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.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Chirac to embarrass Bush! Well, he's going to try. That's a tall order--Bush has SO MUCH to be embarrassed about, yet he struts about like a peacock. Anyhow, bon chance, Jacques!

DeLay used FAA to hunt Texas Democrats.
These guys will go to any lengths to destroy democracy. Tom DeLay (R-Hell) is the worst of the worst. Do a google search for "DeLay marianas" and read a few of the articles to find out how much of a scumbag he really is. Short version: DeLay has been instrumental in setting up numerous sweatshops using mostly Chinese labor. The products come with a "Made in the USA" label, however, since the Marianas are US territory (without any of our meager labor or environmental protections). He is also known as the congressman from Enron, and for good reason.

For the first time in history our generation will leave a lesser nation for the next generation. -- Senator Ernest Hollings (D-South Carolina)

Hollings' column on the deficit and tax cut is outstanding! Here's a sample:

Borrow we will. This is just the first installment of the Republican-passed budget that increases the debt from $6 trillion to $12 trillion over the next 10 years. That is an average $600 billion deficit each and every year for a decade. It took 38 presidents and 192 years to reach a trillion dollars in debt; it took Ronald Reagan four years, and it is taking George W. Bush just halfway through his term. The Bush policy takes Reaganomics to the extreme, and if it means getting rid of the government at the same time, so be it.

I hesitate to add the president is not alone in his mission. The Democratic Party is in lock step with him. When President Bush says we need not pay for the war, the Democrats agree. This is the first time we have sent GIs to fight a war and then want them to hurry back home to pay the bill. We in Congress are not going to pay for it. We need a tax cut to get elected next year.

Why are our only good senators southern octagenarians?

Big, Bad Wolf:
I was hoping to jump all over another Wolf Blitzer online poll today, but this is what he serves up today:

What do you plan on doing with your tax cut money?

  • Give to charity
  • Get out of debt
  • Save it
  • Spend it.

Wrong choices, Wolf! Here are the real choices:
  • Buy lunch
  • Take the bus to go look for a job
  • Pay the increase in my state and local taxes
  • Give it to some homeless, sick veteran, 'cause he sure ain't getting anything from Bush
  • What tax cut? I'm not rich!

He also has a stupid commentary on how wonderful embedding the media with the military was.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Senator Lugar (R-Indiana) critcizes administration on handling of post-war Iraq:

Clearly, the administration's planning for the post-conflict phase in Iraq was inadequate.
President Bush should make clear to one and all that he will declare "Mission accomplished" in Iraq not on the basis of our military victory or the date of our withdrawal but on what kind of country we leave behind.
-- From Lugar's commentary in the Washington Post.

Graham, Lieberman and McCain call for more thorough 9/11 investigation.
It's about time!

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who along with Lieberman pushed for creation of the Sept. 11 commission, called for a "full and frank accounting" and said that administration delays in granting access to materials "creates the appearance of bureaucratic stonewalling."

Bush has spent the last twenty months doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons and been getting enormous credit for it. More time and money have been spent investigating the facts behind the space shuttle breakup three months ago than investigating attacks which killed 3000 and which have been used as the excuse for two wars. With these three Republicrats going after him (hopefully), maybe the tide will start to turn. My dream: Bush is impeached, tried and convicted in the Senate as a traitor, and is sent off to Guantanamo Bay with his cabinet and other assorted criminals on an overloaded boat. If they make it to Gitmo, the base is then formally returned to Cuba so Castro can exact his revenge. The headlines scream "Mission Accomplished!"

Senator Byrd made another great speech yesterday!

Our costly and destructive bunker busting attack on Iraq seems to have proven, in the main, precisely the opposite of what we were told was the urgent reason to go in. It seems also to have, for the present, verified the assertions of Hans Blix and the inspection team he led, which President Bush and company so derided. As Blix always said, a lot of time will be needed to find such weapons, if they do, indeed, exist. Meanwhile Bin Laden is still on the loose and Saddam Hussein has come up missing.
Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons, and the occasional buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission and they continue to be at grave risk. But, the Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion has become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary? Was the American public deliberately misled? Was the world?
What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are "liberators." The facts don't seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves. True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but "liberation" implies the follow up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of "liberation," we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years.

Answer the questions!
This Administration led this nation into a war based on a pretext that Iraq was an imminent threat, which it was not. The Secretary of State presented pictures to the world he said were proof. Today, despite having total control in Iraq, none of the very serious claims that the Administration made to this Congress, to this nation, and to the world have been substantiated.

Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Indeed, what was the basis for the war? We spend $400 billion for defense. Will we spend a minute to defend truth? The American people gave up their health care, education and veterans benefits to pay for this war. And for what? Answer the questions, Mr. President.
-- Dennis Kucinich on the House floor yesterday.

Alaska passes anti-Patriot Act Act!
The bill passed the House 32-1, and the Senate 18-0. Apparently it goes to the governor now.

I found out about this through e-mail, and I haven't found a simple link to the resolution, so I'll just paste it here:

House Joint Resolution 22
passed House 12 May 2003
passed Senate 20 May 2003
awaiting transmittal to Governor 21 May 2003

HJR 22

Relating to the USA PATRIOT Act, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution of the State of Alaska, and the civil liberties, peace, and security of the citizens of our country.


WHEREAS the State of Alaska recognizes the Constitution of the United States as our charter of liberty, and that the Bill of Rights enshrines the fundamental and inalienable rights of Americans, including the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and privacy; and

WHEREAS each of Alaska's duly elected public servants has sworn to defend and uphold the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Alaska; and

WHEREAS the State of Alaska denounces and condemns all acts of terrorism, wherever occurring; and

WHEREAS attacks against Americans such as those that occurred on September 11, 2001, have necessitated the crafting of effective laws to protect the public from terrorist attacks; and

WHEREAS any new security measures of federal, state, and local governments should be carefully designed and employed to enhance public safety without infringing on the civil liberties and rights of innocent citizens of the State of Alaska and the nation; and

WHEREAS certain provisions of the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001", also known as the USA PATRIOT Act, allow the federal government more liberally to detain and investigate citizens and engage in surveillance activities that may violate or offend the rights and liberties guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature supports the government of the United States of America in its campaign against terrorism, and affirms its commitment that the campaign not be waged at the expense of essential civil rights and liberties of citizens of this country contained in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED that it is the policy of the State of Alaska to oppose any portion of the USA PATRIOT Act that would violate the rights and liberties guaranteed equally under the state and federal constitutions; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED that, in accordance with Alaska state policy, an agency or instrumentality of the State of Alaska, in the absence of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity under Alaska State law, may not

(1) initiate, participate in, or assist or cooperate with an inquiry, investigation, surveillance, or detention;

(2) record, file, or share intelligence information concerning a person or organization, including library lending and research records, book and video store sales and rental records, medical records, financial records, student records, and other personal data, even if authorized under the USA PATRIOT Act;

(3) retain such intelligence information; the state Attorney General shall review the intelligence information currently held by the state for its legality and appropriateness under the United States and Alaska Constitutions and permanently dispose of it if there is no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED that an agency or instrumentality of the state may not,

(1) use state resources or institutions for the enforcement of federal immigration matters, which are the responsibility of the federal government;

(2) collect or maintain information about the political, religious, or social views, associations, or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business, or partnership, unless the information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities and there are reasonable grounds to suspect the subject of the information is or may be involved in criminal conduct;

(3) engage in racial profiling; law enforcement agencies may not use race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin as factors in selecting individuals to subject to investigatory activities except when seeking to apprehend a specific suspect whose race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin is part of the description of the suspect; and be it;

FURTHER RESOLVED that the Alaska State Legislature implores the United States Congress to correct provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act and other measures that infringe on civil liberties, and opposes any pending and future federal legislation to the extent that itinfringes on Americans' civil rights and liberties.

COPIES of this resolution shall be sent to the Honorable George W. Bush, President of the United States; the Honorable John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States; the Honorable Frank Murkowski, Governor of Alaska; and to the Honorable Ted Stevens and the Honorable Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senators, and the Honorable Don Young, U.S. Representative, members of the Alaska delegation in Congress.

Read about the Cuban Five
Politics in the Zeros has an interesting post about five Cuban-Americans who infiltrated Miami-based anti-Castro organizations that were undertaking "bombings, assassinations and other sabotage," in other words, these groups were what we would normally call terrorists. The Cuban Five passed information about attacks being planned against Cuba to the Cuban government, helping to thwart those attacks.

Eventually, the US government found out about the Cuban Five--and arrested them for espionage! They were convicted and are serving long sentences. These people were trying to prevent terrorism, and they are doing hard time for it.

That's the gist of it: Read Polizeros' post and the links in it for more details.

