lives in danger in order to get a college education.

They support the right of the troops to be shipped off with no notice to fight pointless, undefined, unwinnable and imperialist wars.

They support the rights of the troops to be exposed to undisclosed toxins, both of US and enemy government creation, to be given undisclosed medical treatments, supposedly for their benefit, and to be given the runaround when they try to claim they have suffered ill health affects from any of the above.

They support the right of the troops to be killed and injured.

And when the war is over, they support the right of the troops to be homeless, addicted and traumatized.

Those who oppose the war support the right of the troops not to be shipped off to die for US oil interests. Again, how dare they tell us that we don't support the troops?

More on the mass detentions of immigrants:
Lawyers reported crowded cells with some clients forced to rest standing up, some shackled and moved to other locations in the night, frigid conditions in jail cells — all for men with no known criminal histories...
Some, [a lawyer] said, were hosed down with cold water before finding places to sleep on the concrete floors of cells.
-- from the LA Times.

This is Bush's America. It sucks.
Why are the Bushies so interested in a war with impoverished, demolished Iraq when another charter AOE (axis of evil) member is admittedly actively pursuing weapons of mass destruction? The answer is hidden in plain sight:

"Material breach!" says escaped convict and ambassador to the UN John Negroponte. Secretary of State Powell will supposedly say this isn't a trigger for war, which basically means that the weather will be cool in Iraq for a while and we're going to send many more troops over there before IWC day. (That's Imperialist-War-Crime Day.) I once had a boss who was kind of like the Bush administration. No matter what you gave him, it wasn't what he wanted. It wouldn't surprise me if the administration didn't look at the Iraqi documents at all: the script said a)ask Iraq to tell all; b) rush the process; c) reject whatever they deliver; d) go to war.

And another thing! How is Bush supposed to convince the ten non-permanent members of the UN Security Council that the Iraqi document was incomplete when he is withholding two-thirds of it from them?
Congratulations to Oakland, CA and Flagstaff, AZ for passing resolutions opposed to the criminal USA Patriot Act on Tuesday. There are now twenty localities which have passed such resolutions. Ann Arbor was the first!
The vaccine is made from a live virus, vaccinia, a relative of smallpox. It is administered with a special needle that creates an open sore. For three weeks the virus is highly contagious and can cause infection, either in the person who received the vaccine or other people in close contact. -- from a NY Times article about two hospitals refusing to join Bush's smallpox vaccination program.

C'mon, guys, who wouldn't want a little live virus put into them, especially one that creates an open sore and is highly contagious? All for a disease which was eradicated from the planet 25 years ago. At best, this smallpox plan is just another scare tactic, like the color alert system. At worst, it is a plan for genocide, either by innoculating those they want to protect and then releasing smallpox on the rest, or by simply administering lethal injections, something which W had no qualms about in his governor days.
My kind of world leader: check out the sign that South Korea's new president is making with his hand:

Roundup in California

Hundreds of Muslim immigrants have been arrested and locked up in overcrowded conditions in the last few days. Many had come forward voluntarily to register with the INS. According to Reuters:

The arrests were part of a post Sept. 11 program that requires all males over 16 from a list of 20 Arab or Middle East countries, who do not have permanent resident status in the United States, to register with U.S. immigration authorities.

Monday was the deadline for men from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Sudan. News of the mass arrests came first in southern California, which is home to more than 600,000 Iranian exiles and their families.
INS spokesman Arcaute said those arrested had violated immigration laws, overstayed their visas, or were wanted for crimes. The program was prompted by concern about the lack of records on tourists, students and other visitors to the United States after the Sept. 11 hijack plane attacks on New York and Washington.

Islamic community leaders said many of the detainees had been living, working and paying taxes in the United States for five or 10 years, and had families here.

"Terrorists most likely wouldn't come to the INS to register. It is really a bad way to go about it. They are being treated as criminals and that really goes against American ideals of fairness, and justice and democracy," Khan said.

The Iranian protesters said many of those detained were victims of official delays in processing visa and green card requests.

Might as well ship the Statue of Liberty back to France--it doesn't mean anything here anymore. This gets more and more like the Nazis every day.

More on this: LA Times (registration required); the story hasn't made the front web pages of the NY Times or the Washington Post.
Lack of money is forcing states to do what compassion and logic could not: reduce their prison populations.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I got my first hate mail yesterday. Those who have been following the blog closely know that local peace activists, including me, lobbied the Ann Arbor City Council to pass a resolution opposing war in Iraq, which they did on December 2. In the Sunday, December 8 Ann Arbor News the editorial staff wrote a brief "Talk About Town" article which put down the council for passing the resolution, citing a person "at the water cooler" saying he just wished council would get his leaves picked up. The writer(s) snidely concluded by suggesting that the White House doesn't care what the Ann Arbor City Council thinks, and that the council should stick to "local" issues.

Along with several others, I sent a letter to the editor objecting to this piece:

To the Editor:
As a member of the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace who attended the City Council meeting on December 2, I take exception to the "Skip Iraq, Get Leaves" article in Sunday's "Talk About Town." First, there was nothing "aggressive" about our support for the resolution: we assertively exercised our rights as citizens to contact our elected representatives and express our wish that Ann Arbor speak out against war. About 100 of us showed up to show our support, but no one was threatened into anything. No one expressed any displeasure at Mike Reid's thoughtful statement or vote against the resolution. And no one from the “water cooler" or elsewhere showed up to express opposition to the resolution.

As for the remark about council member Herrell and her colleagues being a non-issue at the White House: well, that’s our point. Our national government IS ignoring us. War in Iraq has been estimated to cost $200 billion. Ann Arbor’s contribution in taxes will be approximately $70 million, money which the city could use to improve leaf collection (which isn’t really much of a problem, no matter what the water cooler gang says) or for other, more important services.

Michigan voted for Gore. Both of our Senators voted against Bush’s war resolution in October, as did Representatives Rivers and Dingell. Our voices don’t seem to have gotten through yet, but we’re going to keep expressing our support for peace in any way we can, and we thank City Council for its vote.

This was printed in last Sunday's (12/15) paper. On Tuesday I received a nasty letter from a Dennis Smith of Belleville, Michigan. I don't have the patience to re-type it, bad spelling and all, so I have scanned it. You can read it: page 1; page 2 (you may need to save the images and open them in an image editing program to be able to read them--the pictures themselves are clear, but they appear very small in some browsers).

I tell you, my cat understands the issues better than this yahoo, and she's much nicer. Dennis Smith of Belleville is one child who was definitely left WAY behind in school, and worse, he doesn't care. It is scary to think how many millions of morons like Dennis there are in this country.

I told the staff person of our organization about the letter; she said she and one other member had received similar letters, although theirs were more threatening. We are going to compare the letters tomorrow to see if they all came from the same source.

Do the people of this country have any idea what this country is supposed to be about? A CNN QuickVote poll shows 61% believe the US is justified in denying attorneys to detainees in the war on terror. Go to and try to set the record straight (the poll is near the bottom right of the page).
More on the morons at ProdiGene, who are so excited about making corn produce drugs and other products that they risk making corn useless as food. Just say NO to GMO's!
Excellent article which brings all of the reasons to oppose war in Iraq into clear focus. A sample:

[Debunking the argument that] Saddam's acquisition of "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) would threaten U.S. and world security

This is untenable nonsense, first, because the United States is well able to defend itself and has overwhelming retaliatory capability, and even Israel would threaten a level of retaliation that precludes Saddam's using those weapons offensively against it even if he had them.

What is more, he has no delivery systems that would allow him to reach U.S. targets. He has used WMD in the past, but only when the United States supplied him with and protected his use of such weapons (against Iran, a U.S. enemy), the United States even going so far as to prevent condemnation of Saddam's methods in the Security Council (for details see the Labour Party "counter- dossier," Sept. 21, 2002:

Saddam did not use WMD during the Persian Gulf War, because he knew that if he did so U.S. retaliation would be severe. CIA head George Tenet testified before a Senate Committee in early October that the probability of Saddam's using WMD in "the foreseeable future" was "low," except as a desperation move if attacked. In short, even if Saddam Hussein did possess WMD, he could only use them as a means of self-defense, unless he directed them against a U.S.-approved target, as in the 1980s.

Intrigue in the Senate:

Cogent Provacateur has lots of interesting facts and thoughts about the upcoming Senate LOTTery. Who'll be the Republican leader? Who'll be the Democratic leader? Who'll be Republicans, Democrats, or Independents? Is there a slight possibility that a little real democracy could happen?
At Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio chain, only one of the five people on its compensation committee is free of potential conflicts. The committee has retained — indeed, sweetened — pay packages that guaranteed raises for the chairman, L. Lowry Mays, and his two sons, regardless of company performance. The sons have severance agreements that entitle them to 14 years of salary, bonuses, benefits and stock options if they quit because the board fails to choose one of them to succeed their father as chief executive. Clear Channel said the committee met existing federal guidelines for independence. -- from the NY Times. Of course, if Clear Channel hadn't practically monopolized the radio business they might need to put their money into areas more productive than guaranteeing that the CEO's vile offspring are multi-millionaires for life. And, if they had competition, that competition could be talking about this nonsense night and day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

I'll have to tell you, when the President lines up on something, when he's the power behind something, so many of our guys run to the pole, lower the flag and basically do what he thinks. Frankly, we need to be looking at the substance of things to see if there is something there worth fighting for. If there is, then we ought to take the President on.

