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, January 11, 2003

Anti-war conference at UM is excellent! I was there at the law quad today from 9:30 until 6, hearing several great speakers. Madhi Bray, currently the Executive Director of the Freedom Foundation, gave an inspired opening speech which reminded many of Dr. Martin Luther King. Michael Albert and Rahul Mahajan were also excellent. More later.

Friday, January 10, 2003

USA! USA! USA! We're number one! Time magazine has an online poll asking the question "Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?" And currently the winner is, with a clear majority, the United States of America with 51.4%. Iraq is a distant second at 32.1%, and North Korea trails in third with 16.5%. As of now (8:40 PM EST Friday) the polls are still open, so go to Time's web site and vote!

If you're in the Ann Arbor area, go to the People's Food Coop on Fourth Avenue and buy a few "No War" yard signs ($3.55 each).

In the sixth coalition strike day in southern Iraq since the beginning of the new year, six U.S. and British warplanes dropped bombs Friday on several Iraqi communications sites south of Baghdad in what the Pentagon said were defensive strikes. -- from CNN.
Defensive strikes? Communications sites 6000 miles from the US? We passed absurd back around the time of the 2000 election, were well into bizarre during the Afghan war, but now we've moved completely beyond the scope of the thesaurus. Future generations will call something this ultra-bizarre "bushian," but I hope for their sakes that they won't have anything around then to which to apply it.

I went to the INS office in Detroit this afternoon to protest the government's requirement for male immigrants from selected countries to register their whereabouts, and just to be a witness. There were maybe about 40 of us outside with signs, songs and chants (many were there much longer than I was). INS officials were being very supportive--their PR guy came out and talked with us several times, and even took pictures of the group with the cameras people brought. As far as we could tell, most immigrants who went in were coming out. Apparently they had a huge turnout yesterday, and the INS staff worked until 11 trying to complete the processing without holding anyone overnight. I was told by someone in the group that the INS didn't succeed in finishing the processing last night, but they let the immigrants still there go, asking them to come back next week (I guess they met the deadline by showing up).

I'm not an authoritative source, but it appears that the protests in LA in December may have had a good effect and caused the INS to approach this nasty issue in a more thoughtful and humane way. I also got the impression that the INS has lots of employees who do have the best interests of the immigrant population at heart and are trying their best to reconcile that with the nasty orders they have been given.

We have met the enemy, and it is the Detroit News. Detroit's answer to the New York Post and Fox News, the paper ran an editorial Wednesday attacking Arianna Huffington's wonderful new anti-SUV ads. Fortunately, Brian Dickerson, a columnist for the more liberal Detroit Free Press, defends Huffington against the ravings of the News.

Actually, I don't buy it anymore. Powell may be the most dangerous of the Bushies. He has actual credentials (unlike most of the Bushies who have resumes with lines like "nearly bankrupted company after I got the job through political connections), and he speaks in complete sentences in a competent manner, making what he says sound reasonable. None of the others in the Bush gang can pull that off. And I've been waiting two years for Powell to go off, screaming "this is all nonsense, all lies!" Either he is the toadying house slave Harry Belafonte said he is, or else the Republicans have some remote-controlled electrode attached to his privates that they activate any time he deviates even slightly from the party line. He's a lost cause either way, and very dangerous, because there are a lot of people out there who figure that what Bush is doing couldn't be that bad because Powell is going along with it.

Another Day, Another Citizen Denied His Rights

In a new court filing, the government disclosed that Mr. Padilla has been under interrogation by military personnel for several months. The government said letting a lawyer into the process "would threaten permanently to undermine the military's efforts to develop a relationship of trust and dependency that is essential to effective interrogation." That could "set back his interrogations by months, if not derail the process permanently."

In the brief, released late last night, the government also said that interrogations of detained enemy combatants have produced vital intelligence and "helped to thwart an estimated 100 or more attacks against the United States and its interests since Sept. 11, 2001."

"A relationship of trust and dependency that is essential to effective interrogation?" I don't think Hitler or Stalin could have said it better. And what are they most likely to come up with once they've got Padilla reduced to a pathetic mushroom by months of "effective interrogation?" Probably the names of a few other people, who would then be extended the same rights now guaranteed to all Americans: none at all.

