Bob's Links and Rants
Saturday, November 22, 2003
Central Front in the Battle for Labor Rights
Is in your neighborhood. Everything that workers have won over 100+ years of organizing--decent working conditions, overtime pay, weekends, vacations, health care, decent wages--is currently being attacked by the corporations and their bought-and-paid-for politicians in the White House, the Congress, and in state and local governments. Here in Ann Arbor, workers are striking against the original Borders store for unfair labor practices. In California, grocery-store workers are striking against Kroger Co.'s Ralphs, Albertsons Inc. and Safeway Inc.'s Vons and Pavilions. Unless you are a Republican politician and/or you get most of your income from investments, their battle is your battle.

If you're happy with a world where you and your children and grandchildren face a job market where they either take a crummy, low-pay, no-benefit job or they join the army to get wounded or killed in the next Bush war, then just go on with business at usual. But if you think something better is possible, it is crucial that the anti-labor tide in this country be turned back. We need to put serious financial pressure on corporations to deal fairly with their workers.

As a first step, boycott all of these stores that are being picketed: Borders, Krogers, Albertsons, Vons, Ralph's, Safeway, Pavilion. The grocery stores are colluding with each other to put down the strike; we need to collude to support it. To take it a step further, you can support the strikers financially. You can support the Borders' strike fund here--there's a donation button on the left. To support the grocery workers in California, make a donation here. A third step would be to actually get out and join the picket line. Help beef up the line, provide some moral support, bring 'em some donuts. If you can't stay, at least drive by and honk your horn in support.

Why not plan on cutting back on Christmas shopping this year, and instead use your money to help win these crucial fights for labor rights? If the corporate Republicans have their way, the top 2% will be living in luxury in gated subdivisions, while 50% of us work for $3 an hour, 70 hours a week, and the rest just starve. That's where we're headed if we don't stop it now.

If you haven't read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed yet, now would be a good time. Read it if you have any illusions about people being able to get by on minimum wage in this country.
Friday, November 21, 2003
Gen. Franks Doubts Constitution Will Survive WMD Attack
A cheery thought for a Friday night, from the wingnuts at Newsmax:
Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11, Franks said that “the worst thing that could happen” is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties.

If that happens, Franks said, “... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”

Well, that explains why the Bushies are doing everything possible to provoke an attack, while refusing to protect our ports and sending thousands of our supposed defenders to get shot at in the deserts of Iraq.

Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack.

“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important.”

Actually, I'd say that happened with the last terrorist attack.

But don't worry; Franks is crazy. To prove it, here's what he said about aWol:

As I look at President Bush, I think he will ultimately be judged as a man of extremely high character. A very thoughtful man, not having been appraised properly by those who would say he’s not very smart. I find the contrary. I think he’s very, very bright. And I suspect that he’ll be judged as a man who led this country through a crease in history effectively. Probably we’ll think of him in years to come as an American hero.

Anyone who thinks Bush is "very, very bright" is very, very stupid.

And if you ever had any doubts that the Bushies even considered analyzing what happened on 9/11, Franks puts that notion to rest:

Franks said that within hours of the attacks, he was given orders to prepare to root out the Taliban in Afghanistan and to capture bin Laden.

Somebody must have gotten to him before Rumsfeld, because Rummy would have told him to prepare the attack on Iraq.

The whole gang of Bushies is insane. At least this dimwitted yahoo has retired.

Franks ended his interview with a less-than-optimistic note. “It’s not in the history of civilization for peace ever to reign. Never has in the history of man. ... I doubt that we’ll ever have a time when the world will actually be at peace.”

Not as long as morons like you and aWol are running things, General. Iraq wasn't threatening anybody, and you attacked anyway.
Energy Bill Defeated!
For now. Keep the pressure on your senators, because you know Frist and Cheney will. Capitol switchboard: 800-839-5276.
One Week to Go!
Until Buy Nothing Day, that is. Typically the busiest shopping day of the year, the Friday after Thanksgiving has become an orgy of consumption. This takes a serious toll on our planet, our society, ourselves. Join in! Buy nothing!

Buy Nothing Day

Here in Ann Arbor, I suggest celebrating Buy Nothing Day by specifically buying nothing at Borders. Join the picketers and encourage everyone to support living wages AND reduced consumption.
Oh no. Another front.
Is aWol a little too eager to get involved in Turkey?

On the last day of a state visit to Britain, Bush called the Turkish leader from Air Force One while flying toward British Prime Minister Tony Blair's parliamentary district here in northern England. Bush offered his condolences for Thursday's attack on two British buildings in Istanbul that killed at least 27, only days after synagogue bombings in that city killed 23.

"I told him our prayers are with his people. I told him that we will work with him to defeat terror, and that the terrorists have decided to use Turkey as a front," Bush said. Asked whether Turkey was a new front, Bush said: "It sure is. Two major explosions. And Iraq is a front, Turkey is a front, anywhere the terrorists think they can strike is a front."