Dang! That guy tells it like it is! Thanks to John Ashcroft for that timely advice! Here's another choice Ashcrotch quote in light of the rush to pass the despicable USA Patriot Act:

I spent four hours debating the bill without yielding the floor and signaled my willingness to do so for an extended period of time. When they realized they were not going to be able to carry this through at the high velocity they wanted (you know, velocity is the enemy of reason) they fell back.

Still looking?
So let's review - when the NYSE was being run by Donaldson, one of his executives asked that a discussion of a questionable trading practice be kept from the SEC, the same organization that Donaldson is now being proposed to reform.

When Bill Donaldson comes up for Congressional approval someone should say, "Hey, Bill. How can you run the SEC if it was the SEC that censured the organization you were running for not complying with SEC rules?"
-- from the NY Post, of all places, thanks to MaxSpeak for the link.

Let's face it. The Bushies are going to be unable to find nominees for government posts who agree with their philosophy who are not tainted by bribery, corruption, shady dealings, or racism, because that is their philosophy.

(PS--I like MaxSpeak because he put me on his blogroll!)
Exiles, criminals and spies meet to form puppet government to be imposed on Iraq. The democracy talk, as I'm sure my readers are well aware, is all a crock. This is an oil and power grab, pure and simple, and the long-suffering Iraqi people, like the long-suffering Afghan people, will be suffering a lot longer.
Missile Defense: Welfare for the defense industry. Daddy Bush's Carlyle Group will make out like the bandits they are on this one. As usual with W, logic is nowhere to be seen:

Tuesday, he cited the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America as evidence that the country faces ``unprecedented threats'' and needs the anti-missile shield.

Nineteen guys with boxcutters hijack four airliners. How in the world is this ridiculously expensive boondoggle going to stop that? But Bush has allies on the hill:

Rep. Duncan Hunter, the likely next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, lauded the decision to proceed on missile defense.

"Today, the United States cannot stop a single ballistic missile headed for an American city,'' said Hunter, R-Calif., who chairs Armed Services subcommittee on military research and development. ``The consequences of such an attack would be devastating, and the danger continues to grow as nations such as North Korea, Iraq, and Iran continue to develop, purchase, and sell advanced ballistic missile technologies.''

These guys are nuts. Just absolutely, completely out of their tiny little minds.
If Lott didn't see the storm coming, it was in part because it was so slow in building. The papers did not make note of his comments until days after he had made them. But the stillness was broken by the hum of Internet "bloggers" who were posting their outrage and compiling rap sheets of Lott's earlier comments. It took a few more days before Democrats denounced Lott and demanded a censure. -- from CNN, thanks again to Polizeros for the link.

Gee, now I wish I'd been harder on Lott, so I could take some of the credit! Good going, bloggers!

Monday, December 16, 2002

I've added two new books to my books page: Blue Gold and Suburban Nation. Highly recommended.
I'm trying a little urban improvement: a pedestrian shortcut to downtown--

(Click on picture for details)
AAA uses some of its membership dues to lobby against environmental standards. Go here to complain, whether you're a AAA member or not.

Bill Maher's new book:

Thanks to Sanjay for the head's up!

Pentagon Debates Propaganda Push in Allied Nations. Rather than try to improve our image abroad by improving our behavior, Rummy and others at the Pentagon think that lying would be the better approach. It seems to work on our people here.
So Gore is out for '04, just when I was starting to like him. We're left with a miserable list of Republicrats: Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Daschle, Gephardt, Edwards, Dean, and the worst of all, Lieberman (I absolutely detest him). With these horrible choices, even if we succeed in getting rid of Bush, we still lose. The Democrats had better start pushing Kucinich or Feingold or I'm going to have to go Green.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Political ad-makers take over all of TV advertising: the latest Doonesbury.
Intelligence officials said the presidential finding authorizing the agency to kill terrorists was not limited to those on the list. The president has given broad authority to the C.I.A. to kill or capture operatives of Al Qaeda around the world, the officials said. -- from the NY Times. This isn't good, since the CIA definition of "Al Qaeda operatives" is "whoever we capture or kill." In other words, the CIA is now authorized to kill you, since if they kill you then you were al Qaeda scum. Think of all the money saved on extraditions, lawyers, and due process in general. And this applies to any person in the world. Sounds like an act of terror to me.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Homework Assignment:
  1. Add your name to the letter from Representatives Kucinich, Conyers and others to President Bush asking him to quit interfering in Venezuela. You can go here to do this--scroll down to just below where the representatives signed and click on "add your own comments." (A search for "add your own comments" works as well.) If you don't know why this is needed, read the text of the letter and/or go to the Narco News web site.
  2. Send an e-mail to your senators and representative asking them to add their names to the Kucinich letter.
  3. Send letters or e-mail to German leaders letting them know that there are lots of us here in America opposed to war in Iraq. Apparently W has been suggesting that German opposition to war is somehow "anti-American." Here are the addresses:
    • President Gerhard Schroeder
      Willy Brandtstr. 1
      11012 Berlin

    • Foreign Minister Josef Fischer
      Werderscher Markt 1
      10117 Berlin

Two great comics from Kirk Waters of the Toledo Blade:

Bush girls gone wild! Only $19.95!

Friday, December 13, 2002

Kissinger Quits 9/11 Inquiry!

This is definitely good news. I mean it was possible (and may have happened) that O'Neill, Lindsey, and even Harvey Pitt could have been replaced by people even worse. In Kissinger's case, this isn't possible, at least since Nixon died.

By the way, W, we do have a Nobel-prize-winning former president who would be excellent for the job.

[Later addition:] No, George, I don't mean your Dad. There's isn't a Nobel Prize for Being a Wuss. I'm talking about Jimmy Carter. I realize you were drunk through most of his presidency, but if you have the slightest interest in appearing fair in appointing the chairman of this committee (no sign of that yet, unfortunately), Carter would be ideal.
Bush's new economic advisor attacked by the right for being too much of a fiscal conservative:
Stephen Moore, president of a conservative lobbying group, the Club for Growth wasn't happy about Stephen Friedman's appointment since he was

a board member and donor to the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group that has long annoyed White House officials by warning relentlessly about the danger of federal deficits.

"How in the world can he sell a program that he has never shown any inclination of believing in?" Mr. Moore asked on Tuesday on the Web site of the National Review. "The Concord Coalition represents the Chicken Little deficit-reduction myopia that was once the rage in the Republican Party."

Amazing: A Republican being attacked by other Republicans for being too fiscally conservative. But Friedman has promised to be a good "don't tax, then spend" Bushie.
The gift for someone who has everything--except brains: a talking George W. Bush doll.

According to the article, The Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace ordered two cases but sold them out within days, said spokeswoman Arianna Barrios. Heaven forbid.

What is really behind this smallpox vaccination that the Bushies are pushing? Is there even a hint of a threat out there, or is it, as I suspect, something far more sinister? Smallpox was eradicated 25 years ago, and supposedly the only remaining viruses are at the CDC in Atlanta and in a secure lab in Russia. So is it the CDC or Bush's good buddy Pooty-poot who's going to attack us? Would there be any easier path to a highly targeted un-natural selection than a vaccination program? (Flag on lapel: gets green bottle. Peace button: gets red bottle.)
Bush was campaigning on welfare money. By "on," I don't mean he was advocating increasing it (yeah, right), or even decreasing it. He was spending it! Because he babbled a little bit about welfare reform while campaigning for candidates trying to eliminate it, Bush decided he could get welfare to help pay for his trip:

On stealing from the poor to give to the rich: In an act of reverse Robin Hood effrontery, the president helped defray some of the cost of his nonstop campaigning with an accounting trick that allowed him to dip into the coffers of the Office of Family Assistance by piggy-backing campaign appearances onto trips ostensibly made to talk about welfare reform. That's right, money meant to assist poor families was used to help elect politicians who believe that, even with all the problems facing this country, cutting taxes for the rich should be job one. -- from Arianna Huffington.
In the Should Be None of Our Business department: U.S. Urges Early Elections in Venezuela.
I've had a link to Cogent Provacateur in my list of blogs since I read some fine articles he wrote a few months ago. Then he disappeared from the blogiverse for a while, so I was thinking of replacing him on my list. Well, he's back! In this article he explains how John McCain is in an extremely powerful position at the moment, given Lott's troubles and the Landrieu victory in Louisiana. There's a chance that Republican senator Lincoln Chaffee might switch parties soon. The threat that McCain might go with Chaffee is what gives him the power. If both Chaffee and McCain switched, Democrats would be back in control of the Senate. Since the Democrats desire this and the Republicans fear it, both parties may be willing to do whatever McCain wants. Cogent Provacateur suggests that McCain may be able to pick senate leaders for BOTH parties. How about the seemingly reasonable Lugar or Shelby on the Republican side, and maybe Feingold for the Democrats? Anyhow, read CP's article; it's very interesting.
Racism: Alive and Well in America. Employers were found to be 50% more likely to call applicants with typical white names than those with typical black names, even when the resumes were equivalent. From the NY Times, via Alas, a blog, who got it from CalPundit. I'll leave finding out how CalPundit found out about it up to you.
No good coverup is complete without follow-through: According to the NY Times, the FAA is developing a system to avoid fuel tank explosions like the one that was blamed for the destruction of TWA 800 in 1996. The Times article mentions nothing of the hundred-plus eyewitnesses who saw a missile headed towards the 747 before the explosion or the massive secrecy surrounding the investigation. While there are certainly some conspiracy nuts out there, I've read enough about this one to believe that the plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. See for a whole lot more.
Here's some of Ted Rall's latest op-ed:
As Americans begin their third year of Supreme Court-ordered political occupation, Bush has just signed an impressive new executive order. You may be surprised to learn that it grants him the right to order your execution. No judge, jury or lawyer. No chance to prove your innocence. One stroke of Bush's pen, and bang--you're dead.