As for the "100 or more attacks," I flat out do not believe them. The Bush administration will say or do anything to pursue its goals, regardless of the Constitution, regardless of the truth.

A little hope, maybe? There appears to be strong sentiment in the British government for at least delaying war in Iraq until the fall, giving the inspectors more time to inspect. Unfortunately, the Bushies don't seem to care what anyone thinks.

Outside of W himself, this couldn't happen to a better guy. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon apparently illegally got a campaign loan from a South African to repay a loan he illegally got from an American. And when he started talking about it on Israeli TV, he was cut off because he was violating a prohibition against "spreading election propaganda" within a month of the election. It would be so cool if somebody cut off Bush during his state of the union rant later this month. Maybe all the networks can run reality shows instead.

Just in case there was any doubt that the Bushies intend to go to war no matter what, read this:
DONALD RUMSFELD, the US Defence Secretary, has suggested that Washington may present little or no evidence of Iraq’s quest for banned weapons even if President Bush decides to go to war.
Mr Rumsfeld said that disclosing such details to the world or even to the United Nations Security Council could jeopardise any military mission by revealing to Baghdad what the United States knows.
When weighing the demands of global opinion for proof of President Saddam Hussein’s danger against the need to shroud an effective military campaign in secrecy, Mr Rumsfeld said the safer option would be for the US to tilt towards secrecy.
-- from the London Times.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Busy weekend on the peace & justice front:
I'm going to the INS office in Detroit tomorrow either to try to help immigrants required to register, to protest the policy, or maybe both. And then on Saturday and Sunday there's a big anti-war conference at the University of Michigan with some fairly famous speakers. I'll be attending most of the sessions and helping at the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace table.

And then there's next weekend! I'll be getting on a bus Friday (1/17) at 9 pm, riding all night to DC, protesting all day, and then riding back on Saturday night, arriving back in Ann Arbor about 6 am Sunday morning. It looks like this rally in Washington and the simultaneous one in San Francisco are going to be huge. And there will be other rallies around the country for those who can't make it to the big ones. The time is now. If we don't stop the war now, lots of people will die, and the Bush warmongering machine will roll on.

Great new anti-SUV ads!

Thanks to columnist Arianna Huffington for the concept and getting this going! You can view the ads and donate $ needed to get them on the air here. Here are the scripts:
Ad 1:
"I helped hijack an airplane. I helped blow up a nightclub. So what if it gets 11 miles to the gallon. I gave money to a terrorist training camp in a foreign country. It makes me feel safe. I helped our enemies develop weapons of mass destruction. What if I need to go off-road? Everyone has one. I helped teach kids around the world to hate America. I like to sit up high. I sent our soldiers off to war. Everyone has one. My life, my SUV. I don't even know how many miles it gets to the gallon."


Ad 2:
"This is George. This is the gas that George bought for his SUV. This is the oil company executive that sold the gas that George bought for his SUV. These are the countries where the executive bought the oil, that made the gas that George bought for his SUV. And these are the terrorists who get money from those countries every time George fills up his SUV."


I just finished reading the book Ecotopia, by Ernest Callenbach. Written in the 1970's, it describes the nation of Ecotopia, composed of Washington, Oregon, and northern California, twenty years after its secession from the United States in 1980. Ecotopia, as the name implies, has devoted itself to sustainable stable-state systems. Private cars have been eliminated, sustainable energy sources are used exclusively, and all sorts of novel living and social arrangements are to be found. The economy is sort of a combination of socialism, with a guaranteed subsistence income for all, and Adam Smith-style capitalism: lots of small producers in free and fluid competition. Lots of very interesting and appealing ideas, most from what would be considered left-wing thinking, but some more traditionally right-wing ideas are here too, like a school voucher system. The book is presented as a series of articles written by a visiting New York reporter, interspersed with his diary entries during his visit.

I previously read Callenbach's Ecotopia Emerging which describes the political, social and scientific developments which led to Ecotopia's secession. It is written in a more standard novel format, following the actions of a few key characters as the Pacific Northwest moves toward secession.

I wouldn't rate either book as a great novel, but they are excellent Utopian books with lots of intriguing ideas. Easy and entertaining to read.