If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. -- W, State of the Union Address, 2003.

If George W. Bush does not prove that Saddam Hussein had not, in fact, fully disarmed, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to impeach him. -- Me, just now.


The Hypocritic Oath--First Take No Caution:
I certainly, with no hesitation, would say that every mother can feel confident that they can feed their children beef in this country. -- Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, doing her best to sound just like British officials a few years ago who insisted that bovine spongiform encephalitis, aka BSE or Mad Cow Disease, is not a threat to humans. A cow from the Canadian province of Alberta recently tested positive for BSE.

This quote, combined with Bush's shameless shilling for agribusiness (next post below), makes it so bloody obvious who these Republicans work for--and who they don't. Eating beef is NEVER a good thing, and when there's a chance it may turn brains into useless mush (like Bush's brain), mothers and fathers (how sexist was that, BTW, that Veneman didn't mention fathers?) should be more worried about their children eating beef than about using recreational drugs.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but Bush sucks.
The Dim One was at the Coast Guard Academy today complaining about Europe's opposition to bio-engineered foods. I don't think even Hitler ever contemplated trying a multi-faceted approach to destroying the world such as Bush is pushing. If war, "free trade," tax cuts, non-enforcement of environmental regulations, and abandoning international treaties aren't working fast enough, throw in some frankenfoods. This is so disgusting, so dangerous, and so undemocratic. GMO's snuck in under the radar about eight years ago, and their corporate sponsors have staged a massive disinformation campaign to prevent their being stopped. The genie may already be out of the bottle--the impact on world agriculture may be devastating. Europe has been very wise to resist these monsters, but the brainless bully Bush wants his corporate buddies to have their way on everything. What a completely detestable excuse for a human being.

In case you missed it:
Gentlemen, ladies: We came dangerously close to war today. That all of us reacted emotionally to the nuclear detonation is understandable. But leaders are required to have patience beyond human limits. The kind of action we nearly took should only be exercised after all other avenues have been exhaused, after the strictest standard of proof has been met. By casting me aside so quickly, you effectively lowered those standards, and that was a profound mistake. It was not, however, a mistake you are likely to make again. Therefore, I do not accept your resignations. We have a nation to heal today, and all of you play a vital role in that healing process. -- President David Palmer, from the season finale of the amazing Fox show, "24."

The plot went like this: A nuclear bomb was brought to Los Angeles. Federal agent Jack Bauer finally tracked it down at an airport, and had it flown into the desert before it detonated, where it killed one to three people. The bad guys tried to pin the plot on "three Middle Eastern countries" which weren't specified in the show (I liked to imagine that it was Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel). President Palmer was encouraged by his cabinet and the military to launch an immediate war against the three countries. Meanwhile, agent Bauer tried to show that the evidence of the "three countries'" involvement was forged. He convinced the president, who tried to call off the attack, but his vice president and majority of the cabinet voted that this meant he was unfit to stay president and removed him from office via the 25th amendment. Bauer finally got evidence conclusive enough to convince the vice president, now acting as president, to call off the attack minutes before the bombs dropped. The cabinet then rescinded its previous action and offered resignations, Palmer became president once more, and gave that speech to the gathered cabinet.

The show itself is amazing, but even more amazing is that they had this fictional president who actually thought military action should be "exercised after all other avenues have been exhaused, after the strictest standard of proof has been met." So unlike the fictional president we actually have! And this was on Fox!

I don't watch that much TV anymore (except sports), but if you want to laugh, watch "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" If you want to be completely spellbound by an action show, watch "24." The bad news is that season three won't start until probably October 28, after the World Series. The good news is that season one is on DVD, and season two should be shortly. See if you can borrow or rent them! (I try to recommend not buying anything.)

[And Another Thing!] President Palmer pronounced "nuclear" correctly!

Welcome to San Francisco!

Disgusting: Chris Hedges booed off the stage at college graduation.

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of a recent book that describes war as an addiction, was booed Saturday at Rockford College, a small liberal arts school 80 miles northwest of Chicago. After protesters rushed the stage and twice cut power to the microphone, Hedges cut his speech short.

"He delivered what I guess I would refer to as a fairly strident perspective on the war in Iraq and American policy," college President Paul Pribbenow said Tuesday. "I think our audience at commencement were not prepared for that."