Repeating Thursday's vow that there would be no letup in his efforts against terrorists, Bush said: "Yesterday's attack in Turkey reminded us that we haven't completed our job yet."
-- Washington Post

First, dimwit, it was FOUR major explosions: Two at synogogues on Saturday, and two on British targets yesterday. Second, your criminal and insane "war on terror" is the greatest danger to the world since the third reich. Third, George, you are a lying, cheating, stupid, ignorant, arrogant prick. I'll get to your bad points later.

General Mayhem
Billmon has a great post comparing what a US Army general said yesterday with the news about the latest rocket attacks on the oil ministry and two hotels in Baghdad.


From Matt Davies.

From Nick Anderson.
Stop the Energy Bill!
CALL NOW! Congressional switchboard: 800-839-5276. Call BOTH of your senators. The vote is scheduled for 10 AM today.
Foggy Death at Foggy Bottom
Cyndy of MouseMusings, who told me about Kucinich's posting of the Diebold memos (below), links to a scary From the Wilderness article about a State Department official who fell to his death from the State Department building in Washington on November 7. It seems unclear whether he jumped or was forced out a window or from the roof.

FTW says that after a brief report on Fox News, the suspicious death has been ignored by the media. And, BTW, it appears that the official, John J. Kokal, was involved in the analysis of intelligence about Iraq prior to and during the war against Saddam Hussein.

Michelle has links to more articles on this, as well as some interesting commentary.
Kucinich Posts Diebold Memos
Electronic voting-machine maker Diebold has been threatening various web sites with legal action for posting incriminating Diebold memos which demonstrate that the company's own employees have little faith in either the integrity or reliability of their voting machines. Well, now they'll have to go after a US congressman and presidential candidate as well. Dennis Kucinich has posted some of the memos on his congressional web site.

I hope they do--it will call attention to two things the American public really needs to know about--paperless electronic voting machines (bad) and Dennis Kucinich (great!).
Thursday, November 20, 2003
The president ought to be ashamed
So says former senator and 9/11 commission member Max Cleland, in this Salon interview.
FTAA Derailed?
An ugly and bloodier ending to the Miami FTAA meeting was averted by a sudden decision tonight to end the closed official events one day early. FTAA co-chairs from the US and Brazil both described the summit as a step forward though it was widely understood that the agreement was far less than the American business community and the White House originally hoped for.-- AlterNet

Outside, according to that article, the cops were over-reacting at every chance, using pepper spray, rubber bullets and arrests for no reason. The local "news" media was embedded with the cops, in more ways than one. AlterNet reports:

So began a day that could be explained as a planned overreaction by the City of Miami, the Governor of Florida and his supportive brother in the White House. Within a few hours, the massive police force was firing pepper gas and rubber bullets at 120 miles an hour against a small crowd of surrounded resisters who could have been easily contained.

In any case, let's hope that Lula and other South American leaders have really stood up to Bush and the multinationals and derailed this most recent reverse-Robinhood scheme. The FTAA, like NAFTA, is a "trickle-up" scheme: take what little the poor have left and jam it into the already over-stuffed pockets of the wealthy.
Another soldier killed, two more wounded
From CNN.
About Time!

aWol Toppled in Trafalgar Square.
Mission Accomplished
I was reading blog comments, I think on Atrios, and somebody suggested that the bombings in Istanbul would move Michael Jackson out of the lead story for about an hour. Take a look at CNN now. There's a picture of a private jet halfway into a hanger in Santa Barbara. Supposedly it belongs to Jackson. The Jackson story dominates the friggin' web page. A tiny link on the side says "27 killed, hundreds wounded in Istanbul blasts."
Indymedia's FTAA Protest site
Thanks to Michelle for finding it for me!
What do these two have in common?

Lew Rockwell has the answer.

(Shorter Lew Rockwell: Bush and the Pointy-Haired Boss have a lot in common.)

From Doonesbury.
Iraq war was illegal
Of course, you all knew that. But did you know that Richard Perle also knew that, and admits it?

Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."

President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.

But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.

French intransigence, he added, meant there had been "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein".

Tear gas, concussion grenades, rubber bullets
Forcing through something as awful as the FTAA requires extreme measures:

Police fired a concussion grenade and several cannisters of tear gas shortly before 10 a.m. this morning as large numbers of demonstrators, many wearing black clothing and some with bandannas across their faces, streamed through Miami streets.

Several protesters suffered bloody noses and bruised ribs during pushing and shoving matches with police. No significant acts of vandalism were reported. No disruptions erupted in outlying areas.

Officers used the tear gas and a concussion grenade during a brief skirmish with protesters on Biscayne Boulevard and Flagler Street, near the Hotel Inter-Continental, site of ongoing talks to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

One protester apparently was shot in the thigh with a rubber bullet. She was treated by medics associated with the protest groups....
''I think it's ridiculous,'' said Brendan Hoffman, 23, a protester affiliated with a non-profit group called Essential Action.

''This is all meant to prevent the public from interacting with public officials who are going to decide the future of the western hemisphere,'' he said. ``They think they can tell us what we want. It's not about bringing democracy, it's about freedom for large corporations to do whatever they want.''