The centerpiece of the economic plan proposed by Mr. Bush on Tuesday is the elimination of taxes on stock dividends, an unconscionable giveaway to the rich at a time when so many working Americans are struggling merely to survive. The plan contained no job creation program, no investment in the nation's critical infrastructure needs, and no assistance for the many states sinking in the quicksand of mammoth budget deficits.

Ms. Escobar has taken the president's policies somewhat personally. "I'm a Republican and I'm not ashamed to say it," she said. "But I'm very upset that they have done nothing for us."

I asked if she had voted for Mr. Bush. "I sure did," she said, then added, "I feel very betrayed."
-- conclusion to Bob Herbert's column in today's NY Times.

Blix says that no "smoking guns" have been found in Iraq.
The chief inspector has said that he thinks that Iraq's document was "incomplete," but that they have found no evidence of WMD's in Iraq. But our bizarre government continues to play games:

Secretary of State Colin Powell told The Washington Post for Thursday's editions that in the past few days, the United States has begun giving inspectors ``significant intelligence'' that has enabled them to become ``more aggressive and to be more comprehensive in the work they're doing.'' But Washington is holding back some information to see if inspectors ``are able to handle it and exploit it. ... It is not a matter of opening up every door we have,'' Powell said.

I think that the Republicans are using basically the same methods with Iraq that they used to impeach Bill Clinton. With Clinton, they somehow managed to link Paula Jones' lawsuit with Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation, forcing Clinton to testify about his Lewinsky affair, which was not illegal and had little to do with the Paula Jones' case (being consensual and all) and nothing at all to do with Whitewater. By asking him enough questions under oath, they were able to trap him in a lie. The Republicans probably knew the truth all along. With Iraq, the Bushies have forced to submit a "complete" accounting of anything and everything that might possibly be used in the development of three completely different types of weapons. No other country in the world has been forced to do this, and few countries could do it without omitting something or making some false statements, whether intentionally or not. Certainly a similar document prepared by the US would be millions of pages in length and couldn't possibly be either complete or completely accurate. Furthermore, it must be recalled that Iraq has been under duress the entire time: if at any point they actually admitted to having weapons programs (which I will certainly admit they might), the war would have started shortly thereafter. I don't think that Saddam Hussein is the only person in the world who might lie to avoid immediate destruction. But the Bushies are holding an ace-in-the-hole, supposed evidence of something to do with WMD's which Iraq still has. Still caring slightly about appearances, they would prefer that the inspectors stumble across a "smoking gun," but they are ready to pull out the ace at the last minute to preserve their war, which is what they've wanted all along.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Bill of Rights (revised):
1. You can have all the guns you want.

(see for explanation.)

W''s proposed dividend tax elimination hurts states twice:
The states fear they will lose in two ways. Because state income tax laws are tied to the federal law, the states will also stop taxing dividends. In addition, the removal of taxes on dividends makes stocks a more attractive investment vehicle than the traditionally tax-free municipal bonds. Over all, the officials said the potential losses far exceed the $10 billion in state aid included in Mr. Bush's 10-year plan, much of which is earmarked to help the unemployed. -- from the NY Times.

My suggestion to the states: Immediately implement your own dividend taxes, independent of federal taxes. Tax dividends from foreign or off-shore based corporations at 80%, and US-based corporations at 60%. The 60% could be reduced by the amount of income taxes collected by the state from employees of those corporations. For example, K-Mart is a Michigan-based company, with several hundred probably decently-paid employees at their headquarters in Troy, and a few thousand low-wage employees at numerous stores and warehouses around the state. Michigan K-Mart stockholders would pay 60% taxes on their dividends. Then, after April 15, the state would total the amount of state income taxes collected from K-Mart employees and refund all or some portion of it to the stockholders, thereby reducing or even eliminating the 60% tax. This would be a huge incentive for Michigan investors to invest only in companies which not only employ lots of people in Michigan, but also pay them well. It would also say to Ford and GM that if they want to move any more of their operations out of Michigan, they will have to answer to a large base of Michigan investors who will have their taxes go up (including the corporate executives who own lots of stock).

