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 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.

Download and print a Holiday poster for Peace for your window or door.

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.