From Global Exchange:
Negotiated behind closed doors, with little citizen input but plenty of suggestions from corporations, the FTAA is yet another example of the kind of free-market fundamentalism that has created a global race to the bottom that erodes environmental protection, workers' livelihoods, and human rights. If you think NAFTA has been a disaster for working families and the environment in the US, Canada, and Mexico, this will be far worse.

I'm feeling guilty right now because I'm not in Miami. Please help me out by doing something today to register your protest of the FTAA: Call Congress, write a letter to the editor, post something on your own blog, start your own little protest somewhere, give some money to Kucinich. I was in Chiapas last spring, and I know what NAFTA has done there. I live in Michigan, and I know what it has done here. Unless you're a filthy-rich greedy capitalist scumbag, NAFTA and the FTAA are bad for you, wherever you are.

You can read what Kucinich has to say about the FTAA here.

Don't let aWol and his poodle and Jacko and Scott and Kobe and the terrorists win by letting this issue slip by (that is, don't be like the major media). It's important to people throughout the hemisphere, including you!

"War on Terror" a Stunning Success
The attacks that followed -- on Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Bombay, Mombassa, Najaf, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Baghdad, and Istanbul -- were not dreams. -- aWol, yesterday

No, dimwit, they are evidence that the so-called "war on terror" is a spectacular failure. (BTW, which attacks on Baghdad are you talking about--those recent ones by car bombers that killed dozens, or the ones by air bombers sent by you and your daddy that killed thousands?)

And if your speech were tonight, you could add in another bombing in Istanbul and one in Kirkuk as well.

Egyptian president Mubarek said before the war that "If there is one (Osama) bin Laden now, there will be 100 bin Ladens afterward." A commentary on Murphy's Law (Anything that can go wrong will go wrong) said that "Murphy was an optimist." I'm afraid the same might be said about Mubarek.

Is it really more important that we never be seen as giving in to terrorists than it is to actually address the root causes of terrorism? Bush says yes, I say no. Pre-emptive military strikes and brutal occupations will always anger tens of millions, and among those there will always be hundreds or thousands willing to fight back by any means necessary. Continuing to ignore the wishes and rights of the tens of millions so as to avoid the appearance of appeasing the hundreds or thousands is foolish and deadly.
Senate Debates Energy Bill
Fearmaster Cheney's prize creation, created in secret consultations with Ken Lay and Osama bin Laden (for all we know), is dangerously close to passage. All that stands between our current miserable energy policy and one that is much worse is a few key senators of questionable vertabral strength. At least six Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, have joined most Democrats in opposing the bill. Gregg described the bill as a "grab bag of special interest projects directed at benefiting one segment of the economy or one segment of the population at the expense of other segments of the population." Unfortunately, several Democrats whose states may get some benefit appear to be willing to sacrifice the good of the nation, while others just don't seem to have any spine left.

That's where you come in. Provide your senators with a spine by calling them today. You can use the toll-free Capitol switchboard at 800-839-5276, ask for your senator, and tell the staffer that you oppose the energy bill.

It's already too late for the House, whose Republican majority rubber stamps anything aWol and the Fearmaster want. But my congressman, John Dingell, did make an excellent statement opposing the bill; you may want to mention some of his arguments when you call your senators:




November 18, 2003

This conference report is a partisan product, written in secret and kept from the light of day until the last possible minute. The result speaks for itself -- like a garbage can with its lid off, there is a strong stench from special interest provisions. There are, of course, some worthy items in various titles. But the report needlessly endangers the environment, hurts consumers, and provides unaffordable subsidies and tax breaks to selected industries.

This conference report does include the consensus electric reliability provisions that Democrats have supported. But the report may handcuff the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s ability to prevent future blackouts, it repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 with its consumer and investor protections, it favors certain utilities, and it preempts states and local authorities on transmission line siting decisions.

The conference report shortchanges our rivers, as well, tilting relicensing process in favor of utilities by giving them special rights and procedures that are not afforded to other parties who have an interest in the use of public resources, like states, Indian tribes, sportsmen, or conservationists.

One of the more troubling aspects of this report is its direct assault on the Nation’s safe drinking water supply. It weakens the Safe Drinking Water Act, forces state and local taxpayers to pay billions of dollars to clean up the MTBE manufacturers’ mess, and requires taxpayers, not polluters, to pay for cleanup of contamination caused by leaking underground storage tanks even when the responsible party can afford to pay.

The bill contains a number of provisions which were not included in either bill and on which there is no legislative record at all, including some significant Clean Air Act rollbacks. The conference agreement includes even worse provisions outside the jurisdiction of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. For example, we are told that the tax subsidies alone will cost at least $22 billion -- compared to the President’s request of $8 billion, but I hear no complaints from an Administration that regularly objects to far lesser amounts for education, health care, and our Nation’s veterans.