Not even your American citizenship, according to Bush, will save your life if and when he decides to kill you. The only reason you're reading this right now--instead of meeting the Entity Formerly Known as God--is that neither Bush nor one of his "high-level officials" has yet signed a piece of paper declaring you an "enemy combatant." Once they do the paperwork, Administration officials assert, they have the right to murder you.

Bush's secret assassination directive surfaced on Dec. 3, when reporters asked about the Nov. 3 Central Intelligence Agency rub-out of alleged Al Qaeda operatives riding in a car in Yemen. Langley fired a Hellfire missile from a remote-controlled Predator drone into the vehicle, blowing up several men. The CIA later discovered that an American citizen, Kamal Derwish, had inadvertently been killed in the inferno.

"No constitutional questions are raised here," asserted National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, stretching credulity more than usual. Officials claim that a loophole in Bush's order authorizing the CIA to "covertly attack Al Qaeda all over the world" validates Derwish's murder. Since this sneaky directive makes exception neither for Americans nor American soil, these guys say, you and I have no more rights than the now-deceased, not-presumed-innocent Kamal Derwish.

-- from Slowpoke.

-- from Mike Thompson.

-- from Boondocks.
This one was predicted: U.S. officials believe Iraq's declaration of its weapons of mass destruction program omits many details about its program and is "far, far, far short" from being a complete report, according to one senior U.S. official. -- from CNN. In a few weeks, Iraq was told to document everything going on in the country that might possibly relate to chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. There was absolutely no possible way to do this, especially when you are being graded by someone who has already written an 'F' on your report card. Imagine how long it would take to prepare such a report in the US. Ashcroft would be blocking every Freedom of Information request, corporations would be screaming about confidentiality, and Cheney would be busy replacing every true statement with a lie. Even the never-ending "war on terror" would be done sooner. Even the investigation into the Wellstone crash. Florida might even have a fair election before that report ever saw the light of day.
Feeling a little frustrated, as I am, about how things are going? Print out the "Smiling White Faces" picture below and pin it to your dartboard. Very therapeutic.
Is it possible Bush is planning on taking on his entire "axis of evil" at once? CNN reports that "Iran has secretly been constructing large nuclear facilities -- sites that could possibly be used to make nuclear weapons." The US has also expressed concern over North Korea's restarting of a nuclear plant which has been closed for eight years. I've also been hearing rumors about possible military action against Iraq. Are we looking at another Bush trifecta?
Of course there's never enough parking! If you gave everyone free pizza, would there be enough pizza? -- One of the great quotes from the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. Here's more:

To what extent is automobile use a "free good? According to Hart and Spivak, government subsidies for highways and parking alone amount to between 8 and 10 percent of our gross national product, the equivalent of a fuel tax of approximately $3.50 per gallon. If this tax were to account for "soft" costs such as pollution cleanup and emergency medical treatment, it would be as high as $9.00 per gallon. [Probably a lot more if wars for oil are included--Bob] The cost of these subsidies--approximately $5000 per car per year--is passed directly on to the American citizen in the form of increased prices for products or, more often, as income, property, and sales taxes. This means that the hidden costs of driving are paid by everyone: not just drivers, but also those too old or too poor to drive a car. And these people suffer doubly, as the very transit systems that they count on for mobility have gone out of business, unable to compete with the heavily subsidized highways.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Smiling White Faces

Funny, George doesn't seem too upset with Trent in this picture, taken the day after Lott's infamous remarks. The Washington Post report was the first I could find about Lott's remarks, and the article came two days after the fact. Lott's remarks were made at the party for Thurmond at the Capitol on Thursday; the next day, the Post reported on the party. It quoted Lott as telling Thurmond that his 89-year-old mother "has a crush on Strom," but makes no mention of the offending remark. Not until the next day, after the party at the White House, did the Post report the remarks.
Blogger Overload: There is so much bad stuff going down today that there aren't enough hours in the day to rant about them. So I'll just present the headlines:
The World Socialist Web Site on the seizure of the Iraq UN documents:
Anyone who believes that Washington would not stoop to forgery to make its case for war is ignorant of American history. In the last Persian Gulf War, the administration of Bush senior launched its attack after having claimed that satellite photos had shown a quarter of a million Iraqi troops massing on the Saudi border. In fact, the photos had clearly shown that Iraqi forces were already withdrawing from Kuwait. The resolution approving the US buildup in the Vietnam War was passed after government officials falsely claimed US Navy ships were subjected to an unprovoked attack by Vietnamese gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin.

{Update, 10:15 AM EST} More from WSWS:
Among the material that is to be edited out of the declarations turned over to the temporary members of the Security Council are lists of weapons manufacturers which supplied the regime in Baghdad and government officials who negotiated these arms deals. This information would make it plain that government officials and corporations in both the US and Britain aided and abetted Iraq’s development of chemical and biological weapons programs when it was at war with Iran in the early 1980s. It is feared that such revelations would undercut the attempt to whip up hysteria over the alleged existence of such programs today.

From a NY Times editorial calling for Trent Lott to be replaced as Senate majority leader:
No one has put more effort than George W. Bush into ending the image of the Republican Party as a whites-only haven.

The sad thing is, it's probably true. Between Saddam bashings, fundraisers, vacations and naps, George has probably put in a solid half-hour's effort into improving the racial image of the Republican Party during the last two years, at least ten minutes longer than any other Republican.

But I'll admit, I still haven't cracked on the Lott issue. I asked my niece if she thought that I was too lenient on Lott when I said we should let this drop after he apologized, and she said I was. I mean, I'd love to see Lott gone, and the stuff he said was awful, but I still hate to see politicians afraid to say anything controversial in public. I mean, if he had been more careful in choosing his words, we would never have had this insight into his racist character. If he loses his job, the other racists in Congress will be much more careful about what they say, and they will be harder to spot. We should be interested in protecting free speech, and that means we should argue with people who say things we don't like, not fire them. Besides, Trent's statement easily wiped out George's half-hour of effort at improving the party's racial image. And who would they replace him with? Mitch McConnell, maybe?

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Anti-personnel land mines. Aargh!

The Pentagon is preparing to use anti-personnel land mines in a war with Iraq, despite U.S. policy that calls for the military to stop using the mines everywhere in the world except Korea by 2003.

To prepare for a possible war with Baghdad, the Pentagon has stockpiled land mines at U.S. bases in countries ringing Iraq, according to Pentagon records. The decision to make the mines available comes despite a recent report by the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, concluding that their use in the 1991 Gulf War impeded U.S. forces while doing nothing to impair Iraqi forces.
-- from USA Today.

Do you think maybe Bush's real goal is to be the worst war criminal of all time?

Feeling very, very frustrated and depressed right now. Our insane fuhrer is talking about using nukes and landmines against a country 6000 miles away which hasn't done us any harm and seems to be bending over backwards trying to avoid war. And polls still show the majority of Americans approve of this half-witted maniac. People who can't locate Iraq on a map but who are sure that Saddam is lying and that Iraq is a threat. People like Bush.
Sorry, frustration making me incoherent...random rants...neurons crossing...sparks to shut off the computer, go to bed, return to my ranting duties tomorrow.
Regarding the ship headed for Yemen that had Scud missiles on it: The Spanish Defense Ministry considers the vessel a "pirate ship" operating illegally.

Those Spaniards are quick learners! They use two warships to intercept an unarmed vessel on the high seas, take its cargo, and then accuse the victim of this piracy of being the pirate. Very Bushian, Spain!
I double-posted something and tried to remove it, but Blogger lets you change something but never delete it. Hmm...
Some cool links:
From my new e-mail friend in Canada:From my niece in California: Men in Hats comic strip which rivals Red Meat for bizarreness. (Bizarresticity?) A sample:

George W. Bush as a boy, perhaps?

