Bob's Links and Rants -- Fair and Balanced

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

Saturday, 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.

They hate us for our freedoms:White House to Propose System for Wide Monitoring of Internet.

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!

Oakland to join Ann Arbor and other cities in opposing the USA Patriot Act.

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!

Donkey Man and Hillary take on the Cheney time machine!

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.