This bill suffered from a secret, one-sided process -- and the many flawed provisions are the result. I must oppose it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Back in the saddle again!
My home Internet connection is back up to speed! I'll give credit to Comcast for excellent customer service. I called on Monday, got through right away (and they're available 24/7) and they were able to query the cable modem while I was talking to them. They determined that there was a problem with the modem or connection (i.e., not my computer), and said they could have a technician at my house Tuesday afternoon between 2 and 5, or Wednesday between 5:30 and 7:30. I went with Wednesday, and they were waiting for me tonight after I took the bus home. They thoroughly checked everything out, decided my cable modem was worn out and obsolete (that's right--a cable modem is obsolete), and replaced it. Everything is purring right along now. So good job, Comcast!
Borders' Strike Continues
Keep up with the latest developments at the Borders Readers United web site. If you're in the Ann Arbor area, come join the picket line for a while. They're there day and evening. They're planning on making a lot of noise before and after the big OSU-UM football game this Saturday. If you'd like to help but aren't in the area, you can donate to the strike fund at the web site, and of course by not shopping at Borders, Waldenbooks, or Amazon.
aWol's Speech in Britain
He started out with some references to John Locke, Adam Smith, Lord Shaftesbury, Wilberforce, Tyndale, Wesley, and William Booth. I sure hope someone quizzes him about who these folks were.

Most of his speech was the usual log-in-the-eye stuff; we're good because we say we are--when we kill innocents it's always for a good cause, when THEY kill innocents it's evil terrorism. Here's a start:

The League of Nations, lacking both credibility and will, collapsed at the first challenge of the dictators. Free nations failed to recognize, much less confront, the aggressive evil in plain sight. And so dictators went about their business, feeding resentments and anti-Semitism, bringing death to innocent people in this city and across the world, and filling the last century with violence and genocide.
America and Great Britain have done, and will do, all in their power to prevent the United Nations from solemnly choosing its own irrelevance and inviting the fate of the League of Nations. It's not enough to meet the dangers of the world with resolutions; we must meet those dangers with resolve.

In other words, the UN lacked credibility and will, and collapsed at the first challenge of dictators: Blair and Bush.

Our first choice, and our constant practice, is to work with other responsible governments. We understand, as well, that the success of multilateralism is not measured by adherence to forms alone, the tidiness of the process, but by the results we achieve to keep our nations secure.

Responsible governments like Pakistan, Uzbekistan. And, of course, FOR US, the end always justifies the means, no matter how horrible the end or brutal the means.

The second pillar of peace and security in our world is the willingness of free nations, when the last resort arrives, to retain* {sic} aggression and evil by force. There are principled objections to the use of force in every generation, and I credit the good motives behind these views.

Those in authority, however, are not judged only by good motivations. The people have given us the duty to defend them. And that duty sometimes requires the violent restraint of violent men. In some cases, the measured use of force is all that protects us from a chaotic world ruled by force.

AWOL, you have introduced more chaos into the world than anyone since Hitler.

In Iraq, year after year, the dictator was given the chance to account for his weapons programs, and end the nightmare for his people. Now the resolutions he defied have been enforced.

And who will say that Iraq was better off when Saddam Hussein was strutting and killing, or that the world was safer when he held power? Who doubts that Afghanistan is a more just society and less dangerous without Mullah Omar playing host to terrorists from around the world.

ME! I WILL! I DO! (Can Smirky Flightsuit actually be accusing someone else of "strutting?")

In democratic and successful societies, men and women do not swear allegiance to malcontents and murderers; they turn their hearts and labor to building better lives. And democratic governments do not shelter terrorist camps or attack their peaceful neighbors; they honor the aspirations and dignity of their own people. In our conflict with terror and tyranny, we have an unmatched advantage, a power that cannot be resisted, and that is the appeal of freedom to all mankind.

And you're apparently willing to kill them all to prove it.

Perhaps the most helpful change we can make is to change in our own thinking. In the West, there's been a certain skepticism about the capacity or even the desire of Middle Eastern peoples for self-government. We're told that Islam is somehow inconsistent with a democratic culture. Yet more than half of the world's Muslims are today contributing citizens in democratic societies. It is suggested that the poor, in their daily struggles, care little for self-government. Yet the poor, especially, need the power of democracy to defend themselves against corrupt elites.

Gosh, George, you had a good paragraph going until that last sentence! Actually, it's a great sentence. Why don't you go sit in a corner for the next two years and repeat it until you believe it. Elites don't get any more corrupt than you.

We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold.

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.

Like at Guantanamo Bay?

Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain their ties to terrorist groups. These are the methods of the old elites, who time and again had put their own self-interest above the interest of the people they claim to serve.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

And then some joker stuck this sentence in, apparently playing a joke on W. He probably still doesn't know he said it, and won't until Ariel calls him tonight:

Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences.

Unfortunately, the joker left out the part about withholding the massive US military support for Israel which fuels the occupation until Israel complies. Of course, he'd get fired for that.


From Jeff Koterba.

I don't think that cartoon is particularly funny, rather tasteless, actually. But it's interesting that it comes from the same cartoonist who drew what I consider to be one of the most offensive cartoons of the year--this one from April 15:

The father in the cartoon had NOTHING to be ashamed of, except for being ashamed. He was right. If aWol had listened to our focus group, no Black Hawks would have been shot down (although they would probably continue to fall out of the sky on their own three or four times a year).

From Red Meat, which isn't usually discernibly political.