Maybe if they'd graduated from a real college, they would have been better prepared. Hedges has covered wars all over the world and knows what he is talking about. But our educational system is so pathetic now that college graduates prefer government propaganda:

Many audience members turned their backs on Hedges, while others booed and shouted, said Pribbenow, who at one point pleaded to let the speech continue.

Hedges characterized the United States action in Iraq as occupation and said that such a mission would generate rage against Americans. He said the capacity to wage war does not entitle a nation to wage war. The reporter also said the United States and the embedded reporters portrayed war as a spectator sport, touting advanced and powerful technology while overlooking the suffering of Iraqis and the deaths of young American troops.

Hedges said he had given similar talks at several other colleges on his book, but had never had such a response.

"I was surprised at how vociferous it was and the fact that people climbed onto the podium," Hedges said.

Elinor Radlund, who attended the ceremony, said a woman beside her began singing "God Bless America" while a man rushed down the aisle shouting, "Go home!"

The perfect replacement for Ari the Liar:

From Bill Schorr.

A trillion here, a trillion there--soon you're talking real money! The pentagon has misplaced some $1 trillion--that's $1,000,000,000,000. That's about $3500 for every American. They also can't find a bunch of planes, tanks, and assorted other weapons of mass destruction--and these WMD's actually existed!

Sanity Pact?Tony Blair's official spokesman Godric Smith announced his resignation just two hours after Ari the Liar announced his. Thanks to Cyndy at MouseMusings for finding that one!

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Your turn, George!

Thanks again to Bartcop for pointing me to this.

From Bartcop:

Warren Buffet, one of the richest people in the world, explains why the elimination of taxes on corporate dividends is nonsense.

Overall, it's hard to conceive of anything sillier than the schedule the Senate has laid out. Indeed, the first President Bush had a name for such activities: "voodoo economics." The manipulation of enactment and sunset dates of tax changes is Enron-style accounting, and a Congress that has recently demanded honest corporate numbers should now look hard at its own practices.

It's a little confusing to me when rich guys like Buffet, Bill Gates, or George Soros are decent or honest. (I know, at least in Gates' case, that that's certainly not all the time.) I mean, who can you distrust if you can't distrust the rich?

Speak out against the DLC! The Democratic Leadership Council is 100% DINO (Democrat in Name Only). They have been attacking Howard Dean and studiously ignoring Dennis Kucinich, as represented by this awful commentary they put out yesterday (thanks to Seeing the Forest for the link). Here's a quote (there's a bag in the seat pocket in front of you):

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake hooked up 30 union members to dial meters to measure the intensity of their favorable reaction to the seven candidates who appeared. (Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry were present only by video, and were not "dialed.")

The results speak for themselves, and show why we've never been big fans of focus groups, which encourage politicians to tell audiences exactly what they want to hear: According to the Des Moines Register, Kucinich was first with a score of 78 on a scale of 1 to 100. Sharpton was second with 76. Gephardt was third with 75. Dean was fourth with 73. Edwards was fifth with 69. Graham and Mosley-Braun trailed with 66 each.

Call it a psychic flash, but we somehow doubt this will be the order of finish at the Democratic Convention in Boston in July of 2004.

Unfortunately, party nominating caucuses are a lot like focus groups, with their tendency to put pandering first. And like the Iowa AFSCME audience, they reflect views that are vastly different from those of rank-and-file Democrats around the country, not to mention the Independents who often dominate not only general elections but even primaries.

As From and Reed wrote in their memo: "Democrats who champion the mainstream values, national pride, and economic aspirations of middle-class and working people are the real soul of the Democratic Party, not activists and interest groups with narrow agendas."

So, according to the DLC, union members aren't working people, and activists aren't Democrats--Republicans are.

Lots of Democratic politicians are DLC members. We need to let them know that this is unacceptable--we need an opposition party, not water boys (and girls) and cheerleaders. The DLC has conveniently provided a search facility for finding DLC members from your state. Find out who your local "Democrats Loving Corporations" representatives are, and let them know that you don't approve. Here in Michigan, that includes Senator Debbie Stabenow, Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Bush increases aid to Philippines for "war on terrorism." -- Washington Post. George W. Bush--the best friend police states ever had.

The wit and widsom of Ari the Liar. Here's what he said about resigning: "I really want to unwind, do something more relaxing like dismantle live nuclear weapons." So he opposes administration policy after all!

Contact the FCC about media consolidation! Here is the web page for filing public comments.