Bush has renominated Charles Pickering of Mississippi to the federal appeals court in New Orleans. Pickering has some segregationist baggage, like Trent Lott, which caused his nomination to be rejected by the then Democratic-controlled judiciary committee last year. But, as Paul Krugman concluded yesterday, this administration sees every problem not as something to be solved, but as an opportunity to advance their agenda:
Officials said Tuesday that the White House had wavered on whether to renominate the judge. One important reason Mr. Bush decided to go ahead, they said, was a belief that he had accumulated substantial political capital on race by severely criticizing Mr. Lott's comments on the Thurmond candidacy. "By taking on a member of his own party over race," one official said, "he gained significant moral standing that can be used to argue that Judge Pickering is a good man whose record should not be distorted."

At least now we know what the Lott thing was all about. In addition to having an ugly cracker known for burning crosses replaced by a handsome doctor known for saving lives, Bush claims the added benefit of being free to nominate racists because he has shown that he was, once, tough on a racist ( though not tough enough to ask him to leave the Senate completely, which might have put the Democrats back in control).

Molly Ivins on W's economic plan: good reading. Molly seems too smart to be a Texan!

Peaceful Tomorrows in Iraq: Relatives of 9/11 victims are meeting with relatives of Gulf War victims in Iraq this week. The Peaceful Tomorrows group opposes using the deaths of their innocent relatives as a reason for killing other innocents.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was inaugurated as President of Brazil; the United States snubbed the celebration of Brazil's first leftist, working-class president by sending the U.S. trade representative, Robert Zoellick, whom Lula dismissed as "the subsecretary of a subsecretary of a subsecretary," after Zoellick warned that Brazil would be exporting its products to Antarctica if it didn't support President Bush's economic policies. Shortly after its first cabinet meeting, the new Brazilian government announced that it will postpone a planned $760 million purchase of military jets and said that the money could be better spent fighting hunger. "If at the end of my term of office," Lula said in a speech, "every Brazilian has the opportunity to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then I will have completed my mission in life." -- from Harper's Weekly.

I'm not sure what we can do, but we need to somehow support Lula, Chavez and other world leaders who are willing to take a stand against Bush's policies and the oppression of globalization. I'm going to search around a bit to find out exactly what Zoellick said. I'm sick of the "either with us or against us" approach that the Bushies take on every issue, with neither negotiation nor agreeing to disagree as options.

There are so many things wrong about Bush's economic plan, but here's one area where he's clearly being deceptive, not just callously ignoring the poor to benefit the rich. In his speech yesterday he said (I added the emphasis):

We are increasingly a nation of owners who invest for retirement and the other financial challenges of life. One-half of American households own stock, either directly or through pension funds. And we have an obligation to make sure, now more than ever, that American investors are treated fairly. We can begin by treating investors fairly and equally in our tax laws. As it is now, many investments are taxed not once, but twice. First the IRS taxes a company on its profit, then it taxes the investors who receive the profits as dividends. The result of this double taxation is that for all the profit a company earns, shareholders who receive dividends keep as little as 40 cents on the dollar.

Double taxation is bad for our economy. Double taxation is wrong. Double taxation falls especially hard on retired people. About half of all dividend income goes to America's seniors, and they often rely on those checks for a steady source of income in their retirement. It's fair to tax a company's profits. It's not fair to double tax by taxing the shareholder on the same profits.

So today, for the good of our senior citizens, and to support capital formation across the land, I'm asking the United States Congress to abolish the double taxation of dividends.

But the fact is that dividends earned in 401(k)'s will still be taxed when they are withdrawn (usually in retirement), just as they are now:
Today, a senior administration official confirmed that the government would not change the rules and that stock dividends earned in 401(k) plans would indeed be taxed as ordinary income when it is withdrawn. "They didn't get taxed when it was going in," said the official when asked about the issue today. "It all works out in the end," she said. "Trust me." -- from today's Times.

So W mentions investing for retirement as a reason for eliminating dividend taxes, but the truth is that the proposal doesn't benefit 401(k) or other tax-deferred retirement investments like IRA's at all--they will still be "double taxed". The only benefits go to those who have stocks providing current income, who are almost entirely in the top few percent of the population in terms of wealth. And "trust me?" Are you kidding? When the "senior administration official" said "they didn't get taxed when it was going in," she is talking about employee or employer contributions to 401(k)'s, which are not dividends. The fact is that the corporations in which the 401(k) money is invested will pay taxes (at least as much as any corporations do, but that was yesterday's rant) before issuing dividends to the employee's 401(k) account. When the employee withdraws the funds, including those dividends, at retirement, they will be taxed again as ordinary income. It all works out in the end: the rich get richer, everyone else starves.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

My niece Beth and her friends in California are raising money to go to Chiapas, Mexico in April to learn about the Zapatista movement and try to be of assistance. (I may end up going with them!) She has asked me for some fundraising ideas. I've given her a couple of ideas, but here's another: Dear readers, please send her some money!