And another thing! (I remember thinking this last night, but somehow it escaped my Wolf Blitzer rant.) Wolf says "U.S. military forces have been called into liberate Afghanistan from its Taliban and al Qaeda rulers." This convenient rewriting of history is almost complete--as I recall, the stated goal of the nasty Afghanistan campaign was to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, break up his organization, and prevent Afghanistan from being a haven for terrorists. The barely concealed reason sold to the public was revenge. The highly concealed reason was to establish a military presence in the area as a key to gaining control of Caspian oil and gas resources. Since Osama got away, al Qaeda seems to be as active as ever, and the Caspian oil and gas are still a pipeline dream due to the resurgence of the warlords, the story has been conveniently changed. According to the Bushies, and aided by spineless "journalists" like Wolf, the further destruction of the poorest country on earth was to "liberate" it from the Taliban and al Qaeda. My reading on the situation in Afghanistan is this: for the average Afghan citizen, not much has changed in 25 years, except who is trying to kill you. First it was the Russians, then the mujahadeen, then the warlords, then the Taliban, then the Northern Alliance, then the Americans, and now it's the warlords again. Afghanistan has been "liberated" pretty much the same way the World Trade Center was--kill lots of people and send the rest running, with just a pile of rubble left behind.
Nuclear sabre rattling: The Bush administration is indicating that it may retaliate against any attack on US forces involving so-called weapons of mass destruction with nuclear attacks. This explains why they are so insistent on linking nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons together under the WMD label; they can claim that a nuke killing a million Iraqis is a proportionate response to a mustard-gas shell that kills 50 American soldiers. They hit us with WMD's, we hit them with WMD's. I'm all for the banning of all three kinds of weapons called weapons of mass destruction, but the label is pure nonsense. Many of our larger bombs, such as "daisy cutters" and J-DAM's, are capable of killing dozens or even hundreds of people at a time, so they certainly deserve the WMD label. Small chemical weapons like mustard gas artillery shells are almost certainly incapable of being so deadly unless used in large numbers, and when they are used on a wide scale their users run a significant risk of poisoning themselves. Most biological weapons would be largely useless on a battlefield: making your enemy sick a week from now doesn't do much to save your life right now. The weapons which are clearly in a league of their own are nuclear bombs: they destroy anything and everything within a huge radius of ground zero. Lumping chemical and biological weapons with nuclear weapons under the WMD label is highly deceptive and extremely dangerous, and this recent statement shows why.
Here goes another hour or two of your life spent chuckling: I'll try to get you a charge number for this.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Would a "Liberal Media" ask such a stupid question?
Wolf Blitzer on CNN starts his online commentary with this:

Over the past two decades, almost every time U.S. military forces have been called into action to risk their lives and limbs, it's been on behalf of Muslims, whether to assist the Afghan mujahadeen or freedom fighters during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s; to liberate Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion in 1990; to help Somali Muslims suffering at the hands of a warlord in Mogadishu; to help Muslims first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo who faced a Serb onslaught; or more recently, to liberate Afghanistan from its Taliban and al Qaeda rulers.

So why is the U.S. military despised by so many Muslims?

Well, for starters, it has a lot to do with the fact that Americans are so arrogant and naive as to ask such a ridiculous question. In the first Gulf War, Somalia and the recent war in Afghanistan, most of the people we killed were Muslims. The mujahadeen killed thousands, many of them Muslims, and helped to create the chaos in Afghanistan that made the Taliban possible. Many of these mujahadeen became the core of al Qaeda. I'll confess an unfortunate ignorance about the details of the Bosnia and Kosovo campaigns, but I think that it is safe to say that in none of these cases that Wolf mentions was the US fighting primarily "on behalf of Muslims." It was more protecting or grabbing for oil, maneuvering against the Soviets, or trying for whatever geopolitical benefits Clinton hoped to gain by intervening in Bosnia and Kosovo (again, I am fairly ignorant on that issue). To think that Muslims are going to thank us for stomping all over their holy lands in order to kill other Muslims is near Bushian arrogance.

Wolf goes on to say that the only possible reason he can find is our support for Israel in their subjugation of the Palestinians. He continues:

In the process, the United States gets virtually no credit for helping Muslims, and even when President Bush goes out of his way to express support for Muslims -- as he did the other day during a visit to a Washington mosque -- his actions are dismissed as window dressing.

Imagine that: George went all the way to Washington to visit a mosque, and those ingrate Muslims still aren't happy about our having tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of deadly aircraft stationed all over the middle east, ready to kill tens of thousands of Iraqis at a moment's notice. W's actions most certainly are (very cynical) window dressing, done knowing that media pawns like Wolf Blitzer will suggest that they are substantive policy which will address the legitimate grievances of a billion of the world's citizens.

It takes a while to run down the dirt on all of the sleazy Bush appointees, unless you have someone else do it for you! MaxSpeak lists the "qualifications and accomplishments" of John Snow, W's nominee to be the new Treasury Secretary. Here's just one of many items: Under an employment agreement signed last year, Snow may receive severance benefits worth millions of dollars if he left the company to "fulfill an appointment to public office." He's probably got a similar severance package for when he leaves Treasury, such as a place on the board of the Carlyle Group.
"Honey, I paid to have a woman's hands chopped off in Sierra Leone so you could put this diamond on your hand." "Oh, darling, how wonderful of you!" Diamonds are Forever, and so are the deaths they finance.
Surgeon General's Warning: The corn flakes you are eating may contain one or more of the following:

* AIDS vaccine gp120 -- a glycoprotein
* Blood-clotting agent -- Aprotinin
* Trypsin - Digestive enzyme that can be used in leather tanning or to produce insulin.
* Industrial adhesive Laccase -- an enzyme derived from a fungus

Biotech bonehead Prodigene Corporation has been testing genetically-modified (GM) corn which produces these products, and some of it has jumped the fence and gotten into commercial corn crops in Iowa and Nebraska. See Vegan Blog for details. Thanks to Polizeros for the link.
Trent Lott eats a little Jim Crow: In case you missed it (easy enough, given how the mainstream media ignored it), Lott made the following remark at Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party: "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years." The thing is, when Thurmond ran for president in 1948, the only plank in his platform was "segregation forever, equality never." So Lott's statement seems to say that the country would have been a lot better off with a blatantly racist president who would never have allowed civil rights legislation or school desegregation to happen. Now I'm probably willing to cut Lott a tiny bit of slack on this one: when you're attending a birthday party for some old coot, no matter how nasty he was, you feel a little compelled to say something nice about him. So Trent didn't think too clearly about implications and tried to come up with something nice to say about Thurmond (we've got to realize that that's a pretty difficult task), so he blurted out the nonsense quoted above. Besides, Trent says mean-spirited things just about every day which have a greater impact on people than this. However, I am glad that others, like Al Gore and Jesse Jackson, have jumped all over Lott. Last night, Lott apologized:

"A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embraced the discarded policies of the past," Lott said in a statement. "Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement."

With that, I say, let it drop. There are lotts of good reasons to throw Lott out of the Senate, but I don't think that one retracted statement should be one of them. Public figures in the past twenty years or so have gotten into more trouble by saying one or two controversial sentences than they do by a lifetime of bribe-taking and shady dealing. Think of the German minister who compared Bush to Hitler, or Jimmy the Greek. While I agree that words do matter, by jumping on controversial statements we cause public figures either to talk in public without saying anything (Tom Daschle, for example), or not to talk in public at all (Dick Cheney). Better to question someone if he says something outrageous, and if he properly clarifies or apologizes, leave it at that.
Bush to pick William Donaldson to replace Pitt at SEC. Donaldson was one of the founding partners of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, a New York investment banking firm. The Times article doesn't give much background, except for this interesting tidbit: He served during 1975 as counsel to U.S. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Before that, he was U.S. undersecretary of state under Secretary Henry Kissinger from 1973 until 1975.

So I did a quick google search and came up with the following:

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, now a part of Credit Suisse First Boston, handled
at least one Enron partnership, Whitewing Management LLP. Jeanmarie
McFadden, a spokeswoman for Credit Suisse, declined to comment. Officials at
Lehman Brothers, J.P. Morgan Chase and Salomon Smith Barney, Citigroup's
securities unit, Deutsche Bank and CIBC also declined to comment.
-- from

High-flying risk takers

DLJ probably won't be offended if you call it junky - the firm has profited enormously from underwriting junk bonds (high-yield debt) at a time when other banks thought the category was dead for good. In fact, when the fiefdom of junk bond czar Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert imploded in 1991, DLJ zoomed in and scooped up Drexel's best and brightest, unlike other firms, who shied away from scandal. Today, DLJ is the perennial leader in junk bond underwriting. In 1999, the firm was No. 1 among all underwriters of high-yield debt, lead-underwriting $17.5 billion in junk bonds.
-- from excite.

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette is one company that turns the phrase “big business” into a totally inadequate understatement: they boast total capital of over $3.46 billion and total assets of over $55.56 billion. DLJ is involved in every facet of commercial finance endeavor ranging from investment banking to stock brokering to asset management to institutional equities to emerging markets to any other imaginable aspect of commercial financial operation. The many separate businesses that comprise DLJ fall into three groups: Financial Services, Capital Markets and Banking. -- from

Good pick, George. You're sure to restore confidence in the market by hiring Mr. Junk Bond (shaken and stirred).

Monday, December 09, 2002

Raising the bar on arrogance. Unbelievable!