From Mike Thompson.
Nothing like bombs to stop bombing
A pair of 2,000-pound satellite-guided bombs were dropped late Tuesday near Baqouba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, on "camps suspected to have been used for bomb-making," said Maj. Gordon Tate, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division. -- AP

Get out now. Now! Iraq may turn into another Bosnia if we leave. Maybe not. It has already turned into another Vietnam, and will continue to get worse the longer we stay. We leave now, we don't know what will happen. We stay, we do know, and it's terrible. Take the first choice.

The special relationship.

Photo from this Yahoo! slide show.

Buy the whole "aWol goes to London" doll set for only $98.99!

Photo from this Yahoo! slide show.

aWol: "You look ridiculous in that hat!"
Queen: "You look ridiculous, period!"

Photo from this Yahoo! slide show.

Speak truth to power.

Photo from this Yahoo! slide show.

This statue is suitable for toppling.

Photo from this Yahoo! slide show.

Yeah, you should look worried.

Photo from this Yahoo! slide show.

"Hey Colin! Can you believe they fell for that crap about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?" (The worm on the left is Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw)

Photo from this Yahoo! slide show.
Georgie visits the Cat in the Hat

while the abandoned poodle looks on forlornly.

Photo from this Yahoo! slide show. (I stole the main caption, from Michelle)
Leading in the race to the bottom
Wal-Mart no longer has any real rivals. It does more business than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger combined.

This Fast Company article describes how the world's largest company's ruthless cost-cutting has put suppliers into no-win situations. They can't afford not to do business with Wal-Mart, but in the end they can't afford to do business with them either. The almost universal response is to move manufacturing overseas.

In my opinion, it's fine for a company to be as efficient, and even as hard-nosed, as Wal-Mart is. It's not fine for a company to be so big that it dominates practically all markets for consumer goods, not to mention putting inexorable downward pressure on wages. We need to dig Auntie Trust out of her grave, pump her full of fair-trade coffee, and put her to work dismembering the Wal-Mart monster. You can help the old girl by never shopping at the Beast of Bentonville.

Thanks to Cyndy for the link!
One politician who gets it
London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, said: "I think that Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen. The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction."

In an interview with the Ecologist magazine, Mr Livingstone, who will be the keynote speaker at a "peace conference" at the city hall tomorrow, added: "I don't formally recognise George Bush because he was not officially elected. We are organising an alternative reception for everyone who is not George Bush... We are trying to get Michael Moore over as our guest as the alternative voice of the US."
-- Guardian

The view from Iraq
They've been bombing houses in Tikrit and other areas! Unbelievable… I'm so angry it makes me want to break something!!!! What the hell is going on?! What do the Americans think Tikrit is?! Some sort of city of monsters or beasts? The people there are simple people. Most of them make a living off of their land and their livestock- the rest are teachers, professors and merchants- they have lives and families… Tikrit is nothing more than a bunch of low buildings and a palace that was as inaccessible to the Tikritis as it was to everyone else!

People in Al Awja suffered as much as anyone, if not more- they weren't all related to Saddam and even those who were, suffered under his direct relatives. Granted, his bodyguards and others close to him were from Tikrit, but they aren't currently in Tikrit- the majority have struck up deals with the CPA and are bargaining for their safety and the safety of their families with information. The people currently in Tikrit are just ordinary people whose homes and children are as precious to them as American homes and children are precious to Americans! This is contemptible and everyone thinks so- Sunnis and Shi'a alike are shaking their heads incredulously.

And NO- I'm not Tikriti- I'm not even from the 'triangle'- but I know simple, decent people who ARE from there and just the thought that this is being done is so outrageous it makes me want to scream. How can that ass of a president say things are getting better in Iraq when his troops have stooped to destroying homes?! Is that a sign that things are getting better? When you destroy someone's home and detain their family, why would they want to go on with life? Why wouldn't they want to lob a bomb at some 19-year-old soldier from Missouri?!
-- from the blog Baghdad Burning
Morning News Shows
My internet connection at home is still screwed up, so I turned on the TV at 7 this morning hoping to find out what's going on. The top two stories on ABC, NBC and CBS? Michael Jackson and Laci Peterson. The idiot pResident is making a fool of himself (no trick there) in England, being protested by 100,000 people while turning London into an armed camp. Meanwhile, the war on houses and trees continues, with our military applying the same sort of collective punishment measures that made the Nazis so popular in World War II and that the Israelis have used with such stunning success in Palestine. (Insert sarcasticon here.)

Michael Jackson and Laci Peterson are more important than all that?

[Update] Atrios is with me on this. Okay, he beat me to it, but I hadn't seen his post before I made mine.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Wellstone crash blamed on pilot error
The twin-propeller King Air A100 stalled when the flight crew slowed it too quickly while approaching Eveleth-Virginia Municipal Airport in northern Minnesota on Oct. 25, 2002, investigators told the National Transportation Safety Board. The plane lost altitude, veered sharply, sheared off treetops and crashed 2 1/2 miles short of the runway.
John Clark, the NTSB's director of aviation safety, said Conry and Guess were flying too high and too fast as they began their approach. They slowed down too much as they tried to make up for the mistake, he said. The plane went from 190 mph to 87 mph in the final 90 seconds of the flight.