Beth Goodsell
152 Tennyson Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301-3738

You can read more about the Chiapas trip here.

Call those Congresspeople! You can call the Capitol switchboard at (800) 839-5276 toll free and just ask to be switched to your representative or senator. I just called all three and expressed opposition to war in Iraq and to Bush's proposed elimination of dividend taxes. But there are many choices available! Pick from among the following, or make up your own! (Be sure to include the no war thing, though.)

  • No war in Iraq.
  • No elimination of dividend taxes.
  • Stop supporting Israeli occupation of Palestine.
  • Stop interfering in Venezuela.
  • Stop interfering in Columbia.
  • Repeal the USA Patriot Act.
  • Repeal the awful pork added onto the Homeland Security bill, especially the protection of Eli Lilly from lawsuits.
  • Stop the assault on the environment and make regulators like EPA Director Whitman do their jobs.
  • Provide public funding for election campaigns.
  • Enforce anti-trust law, especially with regard to the media.
  • Raise CAFE mileage standards or raise the federal gasoline tax substantially.
  • Insist that the government honor freedom of information requests as the law requires.
  • Stop the unnecessary harrassment of Arab-Americans and other immigrants.

From yesterday's White House press briefing, taken straight from the White House web site:
(The questioner is Helen Thomas of Hearst News. She deserves a Pulitzer!)

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon and happy New Year to everybody. The President began his day with an intelligence briefing, followed by an FBI briefing. Then he had a series of policy briefings. And this afternoon, the President will look forward to a Cabinet meeting where the President will discuss with members of his Cabinet his agenda for the year. The President is going to focus on economic growth, making America a more compassionate country, and providing for the security of our nation abroad and on the homefront.

And with that, I'm more than happy to take your questions. Helen.

Q At the earlier briefing, Ari, you said that the President deplored the taking of innocent lives. Does that apply to all innocent lives in the world? And I have a follow-up.

MR. FLEISCHER: I refer specifically to a horrible terrorist attack on Tel Aviv that killed scores and wounded hundreds. And the President, as he said in his statement yesterday, deplores in the strongest terms the taking of those lives and the wounding of those people, innocents in Israel.

Q My follow-up is, why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the question is how to protect Americans, and our allies and friends --

Q They're not attacking you.

MR. FLEISCHER: -- from a country --

Q Have they laid the glove on you or on the United States, the Iraqis, in 11 years?

MR. FLEISCHER: I guess you have forgotten about the Americans who were killed in the first Gulf War as a result of Saddam Hussein's aggression then.

Q Is this revenge, 11 years of revenge?

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, I think you know very well that the President's position is that he wants to avert war, and that the President has asked the United Nations to go into Iraq to help with the purpose of averting war.

Q Would the President attack innocent Iraqi lives?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President wants to make certain that he can defend our country, defend our interests, defend the region, and make certain that American lives are not lost.

Q And he thinks they are a threat to us?

MR. FLEISCHER: There is no question that the President thinks that Iraq is a threat to the United States.

Q The Iraqi people?

MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraqi people are represented by their government. If there was regime change, the Iraqi --

Q So they will be vulnerable?

MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, the President has made it very clear that he has not dispute with the people of Iraq. That's why the American policy remains a policy of regime change. There is no question the people of Iraq --

Q That's a decision for them to make, isn't it? It's their country.

MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, if you think that the people of Iraq are in a position to dictate who their dictator is, I don't think that has been what history has shown.

Q I think many countries don't have -- people don't have the decision -- including us.