Deputy Russian Ambassador Gennady Gatilov said the United States had taken the council's lone copy to Washington where it would make duplicates for distribution to the four other powerful council members. -- from the NY Times.

The US has the only copy of Iraq's report on weapons! Once again, the Bushies are just daring the rest of the world not to trust them. I sure don't. The US is supposed to make copies for the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council, while the other, non-permanent members get censored copies.

There are many amazing things about the Bush administration: its continual lack of concern for appearances may be the most amazing. They continually accuse others of actions that they themselves are clearly guilty of, they make statements that could easily be turned around against them, they are brash and arrogant, all apparently comfortable knowing that no major media outlet or world leader is going to point out the obvious. Taking the only copy of such an important document into private possession, even briefly, is so incredibly arrogant that it leaves me gasping. Even the slightest desire to appear honest and aboveboard would have led to the documents being immediately copied in the presence of representatives of all Security Council members, so that if any question arose over key passages that independent verification would be available. Also, I suspect that most Security Council members have better Arabic translators than the US does. Even if the Bushies are not blatantly criminal in altering the documents before copying them, this still leaves the possibility that they will select key passages from the documents to release to the press as reason to go to war before the other countries have an opportunity to review and possibly refute the US interpretation.

Update (about 9:40 PM EST; part above was posted about 4:30): the NY Times has clarified its article, sort of, so I'll try to clarify mine. Apparently, the inspectors still have the original document submitted by Iraq. The inspectors had originally intended to review the document for several days, possibly censoring certain sections of it, before releasing copies to Security Council countries. The Bushies, anxious to get their war on, didn't want to wait that long, so they pressured the inspectors into giving them a copy. As best as I can tell, the US is the only Security Council member that currently has a copy, but is supposed to make copies for the other four permanent Security Council members (Britain, France, Russia, China). The ten non-permanent SC members will only see edited versions at a later time.

It still seems, however, that the Bush administration will be reviewing the document in detail at the same time as the inspectors do, and before any other member of the security Council. While this probably removes any suspicion of actually altering the document, it still allows the administration to orchestrate the PR at a minimum. It also raises the possibility that they have been bluffing on having evidence, but can now use this document to "create evidence." For example, the Iraqis might state that at some location they have shells which formerly contained mustard gas, but from which the mustard gas and detonators have been removed. The administration can point the inspectors to that site, claiming that these shells are chemical weapons, since the gas and detonators could be replaced quickly. There might be traces of gas in the shells, and they could claim this as evidence as well. I don't know if this is actually the plan, but I'm certainly not the only one who is going to suspect it. The appearances are bad, and any "discoveries" of forbidden weapons will be tainted by suspicion, as opposed to if the inspectors had found the weapons without US orchestration.

So while I may have been overly alarmist, I think the basic premise is correct: the US is attempting to hijack the interpretation of the documents in order to go to war.
Judge rules that Cheney doesn't have to turn energy task force records over to GAO.
While I think that it is reprehensible and inexcusable for the Veep from the Deep to conduct important public business in secret, I also think that there is a proper response on the part of Congress: "We won't pass anything without knowing where it came from." And Cheney's energy plan speaks for itself: accelerated assault on the environment for the benefit of energy companies. So far, Congress hasn't passed much of it, and it should stay that way. Even more than most vice presidents, Cheney deserves to be ignored. And, as I've said before, if they won't tell you what you ask for, just assume the worst.
The Navy knows which side its bread is buttered on: Presenting the USS George H.W. Bush nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which, along with the USS Ronald Reagan will soon be patrolling the waters of the world, changing regimes at will. Honoring the dishonorable: a longtime American tradition.
Merry-go-round: Turkish government officials have indicated that their support for a war on Iraq may depend on the US helping Turkey gain admission to the European Union. (I guess the Miss World crown wasn't enough.) They suggest that Bush make a few phone calls, twist a few arms. How's this for a scenario? W makes the calls, and France, Germany and other EU countries agree to support Turkey's entry into the EU--on condition that Bush drop his Iraq war plans. With any luck, this would cause Bush's head to explode.
The cost of a war in Iraq has been estimated at between $100 and $200 billion. How much is $100 billion?
  • Three times what the federal government spends on K-12 education.
  • Enough to provide health care to all uninsured children in the US for five years.

That's leaving a whole lot of children behind so we can go kill other children.
A few weeks ago, I quoted from an editorial that was in the Salt Lake Tribune (unfortunately, my link to the article doesn't work anymore). The author had an interesting prediction for what might happen if Mary Landrieu were re-elected to the Senate from Louisiana, which she was on Saturday.
Prediction: There is a 50-50 chance that McCain and Chaffee will switch parties and a similar chance that McCain will become the Democratic standard bearer in 2004.
It will be very interesting if this is correct, since it would give the Senate back to the Democrats again.
Technical Difficulties: Check it out! (Make sure your speakers are turned down low.)

Steve Osborn, a member of our Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, posted the following reply to the "Technical Difficulties" animation:

"Technical difficulties" . . . I think there's some truth to that. Following closely the news, especially foreign news on public radio sources, I gain the impression that the Administration is HEARING the many criticisms, and for various reasons is now seeking (without saying so) to DELAY any war with Iraq, and to MINIMIZE any conflict that might take place. The UN, our Allies abroad, Arab nations, and certainly Iraq as well, are taking steps that amount to the same drive to delay and minimize any war. Surely the squabbles that will be developing over weapons inspections and questions about what they find will have that effect, too. To delay and minimize would be great opportunity for PEACE: just push those efforts farther, and it can amount to NO WAR at all. Only trouble is, it isn't really peace, either. But maybe it provides TIME during which real peace efforts can grow. Quote me, if it helps, from my recent letter-to-editor:

The US is certainly powerful enough to NOT LET SADDAM DRAG THE WORLD INTO WAR (as the President seems to imply when he says the choice is up to Saddam), regardless of the outcome of weapons inspections or arguments, or Saddam's games. Already the world's superpower, the US has the ability to get WHATEVER FUTURE WE MIGHT CHOOSE TO PREPARE FOR, with its power, great resources of diplomacy (if we'd use them) and reserves of good will still left for us in some parts of the world. So let's be preparing for peace to come, not war which no one wants and which even yet can be stopped, whatever Saddam's choice might be. Let's claim the choice for peace as OURS to make.

I think Steve may have a point: The Iraqis have said that they don't have WMD's, and the war hasn't started yet, so far as I've heard. Is it possible that W could be smart enough to declare victory at this point and bring the troops home? Use some of that old Dubyatalk, such as: "Since Mr. Saddam Hussein has decided to change his evil ways and disclose these disclosures, I think it is a sign that the regime change has changed. This was what we were goaling for all along." I doubt it, but if so, that's great.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Adding on to secure, undisclosed location? Bunker-buster tests? Cheney's dinner didn't agree with him? Secret explosions occuring at the Veep from the Deep's mansion. The Post said neighbors have several theories about what the project might involve. One is that the government is building a security bunker for Cheney. Another is that it is digging tunnels to spy on nearby embassies. Still another is that a helicopter hangar is being built.

ACLU anti-Ashcroft TV ad! View it here, requires Real Player.
Less than two weeks after Thanksgiving, Miss Turkey becomes Miss World. Do you think is one of those "behind the scenes" things that the Bushies did to get Turkey's support for war on Iraq? I think it's possible, although she is very pretty.

I refuse to comment on whether the founders of any major religions would consider marrying her. I will say, however, that Jesus wouldn't drive at all--he'd take the bus!

Ten Reasons for Hope, from Bernard Weiner. Mostly based on the hope that more and more people will come to the realization that "this time Bush has gone too far."
The water showdown begins, and it doesn't look like tax cuts are going to solve this problem. According to this article California's share of Colorado river water is going to be cut back significantly at the end of the year:

Assistant Interior Secretary Bennett Raley told the Imperial Irrigation District Thursday that his office is determined to reduce the state's overuse of Colorado River water quickly so other Western states can get their full entitlement. "I'm not here to tell you what to do," he said. "But doing nothing is not an option. The (Interior) secretary is going to enforce the law of the river."

Southern California must quickly decide how to allocate the water between the farmers of the Imperial valley and the industries and residents in the LA/San Diego area. I remember driving across the desert in California years ago where the highway parallels the aqueduct which carries water from the Colorado River to LA. There must be huge losses to evaporation in that high-temperature, low-humidity environment. I'm not familiar with the whole history there, but the politics behind such a massive subsidization of one area over another must have been, and continue to be, incredible. The sheer arrogance required to take on such a massive engineering project to benefit one location at the expense of another is staggering. I am reminded of the story of the Chicago River, which back around 1890 used to flow through Chicago and into Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, the river served as the main sewer for Chicago, which fouled up the Lake Michigan water that Chicagoans were drinking and trying to swim in. Rather than treat the sewage properly or come up with a reasonably environmentally sound plan, Chicago decided to reverse the flow of the river! With a lot of digging they were able to connect the Chicago River to the Des Plaines river a few miles inland. The Des Plaines flows to the Illinois river, and eventually to the Mississippi. So rather than have their sewage wash up on their own beaches, it now flowed the other way, down to Peoria (which had far fewer representatives in the Illinois legislature than did Chicago). To some extent I find large engineering projects to be fascinating, but many, maybe most, have been done strictly to benefit some powerful group of people at the expense of some other, less powerful group, not to mention the environment. Dams flood some areas to benefit others; freeways destroy cities to benefit suburbs; and aqueducts take water from where it was supposed to be to where those in power want it.