No mechanical problems were found, so investigators concluded inattention by the pilots most likely was to blame.
-- AP

TWO pilots. Both inattentive. No mayday call. The NTSB said last year that how the pilots died did not affect the investigation. The pilots are dead; easy to blame them. But what if they were dead or incapacitated BEFORE the crash? I discussed several possibilities last year, and I don't see much in the NTSB conclusions that rules out pilot error BECAUSE THEY WERE ALREADY DEAD.

Without the Wellstone crash, the Democrats would have maintained control of the Senate. He was the second Democratic senatorial candidate ahead in the polls to die in a plane crash in two years (Mel Carnahan of Missouri, running against John Ashcroft, was killed in a plane crash in October of 2000--he won the election anyway). The Republican-led media frenzy about the Wellstone memorial service was despicable as well (see Al Franken's book for lots of details on that).

Darn right I don't trust the Republitrons. They will do, and have done, ANYTHING to get their way.
aWol loses the Druid vote
The US military has expanded its attacks from just the two-legged fauna and architecture of Iraq into attacking the flora as well. They've already used napalm; can agent orange be far behind?
Good Riddance
Don't come back.
The Doctor has a new commercial
And his respect for the truth seems to match his respect for public financing of elections:

The commercial goes on to note that Gephardt supported Bush's recent $87 billion spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan. Dean tells viewers that he opposed both the war resolution and the spending bill, adding, "our party and our country need new leadership." -- CNN

From the September 25 debate:
WILLIAMS: Is that an up or down, yes or no, on the $87 billion per se?

DEAN: On the $87 billion for Iraq?


DEAN: We have no choice, but it has to be financed by getting rid of all the president's tax cuts.

Dean is 100% pure unadulterated politician. He will say whatever it takes to get elected. Replacing Bush with Dean would be like leaving the Titanic for a lifeboat with a leak in it. Maybe we'll survive until something better comes along, or maybe we'll just drown slower. C'mon, progressives! Emerge from Deanial and support a candidate for real change: Kucinich 2004!

Ain't that America
CNN asks "Should John Allen Muhammad get the death penalty in the sniper case?" The current tally is 88% yes, 12% no. Why don't you go vote "no" and try to send a message to Howard Dean and other death-penalty supporters?
No, It's Not Krugman

Are we being spun on jobs by the White House and the rah-rah Bush media like we are being spun on Iraq? Make up your own mind after considering the following.

Only a few of the 116,000 private-sector jobs created in October provide good incomes: 6,000 new positions in legal services and accounting — activities that reflect corporations gearing up to protect their top executives from Sarbanes-Oxley.

The remainder of the 116,000 new jobs consist of temps, retail trade, telephone marketing and fund raising, administrative and waste services, and private education and health services.
Jobs capable of producing tradable goods and services continue to be lost rapidly. In the last three months, the U.S. lost 91,000 manufacturing jobs.
A country that substitutes foreign labor for its own domestic labor via outsourcing, offshore production and Internet hiring, a country that transfers its wealth to foreigners to pay for imports, a country that fills up with welfare-dependent multitudes while it squanders $200 billion in Iraq, is a country headed for Third World status.

Some industry experts argue that the U.S. has lost so much of its core industrial capability that advanced manufacturing skills are disappearing in the U.S. The U.S. lacks mass production ability in critical areas of high-tech manufacturing.

The U.S. assembles parts made elsewhere. Knowledge- and capital-demanding activities, such as charge-coupled devices, industrial robotics, numerically controlled machine tools, laser diodes and carbon fibers, are passing out of U.S. hands.

A service economy has less to export than a manufacturing economy. What will the U.S. sell abroad to pay for its energy and manufacturing imports?

We currently pay for our imports by giving up ownership of our companies, real estate and corporate and government bonds. Once the U.S. has spent its wealth, we will have no way to pay for the energy and manufactured goods on which we have become import-dependent.

While the once fabulous U.S. economy erodes, the hapless Bush administration thinks its most important goal is to waste American lives and massive sums of money to force "democracy" on Middle Eastern peoples who do not want it.

Discerning readers might sense that the writer isn't Krugman or another reader because of the anti-immigrant slant. The author of the column excerpted above is Paul Craig Roberts, writing in the Washington Times. The Washington Times is also frequently referred to as the Moonie Times, since it was founded and owned by the Rev. Sun Yung Moon. The paper has been a major supporter of the Reagan and Bush administrations, and right-wing causes in general, since its founding. It appears that even this right-wing paper is no longer believing the lies oozing from the "hapless Bush administration."

I have hesitated to post doubts about the recently reported revival of the economy, not wanting to squeeze the sour grapes when I don't really know for sure what the truth is. But I'm glad to share with you this opinion coming from the right. And for what it's worth, I've had at least four people ask me for help finding jobs in the last few months, something that has rarely happened in the past.
Home computer update
The problem with my home computer, that being that my Internet access is down to near zero, appears to be Comcast's fault, either through the cable modem they provided or somewhere else down the line. They're sending a technician out tomorrow evening to fix it. So my blogging will remain somewhat hampered until then.
Monday, November 17, 2003
Bushies tell US corporations to pull out of Britain
According to the Evening Standard, US firms have been told to close down UK operations and bring jobs to the US. This apparently in retaliation for the WTO ruling against US steel tariffs.