A random thought from a teatotaler: I donated some money to the Fraternal Order of Police to send some kid to a circus or something. In return, they sent me a bumper sticker which said
"Stay Alive
Drink and Drive."
I took a white address label sticker and put it over "Drink and" so that it now reads "Stay Alive Don't Drive." I put it on my bulletin board, since if I put it on my bumper, hardly anyone would see it (my car stays in the garage about six days a week). But now I'm thinking, doesn't that make sense? I know the statistics that drinking is involved in half of all traffic fatalities, but that means, for starters, that the other half happen without drunk drivers. Furthermore, just making all of the drivers be sober wouldn't guarantee that none of those "alcohol-related" accidents would occur. I'm guessing the overall lives saved would be substantial, but nowhere near the total number of "alcohol-related" fatalities. So keeping drunks off the road would only reduce traffic fatalities by somewhat less than 50%. Now, getting drivers off the road would save all 41,000 lives a year! Not to mention the reduction in pollution, the increase in open space due to sprawl reduction, better physical fitness, no more oil wars...

So while in no way demeaning the fine work of Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other such groups, I think maybe we should start an anti-driving group. And of course we'll need a cool acronym! Here are some ideas, and suggestions are welcome!

  • Bob's Against Driving (BAD)
  • Nature Saved-Yes!-No Cars (NSYNC)
  • Guys Opposing Driving (GOD)

Iraq War Could Put 10 Million In Need of Aid, U.N. Reports. The result of the first Gulf War and the years of sanctions has been to make Iraq's population almost totally dependent on the government for food. The war and its aftermath will make bringing relief to starving Iraqis nearly impossible, and their plight will be made worse by the spread of disease caused by the further destruction of electrical, water and sewer infrastructure.

Isn't there a law against this? Espionage, or treason maybe? Cuban-American disc jockeys at a Miami radio station used tapes of Fidel Castro to call Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez, who apparently believed that he was actually talking to Castro. After a brief conversation, one of the DJ's cut in with this charming message for Chavez:

"Get out of Venezuela, (expletive) terrorist! ... Animal, assassin, (expletive)!''

Apparently the DJ's got lots of congratulatory phone calls from Miami's Cuban community, who have way to much influence in American politics. Without the Cuban-American vote, there's no Bush in the White House and no Bush in the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. Not to mention all of the links to the Contras, the possible connection to the Kennedy assassination, etc. While most Latinos in this country are treated like third-class citizens (or non-citizens) by the Republicans, some of these right-wing Castro-haters in Miami are getting away with murder--literally.

North Korea is like no other country in the world today. It was eerie to interview groups of North Koreans and then hear them praise Kim Jong Il in unison, like synchronized robots, a feat of hagiography unmatched except in Washington when White House aides give interviews. -- from Nicholas Kristoff's latest NY Times op-ed, which is really scary reading.

The conclusion of Paul Krugman's latest column about W's proposal to eliminate dividend taxes:
No doubt the final version of the "stimulus" plan will contain a few genuine recession-fighting measures — a child credit here, an unemployment benefit there, a few crumbs for the states — for which the administration will expect immense gratitude. But the man in charge — that is, Karl Rove — is clearly betting that the economy will recover on its own, and intends to use the pretense of stimulus mainly as an opportunity to get more tax cuts for the rich.

Ideology aside, will these guys ever decide that their job includes solving problems, not just using them?

Good question, Paul. I'm pretty sure the answer is "no."

Trying to protect the world? Stay home, you terrorist! A Green Party member was prevented from flying to Prague by the FBI.

Monday, January 06, 2003


TO: George, Dick, Donald, Ari
RE: Put up or shut up!

Guys: you are making us look ridiculous. You keep saying, as Ari said today, that "Iraq has still not shown signs that it will disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction." Well, Iraq has said on many occasions that it has no weapons of mass destruction. That is their response. If it is true, there is no possible way for them to show signs of disarming themselves of WMD. You claim to have evidence that they do have WMD. Call Mr. Blix, tell him where they are, get him to fly in unannounced with CNN to document it, and show the world that you are telling the truth and Saddam is lying. And do it now. If you don't, I and the rest of the world will see that you are the ones who are lying, and any war against Iraq will be seen as the act of naked agression that it is. You have accused Saddam of playing games for years. Well, this is a very silly game with very dangerous consequences that you are playing, and you need to put up or shut up right now or all those flag-waving Americans who have supported your wars up until now will start to see you for the frauds that you are.