People have poured lots of money into developing both the cities of southern California and the agriculture of the Imperial valley. They're not likely to give up what they've built without a fight. This is going to be real ugly, and those of us in states that have adequate water have to be ready for states that don't trying to take it from us.

As usual, when it comes to water issues, Politics in the Zeroes is the place to go for more information.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

I just watched the HBO movie "Live From Baghdad" about CNN's coverage of the (first) Gulf War culminating in the live reporting during the first night's bombing by Bernard Shaw. Peter Arnett, and John Holliman. Pretty well done, I'd say. Michael Keaton did a good job playing a brash CNN director in this apparently close-to-the-facts movie. Hopefully there won't be a need for a sequel.
Excellent Op-Ed from USA Today (thanks to Sanjay for sending me the link). Excerpts:

Imagine a place where in two short years a budget surplus has been magically transformed into a deficit. A place where millions of people are jobless, many of them laid off in the past 24 months. Homelessness is steadily increasing, millions of children go to bed hungry and terrorists have recently attacked, killing thousands. Then imagine that this country's king decides to deny government workers scheduled raises and new government workers civil service protection, but confers upon the appointed members of his court bonuses of up to $25,000. This is the America we all live in.
As so many of us struggle to make ends meet, afraid that it may be our job eliminated in the next round of layoffs, Bush is using our tax dollars to award his political appointees, many of whom already make more than $100,000 a year. Exactly what have they done so well? Couldn't be the economy, justice system, environment, equal protection. The administration says many of those rewarded are involved in counter-terrorism activities. Funny; I haven't been able to find one person who feels safer now than he or she did a year ago.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Ari says size doesn't matter

From CNN: Mohammed Aldouri, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, said the report will contain a "very huge" amount of information as demanded by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously in November, calling for Iraq to disclose its weapons of mass destruction programs and to disarm.

It will have "all the information they need," Aldouri said Friday.

But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer reiterated the Bush administration's warning not to trust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who he said has a proven record of lying to the United Nations.

"Sometimes one of the best ways to hide or to deceive is to come out with such a voluminous document that it makes people miss the things that aren't in there," he said. "Just because Iraq turns over a phone book to the United Nations doesn't mean that nobody inside Iraq has an unlisted phone number."

"We won't be fooled ... into thinking that the size alone dictates that Iraq has complied," Fleischer said.

Ari knows whereof he speaks. Much of the repressive crap in the USA Patriot Act went unread and unnoticed until it was too late. Most people in Congress didn't read it before voting for it. An excellent way to hide and deceive, two of the very few things that the Bush administration is good at.

'Tis the Season for some New Words to Old Tunes

Jingle Bells
Spread out through the fields
Where tiny children play
Some blow up right now
Others hide in prey
Where they’ll all end up
The pilots never know
But one thing seems for certain that
One day those bombs will blow. Hey!

Cluster bombs, cluster bombs,
Cluster bombs away
Oh how sick it is to drop
The cluster bombs that way, Oh!
Cluster bombs, cluster bombs,
Cluster bombs away
Kids will die or lose an eye
So George can have his way.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Washington are
Bearing bombs and tanks from afar
Killing, maiming, regime cha-a-nging
So we can drive our cars. Oh-oh…

Cars to work and cars to school
Cars to go to swimming pools
Cars polluting, drive-by shootings
SUV-driving fools.

We are Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush
We have all the buttons to push
Mass destruction, re-election
By kicking Saddam’s tush. Oh-oh…

Cars to shop in, cars for love
Cars to run down peacenik doves
Oil guzzling, global sizzling
All for the cars we love.

Little Drummer Boy
Here they come again kaboom-ba-boom-boom!
B-52’s again kaboom-ba-boom-boom!
They carpet bomb again kaboom-ba-boom-boom!
Knock out our water again kaboom-ba-boom-boom!
We’ll drink sewage again kaboom-ba-boom-boom!
This is our doom.

The First Noel
The first Gulf War the president did say
Unto gullible media like the heads on Today
That Saddam was a threat and must be put away
So they bombed and they killed but Saddam’s there today
Gulf War, Gulf War, Gulf War, Gulf War
Does anyone know what we really fight for?

And now, in the White House, there’s a new Bush at play
He says the same crap about Saddam Hussein
That he’s evil that he’s bad that he threatens us all
That more Iraqis must die so we can have their oil
Gulf War, Gulf War, Gulf War, Gulf War
Does anyone know what we really fight for?

Twelve Days of Christmas
On the 12th day of Christmas my government gave to me:
12 months in jail
11 degrees warming
10 less amendments
9 crappy judges
8 more toxins
7 unlawful combatants
6 GMO’s
4 01 k’s
3 Henry K’s
2 jobs left
and a Department of Homeland Security!

Trent Lott is blocking the 9/11 victims' family members' choice for a Republican representative on the commission investigating the terror attacks, according to the New York Times. The family members, with the support of Republican senators McCain of Arizona and Shelby of Alabama, are requesting that former New Hampshire senator Warren Rudman fill one of the five Republican slots on the commission. They feel that Rudman is independent enough to avoid pressure from the White House on key votes in the commission and would be willing to vote with the five Democrats. Apparently Lott agrees, and doesn't want that to happen. I think he's afraid that the commission will subpoena the president and ask him the dreaded question: "What do you know, and when will you ever know it?"
From an article about the Norwalk virus on cruise ships:

Last month, 150 people became ill from Norwalk infections after eating in a Salt Lake City restaurant called the Chuck-A-Rama.

If you eat at a place called "Chuck-A-Rama," what do you expect?

Ted Rall calls George W. Bush a liberal, in that he is changing things very quickly. W ran as a "compassionate conservative," which couldn't be farther from the truth. One good point that Rall makes is that W is actually raising taxes for most Americans: The budget crises facing almost every state and local government in the country will result in higher taxes at those levels. And most state income and sales taxes are flat rate, not progressive, so these affect poor and middle-class people as much as rich people, while W's federal tax cut went mainly to the rich.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Just in case you haven't noticed, our president is a blithering idiot.
"For the sake of peace, he must disarm. There are inspectors inside the country now and the inspectors are there not to play a game of hide and seek. They're there to verify whether or not Mr. Saddam Hussein is going to disarm," the president said. -- from AP.

Funny, I thought they were there to inspect for weapons. I have been opposed to war with Iraq for several reasons: The casualties it will cause to Iraqis and to our military personnel, the possibility that it will spill into a larger war, the likely increase in terrorism, the continued overuse of automobiles made possible by US control of Gulf region oil fields, the blatant deception and hypocrisy of the Bushies (claiming it is part of the war on terror, attacking Iraq when Pakistan is more dangerous and Saudi Arabia more guilty), the renewed brain-dead jingoism of the American public, and probably a couple of other reasons I can't recall now. But there is one additional reason climbing my list which I should probably be ashamed of, but I don't seem to be right now. Bush wants this war so bad that he is going to cry if he doesn't get it. And I really, really, really want him to cry.

Bob's fearless prediction: Remember how Harvey Pitt announced his resignation at about 7 pm on election day? I predict that his replacement as Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission will be announced on the same day as the war against Iraq starts for real. (If we peaceniks somehow stop it, Pitt will remain at SEC at least until the next election day.) And it's going to be bad, very bad. Rudy Giuliani? Jeffrey Skilling? Donald Trump? Jack Welch? Michael Milken? Neil Bush? What's Charles Keating up to these days? After the Kissinger thing, I wouldn't rule out any of them. And because of the war, it won't be front page news anywhere, and it won't even make the crawl on CNN or FoxNews.
Calling up the reserves! "Activating reserves is significant because it will affect every community in America, and it sends a signal that the president is serious," a senior military official said. Let's see a show of hands: Anyone who has thought at any time in the past ten months that George Worthless Bush isn't serious about going to war with Iraq?

While I'm a member, I've had my doubts about the Sierra Club for a while. Their glossy magazine often features articles on fuel-guzzling adventures to Nepal or Siberia, and at one of our local group meetings a member described his recent kayak trip in Greenland. He flew to Iceland and hired a pilot to fly him to Nowhere Fjord on the edge of Nothing province in frigging Greenland. I saw his slides: there is NOTHING in Greenland, and he wasted a lot of fuel to confirm it. The Sierra Club continually compromises on important environmental issues, taking a "moderate" stance against radical right-wing corporations and government officials. The result is that the environment gets ruined ever so slightly slower than it would have without Sierra Club input. If we're lucky. Now, the Sierra Club is threatening to kick out its Utah chapter for taking a stance opposed to war in Iraq!