US-based multinationals have been told they will receive compensation from American trade authorities if they cancel contracts in Britain and take jobs home, according to CBI director-general Digby Jones.

The allegations come only a day before Bush arrives in London for his controversial State visit and escalate the storm of protest he has already caused by slapping big protectionist tariffs on European steel imports.

Speaking at the CBI's annual conference in Birmingham, Jones said: 'Three chief executives of American companies investing in Britain have told me to my face that they have been told to close down, bring their stuff home and make it in the US.'

He said the companies were major employers in defence or manufacturing.

I've already warned Tony Blair once that there is no upside to being a friend of the Bushies--ask Manuel Noriega or Saddam Hussein. He'll turn on Blair in a Crawford minute if he thinks it will get him electoral votes in Pennsylvania or Ohio. AWol's trip across the pond should be VERY interesting; Michelle is following it closely.

Israeli warplanes buzz Lebanon
All of it:
As Israeli eyes were riveted on the appalling effects of the synagogue bomb attacks in Istanbul on Saturday, November 15, their air force executed a stunning demonstration of might over Lebanon lasting several hours Sunday, November 16. DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal exclusively that 30-40 Israeli fighter-bombers zipped through the length and breadth of Lebanon – from the northern regions and Tripoli, across to the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Beqaa Valley and Syrian bases, through Djebel Druze in the center, to Beirut and down to the south. The aircraft made low passes in quartets, buzzing key points. There was no response from the ground.

From DEBKAfile, an Israeli web site, via Michelle.
Two more dead, two more wounded
In Iraq, that is. After seventeen die in a helicopter crash, the headlines get smaller and smaller for "just two" fatalities. While I've seen other news web sites start to report the total fatalities from George's big crime (about 420 now, I think), the Post is still using the lowball number, with an added twist:

The attacks brought to 162 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in guerrilla attacks in Iraq since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1.

That figure does not include the 17 soldiers who were killed when two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters collided and crashed in the northern city of Mosul Saturday night. The U.S. military says it is still investigating the incident.

By the Post's reckoning, a soldier's death only counts if it happened in a guerilla attack since May 1 and the military is done investigating it.

Kids' bikes selling at record pace...
...but are not being ridden. According to the Washington Post, 20.4 million children in the United States rode a bicycle six or more times a year in 1991, and 16.8 million did so last year.

Six times a year is hardly riding at all. But wait, there's a dark side to the dark side here:

At the same time, more children's bicycles are being sold. That is partly because they are cheaper than ever, according to Matt Wiebe of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News magazine. Wiebe said more than 80 percent of sales are made at Wal-Mart, where bikes can be found for a little as $30.

So despite the fact that fearful parents won't allow their kids to ride their bikes anywhere useful (the article suggests that some parents in some neighborhoods tell their kids not to leave the DRIVEWAY), or maybe that the kids have gotten lazy, expecting a minivan ride to the video store every day, money keeps pouring in to Wal-Mart shareholders and their sweatshop suppliers.

Sprawl is a total disaster for kids. Not only is their freedom restricted because of the danger from traffic (or their parents fear of it), and by the fact that there probably aren't any fun places to ride to anyway (Hey look! The Smith's have a well-manicured non-descript one-acre backyard just like us!), they are being conditioned to accept this lazy ugly consumptive blandness as the only possible reality. Of all the possible Americas that could have been chosen over the past 100 years, we seem to have made a very bad choice.
Follow through on greenbelt
Two weeks ago, Ann Arbor voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal B, allowing the city to purchase property and development rights in surrounding townships, hoping to maintain some open space and cut down on the traffic and pollution caused by sprawl. Two UM professors argue that the city should follow through and encourage higher density within the city. I think they're right. Here's an excerpt:

The first principle of the Smart Growth movement is that regional problems require regional solutions. Now that Ann Arbor voters have approved the greenbelt proposal, city leaders and local environmentalists must promote the agenda of affordable housing, infill development and higher urban density with as much passion as they have demonstrated in the battle to contain suburban sprawl.

Many of the commuters who are clogging city streets and polluting our air and water are working-class and middle-income people who cannot afford to live in Ann Arbor but nevertheless make up the service economy that in turn sustains our lifestyles. Graduate students at U-M are increasingly forced to live outside the city, in locations where rental prices are lower but mass transit is inadequate
Trying to prevent sprawl on the suburban fringe while maintaining Ann Arbor's low-density residential landscape is incompatible with a sustainable development approach to the metropolitan region. Refusing to accept any changes to the "character of our neighborhoods" is ultimately a short-sighted and self-defeating strategy that will accelerate the quality-of-life decline caused by traffic jams and pollution of the air and water.
(whole article)

Auntie Trust is already dead, but now she's rolling around in her grave
Two Insurance Giants to Combine in $16 billion deal. I've always thought insurance was mostly a scam--buy a piece of paper on the installment plan, and hope the seller is able and willing to give you some of the money back when something bad happens to you. But it's a scam most of us have to participate in. You need insurance to get a license plate for your car; you need insurance to get a mortgage. With lots of little companies, you at least had a chance of finding one that would sell you a policy you could afford. But as the companies combine, your right to drive or buy a house is now owned by these giant corporations. If they don't like you--no car, no house.