I called the FCC this morning. After working my way through the menus, I spoke to a woman who directed be to that site. She said she had filed her comments, and seemed to be opposed to media consolidation! Hopefully there are still many career civil servants in the government who actually support the intended missions of their agencies, not the Bushies' perversion of it. I got that feeling when I went to Detroit in January to protest the registering of Arabs and South Asians at the INS office--the INS officials who came out and talked to us seemed very sympathetic, and seemed almost glad that we were there. I got the feeling that most INS employees work there to help immigrants, not to persecute them. I imagine that the situation is similar in the EPA and other regulatory agencies, as well as in the FBI and similar law-enforcement agencies. Most of the people working in these places didn't take those jobs to push an Orwellian paranoid agenda; let's hope they are able to provide us with some buffer from the maniacs in charge.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Meanwhile, in the Asian Islands:

According to the second article, Philippine leaders are making it clear that their attacks are part of the "war on terrorism." Expect Indonesia to follow suit. Has there ever been a more inclusive tool for suppressing opposition than the "war on terrorism?"

The Daily Dystopian links to an article about General Electric getting into the wind power business, and thinks that might be good news. Daily Dystopian should recall what happened to mass transit when General Motors got into the mass transit business in Los Angeles. (In the twenties and thirties, GM bought streetcar and bus lines in Los Angeles, and then shut them down.) GE's purchase of NBC didn't improve the media situation; don't expect their involvement in wind power to have any positive impact, either.

Personally, I wonder if wind power is such a great idea. If done on a massive-enough scale to put a big dent in US energy needs, wouldn't there be some side effects? Weather patterns could change, and the purifying effect of wind could be reduced. Our already over-cluttered landscape would be cluttered further. The real key, IMHO, is to cut way back on energy consumption. Hydro power was once claimed to be cheap and clean, but most of our rivers have been largely destroyed by hydro dams. Solar power seems free, but how much land area are we going to devote to it, and how will that impact the environment? Our sprawling, glittering cities and lifestyles are predicated on abundant cheap energy, and are unsustainable no matter where the energy comes from. And it's certainly not good news that companies like GE and BP-Amoco, who have profited greatly from the current mess, and positioning themselves to profit from the next one as well.

A Real Difference:
As President, I'll make sure that workers' rights are enshrined in a Workers' White House. As President, I'll issue an executive order which will say that
anyone who gets a federal contract will have to provide that when 50% of the workers sign up for a union, there's an automatic union. As President, I'll set aside those provisions of Taft-Harley which attack the right to organize. As President (with a 100% AFSCME voting record, I might add), one of my first acts in office -- recognizing how trade has devastated so many towns around Iowa and the nation -- will be to cancel NAFTA and the WTO.

I ask this administration: Tell me, Mr. Bush, where are those weapons of mass destruction? I've seen those weapons, and I'll tell you where they are. Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Hopelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Let's bring back hope in America. Let's bring back jobs in America. Let's bring back workers' rights in America! Thank you.
-- Dennis Kucinich's opening statement at a candidates' forum in Iowa. Kucinich was rated the favorite candidate by a focus group of AFSCME union members.



"Person of interest" gets hit by FBI SUV that was tailing him, gets a ticket for his troubles. Steven Hatfill has been hinted about and harrassed for nearly a year now because the feds think he may somehow be connected to the anthrax killings of October, 2001. I don't know, maybe he's guilty, but isn't the FBI capable of carrying out an investigation in a reasonable length of time? At this point, it looks like they are just going to harrass him for the rest of his life. (from AP.)

Full disclosure: After reading Nicholas Kristof's column last July 2, and a WSWS followup, I was pretty convinced that Hatfill was a prime suspect. I then saw Hatfill give a press conference presenting his side, and he at least seemed to be telling the truth, and provided reasonable explanations for the "coincidences" linking him to the anthrax letters. Of course, that's probably exactly how a cold-blooded killer would behave. Still, I think following a guy around day and night, running into him with an SUV, and then giving him a ticket for it might well constitute cruel and unusual punishment for someone who hasn't been convicted of a crime--or even charged.

You get tired of having your pants on fire all the time: Ari the Liar is leaving the White House I suspect that he will spend the next five to ten years trying to buy his soul back. He's got a ways to go. Here's what he said about his departure:

"I've just been thinking about what I want to do, when I want to do it," he told The A.P. "I believe deeply in this president, his policies and the man. But there comes a time in public service when you have to decide when it's time to go."