I get letters asking me to join liberal/humanitarian/environmental groups and/or contribute money daily. I give money to lots of them, but I think the Sierra Club will be left out next time. No group can say it is protecting the environment if it doesn't oppose war. Thanks to Polizeros for the link.
WSWS raises questions about the bombing and missile attack in Kenya. One interesting point is that the Israeli airliner may have been equipped with anti-missile decoys and used them, explaining why it escaped. This also raises the question of who actually was responsible, since Bush and Sharon have been quick to link the attack to al Qaeda in a fairly obvious attempt to link the US "war on terrorism" with the Israeli war with the Palestinians. The article leads into all sorts of dark corners, such as allegations that Israel's Mossad intelligence service had framed Libya in the bombing of a disco in Berlin in 1986, which led to US retaliation against Libya, which was supposedly the motive for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scottland in 1988. I chased that trail a ways, and a Time Europe article suggests that more likely had Iranian, Lebanese, or Syrian roots than it did Libyan, and that a CIA hostage-release team on the flight may have been the main target. I wish I had more time to chase this stuff down! The general impression I get is that most of what we "know" about world events is propaganda from the CIA, Mossad, and who knows who else. US attacks on Grenada, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq again all seem to be facts, but the real reasons for them are hidden in a deep fog far removed from the stated reasons.
W's Christmas wish: from Mike Thompson.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Congress Rewards Corporate Tax Evaders With Our Money: Arianna Huffington (which would be a great name for a character in a children's book) spotlights the provision of the Gestapo (aka Homeland Security) bill which allows corporations that have moved their headquarters offshore to avoid taxes to bid for Homeland Security contracts.

NAFTA-required tariff reductions in January will put many thousands of Mexican farmers out of business. They will be forced to compete with US agribusinesses producing cheap food supported by direct Federal subsidies and indirect subsidies from artificially cheap water and oil. Of course, once Mexican farmers are out of business, the US firms will be able to raise the prices while still enjoying the subsidies. Many more Mexicans will be competing for the low-wage jobs in the maquiladoras along the US border, lowering costs for US-based industry even further. The whole process is brutal and ultimately unsustainable, but as long as profits for the next few quarters look good, neither the corporations nor their lackeys in the Senate and the Bush administration seem to care.
News on Padilla isn't that good after all:
U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey ruled that supposed (rumored? alleged?) "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla can finally meet with lawyers. But he also said that the president's "commander in chief" hat and a few precedents from World War II trump the bill of rights when it comes to our liberties:
"The president ... has both constitutional and statutory authority to exercise the powers of commander in chief, including the power to detain unlawful combatants, and it matters not that Padilla is a United States citizen captured on United States soil,'' Mukasey wrote. -- from the NY Times.

Judge Mukasey was appointed to the District court by President Reagan in 1987. He has been involved in many of the secret detention cases since 9/11.
Russia and India oppose unilateral action and threats
Russia and India have supported efforts to ensure Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction but have expressed concern about possible U.S. military action. Putin and Vajpayee, in a wide-ranging joint declaration, urged efforts to spur Iraq to cooperate with international inspectors searching for weapons of mass destruction. "Both sides strongly oppose unilateral use or threat of use of force in violation of the U.N. charter as well as interference in the internal affairs of other states,'' they said. "A comprehensive settlement of the possible only through political and diplomatic efforts in strict conformity with the rules of international law and only under the aegis of the United Nations.'' -- from Reuters via NY Times.

Hey George, those are two REALLY BIG countries with plenty of weapons of mass destruction. Both are far more concerned about another WMD club member, Pakistan, than they are about a few barrels of mustard gas that Saddam might have hiding under his bed. Both clearly have their own agendas and are happy to use your "war on terrorism" nonsense to support the suppression of rebels within their borders, but you are playing with serious fire if you ignore what these countries have to say.

Kick 'em while they're down. This is probably the start of Michael Moore's next movie: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development is withdrawing most of the $1.3 million in Community Development Block Grants for Flint, saying they didn't file paperwork on time. If you've seen Moore's films "Roger and Me" and "The Big One" then you know that Flint has been devastated in the last twenty years by the departure of most of the General Motors factories in the city. GM moved the plants not because they weren't making money in Flint, but because they could make even more in Tennessee, Texas, Mexico, and elsewhere with cheap non-union labor. These moves have been aided and abetted by the "free-trade" policies of the Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush administrations, with no regard for the well-being of the people of Flint. Now the small amount of Federal aid to the many poor people in Flint is being cut. Compassionate conservative, my ashcroft.
Federal Court says Padilla can meet with lawyers. You can bet that Ted Olson and the Constitution Demolition Crew will be immediately appealing this decision, enabling them to keep so-called "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla locked up without rights for a few more months. To review the case: Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in May in Chicago, and has been held without charges or access to lawyers since then in a Navy brig.
Cartoons you won't see here: Any of the thousands of stupid drawings showing a smiling Saddam Hussein leading dumb-looking UN inspectors past poorly-disguised rockets and barrels. Frankly, as a deceiver George W. Bush is much more adept than Saddam, and as a dupe the US public is much more gullible than the UN inspectors. So all you right-wing cartoonists can draw your own conclusions without me.

from Joe Heller in Green Bay.

from Mike Peters of Dayton.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Turning the tables on Poindexter: SF Weekly's Matt Smith suggests that people use their sources to look closely into the lives of Admiral John Poindexter, his wife and neighbors, to make a point about Poindexter's office of "Total Information Awareness" in the Pentagon. This site follows through with detailed maps locating Poindick's house and names and phone numbers for his neighbors.

I think maybe similar attention is due to some of the others who are making America a scarier place to live: Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Ted Olson, Michael Powell, Henry Kissinger, etc. Maybe we buy them gift memberships in the socialist and communist parties, give donations to Islamic charities in their names, subscribe them to radical publications, etc. Maybe create web pages that link their names with al Qaeda, terrorism, Iraq, and so on. Nothing illegal or false, just an attempt to make their names show up in google searches or in all sorts of strange places in the "Total Information Awareness" databases. A web page that says simply "Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Ted Olson, Michael Powell and Henry Kissinger are probably not members of al Qaeda, nor are they working for the government of Iraq." Place a few hundred thousand such pages all over the Internet and many searches for "al Qaeda" or "Iraq" will mention their names. Hey, this blog is a start!

On the flip side, our best protection from TIA is probably not in trying to hide but in trying to be overly visible. Don't be afraid to check out library books on Islam or ones which have a radical message: just check out a lot of them, and throw in some right-wing crap (Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson) and some off-the-wall stuff from time to time. You don't have to read it--just drop it in the book return on your way out of the library. Find a right-wing website and click on all of the links, following their links. Again, you don't have to read the crap, but anyone reviewing where you've been on the web will be confused. (Well, he visited "Bob's Links and Rants" forty-seven times, so he's probably a left-wing pinko, but then again he visited "George W. Bush is God" fifty-one times, so maybe he's okay.) Make investigating YOU a difficult and tedious task.

This is really more an idea I'm throwing out there rather than a suggestion: what do you think? Are we better off paying cash for everything, web surfing anonymously on public computers only, and in general making ourselves as invisible as possible? Or do we follow my idea above and make ourselves so visible in so many ways that we overload their system, making any attempt to figure us out from their databases difficult? Or just go on as we have been and take our chances that we don't get that knock on the door at 3 am or have our lives otherwise destroyed by the new Gestapo?
Hillary worried about SAM's: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton sent letters to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and NY Governor George Pataki asking for increased security against portable surface-to-air missiles like those fired at an Israeli airliner in Kenya last week. The CNN article also quotes James Kallstrom, director of New York State's Office of Public Security, about SAM security issues.

This is bizarre, to say the least. A SAM was most likely to blame for the explosion of TWA 800 in 1996, regardless of what the FBI said. The FBI's investigation was headed by none other than James Kallstrom, and the conclusions it reached were based much more on political pressure from the Clinton administration than on evidence which included over 100 eyewitnesses who saw something like a missile heading toward the plane shortly before it exploded. I also think that a SAM is one of the most likely causes of the crash of American flight 587 in November 2001. Of course, al Qaeda probably has access to plenty of Stinger SAM's that we provided them back in the '80's when we called them "freedom fighters" instead of "terrorists." In reality, their methods haven't changed, only their targets.
We're headline news on Common Dreams! Ann Arbor's passage of an anti-war resolution is the top story on the Common Dreams website today.

That's my knee behind the crossed-legs-with-boots holding the sign.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Washington Post accuses Ashcroft of breaking the law:
Today, at the Justice Department, some laws are more equal than others. One 36-year-old U.S. law can be broken, it seems. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who is sworn to enforce all laws, has told federal employees that they can bend -- perhaps even break -- one law, and he will even defend their actions in court. That law is known as the Freedom of Information Act. -- from the Washington Post.

This secrecy crap is all nonsense. The government insists that its intrusions into personal privacy shouldn't bother people who "have nothing to hide," but then Ashcroft and the other Bush Obscurians try to hide all of the public's business from the public. They claim the information could be of use to terrorists: it would probably be of much more use to the public in preventing terror attacks. It's our information--give it to us! Ashcroft may well be the scariest "human" being since Hitler. (And don't tell me to tone down the hyperbole--I already did! I was tempted to say Ashcroft is the scariest person ever, period.)