Revving up the old cycle of violence: Suicide bombings in Tel Aviv, arrests, rocket attacks and other military action by the Israelis.

Official GOTP Message

Get out the protest, that is! A huge anti-war march is planned for Washington and San Francisco on Saturday, January 18. Find out how to get to these rallies here. I plan on getting on a bus leaving Ann Arbor on Friday night. If you can't make it to the big DC or SF rallies, local marches are planned in many communities, including Ann Arbor (check here for Ann Arbor details, although they aren't posted yet).

And if you can't wait to get involved, there's stuff going on this weekend! On Friday, you can help immigrants required to register with the INS by going with them to the INS office and notifying families and lawyers if they don't come out. In Ann Arbor, contact Cynthia Powers if you are interested in helping. Also, in Ann Arbor this weekend there's going to be a big anti-war conference:

Speakers will include well-known authors Robert Jensen, Rahul Mahajan and Susan Wright. (The other speakers are probably well-known as well, but I haven't heard of them!)

If you're in California, there's going to be a big peace rally in LA on Saturday, January 11. Politics in the Zeros has the details. Get warmed up for the January 18 rally in San Francisco with a trip to tinseltown!

"You know, Mr. Hussein, I think that you can be of great use to our fascist agenda."
"As can you to mine, Mr. Rumsfeld."
(pic from Tom Tomorrow, who claims he got it from Bartcop, but I can't find it there.)

Class Warfare

According to the NY Times, President Bush is going to propose the complete elimination of taxes on corporate dividends in his economic plan. Pardon my fisking of certain points in the article:

Supporters of the idea say it will correct a major distortion in the tax system, which is that dividends are taxed twice — once at the corporate level as profits and a second time as dividend income to shareholders.
I used to buy this argument, and I guess it would still have some validity if either corporations or shareholders were actually paying substantial taxes. But most of the biggest corporations and wealthiest shareholders have found numerous ways to avoid paying most taxes. Also, the argument might also be applied to the wages of corporate employees--why should they be taxed when the corporate profits they produce have already been taxed?

But even before Mr. Bush describes his proposal in a speech in Chicago on Tuesday, Democrats stepped up their accusations today that his plan would benefit the very wealthiest and ignore the needs of middle-income families. "When they direct their tax programs to benefit the very, very, very few and eliminate the majority from any benefit of these tax cuts, it is class war," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate's assistant Democratic leader, on the NBC News program "Meet the Press."
I think W may have made a big mistake when he mentioned "class warfare" in his talk with the press on Friday. Because that is exactly what is going on, and the more it is discussed, the more obvious it will become. The Bushies are "reverse Robinhoods" of the sort described in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged; they steal from the poor and give to the rich. I had seen the "class warfare" topic discussed in progressive articles, but W has now introduced it into evidence in the court of public opinion, and Democrats like Reid should pound him on cross-examination.

Eliminating dividend taxes, administration officials contend, would greatly increase the value of corporate profits and should lead to an increase in stock market valuations.
Wonderful: the rich not only will get richer by not having their dividends taxed, they'll also get richer because their stocks go up.

I still have a lot to learn about economics (doesn't everybody?), so bear with me if I'm naive on certain issues, and feel free to correct me if I get something wrong in what follows. Like I said, I used to believe the "double-taxation" argument, and I still believe there is some merit in it. The merit lies in the fact that our tax code is ridiculously complex, siphoning money out in many different places while providing many protected channels for those who know how to use it (or, more accurately, can afford accountants and lawyers who know how to abuse it). I guess at heart I'm a "single taxer," with wealth being the single thing to tax (not income, sales, profits, dividends, etc.). But the facts are that it takes money to make money (did you ever rent an apartment or get a loan from a poor person?), and that money is power (how many welfare mothers do you see at Republican fundraisers? or Democratic fundraisers, even?), so the only way to maintain some semblance of democracy in a capitalist-free market economy is through very progressive taxation. And income taxes are the major source of federal revenues, while dividends and capital gains are the major sources of income for the very rich, so reducing or eliminating taxes on dividends or capital gains while retaining the rest of our screwed-up tax code will be extremely regressive, and therefore undemocratic. It is giving more power to the already too powerful. This is class warfare declared by a no-class president.