Of course, the NY Times writers David Stout and Terence Neilan appear to be Jayson Blair wannabes:

Mr. Fleischer's tenure, like that of all presidential press aides, was not without its bumps. Even though he did not have to fend off questions about Vietnam or Watergate, as some of his predecessors did, he routinely put in marathon workdays.

It's not that there weren't wars and scandals--it's that the press didn't ask the questions! The Republican actions in Florida before the 2000 election and during the recount were really a much bigger scandal than Watergate, but while Bob Woodward was talking to Deep Throat to uncover the sordid Watergate details, this time he wrote "Bush at War" to further administration propaganda. And Ari didn't get nearly as hard a time as he should have over 9/11, Enron, Afghanistan or Iraq. Let's hope his replacement gets grilled.

If Saddam Hussein was evil enough to merit the most elaborate, openly declared assassination attempt in history (the opening move of Operation Shock and Awe), then surely those who supported him ought at least to be tried for war crimes? Why aren't the faces of U.S. and U.K. government officials on the infamous pack of cards of wanted men and women?

Because when it comes to Empire, facts don't matter.
-- Arundhati Roy.

From Jen Sorensen.

Ted Rall wants to believe:

Sorry, Ted. Bush has no principles whatsoever.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Wal-Mart shaping the culture--yecch! (Sorry, no time for a more thorough commentary.)

I wonder what the troops think. The first Gulf War killed tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Some American troops were killed, though almost all by "friendly fire." Kuwait was taken from its new totalitarian owners and given back to its old totalitarian owners. GI's who had either seen no combat at all, or who had participated in the "turkey shoot" against a vastly outgunned "enemy," returned home as heroes, probably wondering why. Soon, some became ill, and today over a third of Gulf War vets are suffering from illness or disability. Some were disillusioned by their experience, including three who became household names: Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and John Allen Muhammed.

This time, soldiers (sailors, marines, airmen) were told that they were protecting America from weapons of mass destruction. If Saddam Hussein didn't disarm, then, by George, they were going to be a part of a coalition of the willing to disarm him.

But they didn't. Even administration officials are saying now that Iraq may not have had any WMD's. Certainly the military teams looking for them can't find them. While there were more actual battles than in the first Gulf War, it appears that large parts of this war were just more turkey shoots. Those troops that have been in or near the front lines have seen plenty of death and destruction. Some were wounded, captured, or lost a close friend (Jessica Lynch qualifies on all three counts). Many have seen the anarchy that has resulted from the invasion. And now they are finding out that the whole thing was based on a lie. As far as we know now, there were no WMD's in Iraq prior to the war. Without a doubt, whatever there might be there is in much smaller quantity and poses much less of a threat than Bush, Powell and Blair claimed.

So they gave up months of their lives in some of the bleakest landscapes (or waterscapes) on earth, risked their lives and their health, suffered wounds and lost friends--all for a lie. Do you think some of them may be a bit upset when they find out?

Dam Bad Idea. This article from the Ann Arbor News describes how the Huron River, the reason Ann Arbor is here, will likely once again be reduced to a trickle this summer. This is due in large part to numerous dams upstream. Most of these dams only serve the purpose of maintaining water levels in artificial lakes around which the wealthier area residents have cottages. Allowing them to continue to enjoy their high-energy-consumption and polluting recreations of motor boating and jet skiing comes not only at the expense of environmentally-friendly canoeists, but with the risk of damaging the entire river ecosystem. With reduced river flows, the water reaching Ann Arbor is more polluted, and the river bed silts up behind the dams. The river is one of Ann Arbor's sources of drinking water, and with the ground water supply threatened by the Gelman-Pall toxic chemical spill, the river becomes that much more important.

As with so many of the issues facing this country, this has money written all over it. The general welfare of the people would be best served by removing most or all of the dams from the Huron. This would come at the expense of drastically reduced property values for the wealthy people's second homes, as well as redistributing the money among stores selling watercraft (motorboats and jet skis down, canoes and kayaks up). Unfortunately, our form of government responds much more strongly to the intense interest of a small group of rich people than it does to the general interest, and it will probably require a catastrophe before sense is restored to the Huron watershed. This issue compares directly to the sprawl issue: If the general welfare were represented, it would be much more expensive to develop new land, and gasoline would cost enough that it would be uneconomical to live way outside of town. Instead, the intense interest in getting richer of the developers who buy up all of the farmland outweighs the diffuse interest of the rest of us.