Bush and Cheney have itchy trigger fingers. "In the inspections process, the United States will be making one judgment: Has Saddam Hussein changed his behavior of the last 11 years? Has he decided to cooperate willingly and comply completely, or has he not? So far the signs are not encouraging," the president said. -- from the NY Times. I'm losing track, but wasn't the goal two weeks ago to "disarm" Saddam? And a month or two ago it was regime change. Now it's "change his behavior." The excuses change constantly: what Bush wants doesn't. It was war then, it is war now. Whatever Saddam does or doesn't do hasn't and won't affect this in the slightest. Only political resistance here at home has delayed the war until now, and only a huge resistance effort can stop it now. Get your city council to join Ann Arbor in passing a resolution. Go to a protest march. Write congress--again. Start your own blog. Do whatever you can to stop the madness here and now.

Good News!!!!

Ann Arbor just became the 22nd city in the nation to pass a resolution opposing war in Iraq. I just returned from the city council meeting where the resolution was passed by a 7-1 vote. I was one of probably 50 people from the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace there supporting the council. Newly-elected council member Kim Groome, for whom I campaigned (thank you very much), was a co-sponsor of the resolution. I'm an Ann Arborite and proud of it!!

There was some discussion as to whether this was an appropriate action for a local government to take. The general opinion was that it is a local issue since taxes from Ann Arbor which go for war will not come back to benefit Ann Arbor; that Ann Arborites who serve in the armed forces may be casualties of the conflict; and that the possible increase in terrorist attacks resulting from the war may impact here as well. The resolution was worded as support for our congressional delegation, Senators Levin and Stabenow and Representatives Rivers and Dingell, all of whom voted against the Iraq war resolution in October. No opposition to the resolution was expressed from the public, and even the one council member who voted against it said he basically agreed with what it said but did not feel that it was an appropriate local issue.
As we recover from Thanksgiving feasts, we should recall the true meaning of Thanksgiving: military victory, commercialism, and football. See this article to find out how much your teachers lied to you about this gluttonous holiday. An excerpt:

The Confederate Congress proclaimed separate thanksgiving observations in July 1861 and again in September 1862, after the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. And it wasn't just the South. President Lincoln similarly set aside days of thanksgiving in April 1862 and August 1863 to commemorate the important Union victories at Shiloh and Gettysburg. These ad hoc decrees fell in some cases on Sundays (a common day for religious observance) and in other cases on Thursdays. Lincoln declared yet another Thanksgiving Day in 1863, for the last Thursday in November—and it has been celebrated annually in late November ever since. In his proclamation he drew attention to affairs both national and international:

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

It was not until 1931, when President Herbert Hoover made his proclamation, that any of the presidential declarations of thanksgiving mentioned the Plymouth Pilgrims and the 1621 harvest festival as a precursor to the modern holiday. By this time, yet another willfully amnesiac reinvention of Thanksgiving was under way.
Good article on growing anti-war movement from the Washington Post.

Many of those speaking out against an attack on Iraq represent large numbers of Americans, including John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO (with 13 million members); the National Council of Churches (which represents 36 Protestant and Orthodox denominations, with 50 million members); and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (the leadership arm of 65 million Roman Catholics).
We're Number One!
Eugene, Oregon is the 15th local government in the United States to pass a resolution opposing the USA Patriot Act.
1. Ann Arbor, Mich.
2. Denver
3. Amherst, Mass.
4. Leverett, Mass.
5. North Hampton, Mass.
6. Cambridge, Mass.
7. Carrboro, N.C.
8. Boulder, Colo.
9. Madison, Wis.
10. Berkeley, Calif.
11. Alachua County, Fla.
12. Takoma Park, Md.
13. Santa Fe, N.M.
14. Santa Cruz, Calif.
15. Eugene

And tonight, Ann Arbor will hopefully become the 22nd city to pass a resolution opposing war in Iraq. The Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace will have a large contingent at the City Council meeting to help the council members decide how to vote.
Politics in the Zeros ideas for peace:
  1. Help create a Palestinian homeland that all the players can live with. Note I said "help create", not "force everyone with the barrel of a gun". There will be no peace in the Mideast until there is a Palestinian homeland. If we genuinely work towards this goal, and mean it, we defuse huge amounts of tension and hostility.
  2. Price gas at $4-5 a gallon. Europe already does this. Use the money to move as fast as possible to high mpg cars and renewable energy. That way we won't need outside oil nearly as much. Plus we will no longer have a reputation for being energy pigs.
  3. Stop sticking our nose in everyone's business. North Korea has nukes? Let China deal with it - if they choose to. They are next to North Korea and have far more at stake than us. It is not our problem. China has been around several thousand years more than us. I'm guessing they can deal with it. Maybe better than we can.
  4. Repeat the above logic for the multitude of other countries we insist on telling what do to. If they need help, let them ask. Then be helpful, not imperial.
  5. Apologize for the blind idiocy of our foreign policy that has aliented most of the planet.

Thirteen die in Michigan Terrorist Attack. Whoops, sorry, that would be front-page national news. Thirteen people shot by sniper in Michigan. Sorry, wrong again. That too would make headlines. At least 13 killed in holiday crashes statewide. Yeah, that's the story. It's a minor story on the Ann Arbor News and Detroit Free Press web sites, and there is nothing to be seen about the nationwide auto carnage from the weekend on the CNN or NY Times websites. The nationwide death toll must have been in the hundreds--probably about the same as the death toll from Bali, Kenya, the snipers, and the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon combined, but it doesn't rate as a news story because it happens all the time. And "Gulf War II: This Time It's For Oil (Again)", if "successful" will enable this carnage to continue for a few more years by keeping gasoline prices low.

Got Crap?

Shoppers like these did their best to negate the effects of "Buy Nothing Day" efforts, supporting the global economy of pollution, waste, and exploitation. Way to go, ladies. Save those bags--you'll be hauling most of that crap out to the curb in a few weeks, about the time the bills arrive. CNN refers to the Friday after Thanksgiving as "Black Friday." They don't say why, but apparently a whole lot of crap went out the doors on this most recent Black Friday.

More red meat: Back in March, Paul Krugman quoted an environmentalist who said that the push to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was "red meat for the right." That is, the benefits of drilling, even for the oil companies, are minimal, but the Bushies push for it just to piss off environmentalists for the enjoyment of right-wingers. You've got to believe this was one of the main reasons for selecting Henry Kissinger to chair the 9/11 investigation.
They did not die in vain: Ted Rall's tribute to 9/11 victims.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Last things first: The Hyatt Kabul, backed by your tax dollars (including terrorism insurance). Thanks to Politics in the Zeros for the link.
Another item not to buy: bottled water. Huge multinational corporations like Vivendi, Suez (both French), CocaCola and Pepsi are using their obscene profits from bottled water to fund their quests to privatize the world's water. Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani brands are basically filtered tap water with a few chemicals added, and are not necessarily cleaner or safer than tap water. Their prices, however, are sometimes 10,000 times that of tap, and their packaging contributes to pollution in both its manufacture and disposal. If your tap water tastes bad or seems unsafe, work the local system to improve it, buy a filter or boil it if you have to, but don't give your money to companies that want to monopolize control of the world's water. (Source: Blue Gold, a book by Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke.) Companies like Monsanto, Cargill, ConAgra and Archer-Daniels-Midland want to control the world's food supply, and the four corporations mentioned above, along with a few others, want complete control over our water. If they control our food and our water, they control us. The Bush administration is doing everything it can, which is a lot, to assist these monsters. We must make sure that we don't aid them by buying their bottled water. (I'm going to have to give up my Diet Coke addiction, too, which will be much harder for me than giving up meat was.)
If you want to get to the bottom of something, you don't appoint Henry Kissinger. If you want to keep others from getting to the bottom of something, you appoint Henry Kissinger. -- Maureen Dowd's latest column. I guess I feel the same way about this as I do about Veep from the Deep Cheney's refusal to turn over information about his energy plan task force. If they are this intent on hiding the facts, they must be bad. Let's just assume the worst, get on with the impeachments, and re-ratify the Constitution.

By the way, by "assume the worst," here's what I mean: "Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, since you have refused to provide us with any information regarding your 'energy task force' or your actions/inactions prior to 9/11/01 which may have contributed to the loss of almost 3000 lives, we will assume that the 'energy task force' consisted of the two of you, Ken Lay of the Enron Corporation, and Osama bin Laden of the al Qaeda organization. We assume that you met to plan the attacks of 9/11 as a means to establish a massive US military presence in southwest Asia and the Middle East in order to control the massive quantities of oil and natural gas in the region, and as a way to restrict civil rights in this country and gain complete political control. Now, we don't know these things to be facts, but given the massive coverup of information that should be public that you have undertaken ever since you arrived in Washington, this scenario seems as likely as any other. You have one week to produce every document that we have asked for and to open up the file cabinets at the White House and the Pentagon. Otherwise, we will start impeachment proceedings and begin preparing for criminal and civil actions as well. So what are you waiting for! Run! Go get those documents and bring them here! NOW!"