And then there's health insurance: We'll sell you some if you can land a good job with a large company, and you guarantee you'll never be sick. Take it or leave it.
Stop the Energy Bill
Most of my readers are probably already MoveOn members, so you probably already got an e-mail about the energy bill. Whether you did or not, I urge you to call your senators today and ask them to do anything they can, such as filibuster, to stop Dick Cheney's latest gift to the oil and power industries. All senators can be reached toll-free through the Capitol switchboard, 800-839-5276. Call now!
No George. YOU are the security risk.
In a blunt message to protesters threatening to gridlock London during his visit, he said: “I would tell the sceptics that I have a job to protect the security of the United States of America — that Saddam Hussein was a security risk.” -- From aWol's interview with the Murdoch-owned Sun.

The Sun features naked women on page 3, but this interview is surely the most obscene thing they've ever run. As with Murdoch's NY Post and Fox News, they don't even pretend impartiality. Here's a cholce quote from the story:

In what appeared to be a swipe at France and Germany, who deserted the Allies in the run-up to war in Iraq, [Bush] said:

Deserted the Allies? Bush and Blair propose an insane, criminal, totally unjustified war, and objecting to it ever so slightly is "desertion?" The Sun should really be more careful using the word "deserted" when talking with Mr. Deserter himself.

(Gag warning--don't read the rest of this post on a full stomach.)

The article about the interview concluded thusly:

I then asked President Bush the question asked recently by thousands of Sun readers: Is the world a safer place since the war in Iraq? He replied: “Yes, much safer. The free world has recognised the threat.

“In order to make the world safe, you’ve got to see reality.

And the reality is that there are cold-blooded killers who are trying to intimidate, create fear and shape the will of the civilised world.

“They are killers capable of hiding in societies. They are patient, they are lethal, they pop up and they will destroy. They don’t care who they destroy. They will kill children just as soon as they’ll kill somebody in a military uniform.”

In Friday’s exclusive interview, the President said coalition forces ended Saddam’s tyranny, smashed the grip of al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan and forced the United Nations to stop turning its back on terror.

But America would act again, alone if necessary, for the long-term safety of the world. And he told how the US had learned not to rely on handwringing do-gooders.

He said: “One of my vows to the American people is, I won’t forget the lessons of September 11, 2001.

“I was at Ground Zero after the attacks. I remember this haze and the smells and the death and destruction. I’ll always remember that.

“I made up my mind right then. We were at war and we were going to win the war. And I still feel that determination today that I did then.

“Presidents and Prime Ministers should never worry about how they are viewed in short-term history. I think in terms of long-term history.

“I set big goals. And I know what we’re doing is going to have a positive effect on this world.”

It's just amazing that anybody can be this stupid, or so unaware that he IS the evil he claims to deplore.


From Ted Rall .
Unspeakably stupid, callous, evil, criminal...
That's our appointed president:
Returning Sunday to the White House from Camp David, Bush told reporters "the loss of life is sad" and that he had "spent some time in prayer for our servicemen and women who are in harm's way.

"The sacrifices that our folks are making in Iraq will be in our nation's interest in the short-term and the long-term," he said. "It's best to defeat the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to defeat them here."
-- CNN

I'm sorry, but the hypocrisy is too much. In the '80's, the Reagan administration, including several current Bush administration criminals, supported the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Many of them, including Osama bin Laden, were in fact foreigners to Afghanistan. They attacked the Soviet invaders of that country, including shooting down helicopters. The Reaganites called them "freedom fighters." Now, Iraqis attacking helicopters belonging to the American invaders are termed "terrorists." And while the adminstration tries to blame the resistance on "foreign terrorists" (who could be more foreign in Iraq than Americans?), their actions and statements suggest that they know that's a lie, at least for the most part:

Strikes in the town of Ad Dwar, north of Tikrit, destroyed several buildings, including houses of individuals believed to be involved in the shooting down of a U.S. helicopter on November 7. Also targeted by U.S artillery was an abandoned summer palace belonging to Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, an official in the deposed regime who is No. 6 on the list of 55 most wanted Iraqis.

A military source said the offensive is designed "to let the Iraqis know that the attacks on the coalition will not be tolerated."

My guess is that the people who have houses in Tikrit are probably Iraqis, and that if you're sending a message to Iraqis it's because you think they're involved.

These brutal retributions and building demolitions are almost sure to have the same result as they've had in Israel--by attacking people defending their country and calling them terrorists, you pretty much guarantee that you're going to be hit by real terrorists. Let's replace our own idiot version of Sharon before the bombs start going off with regularity here.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Home computer behaving like CRAP
I'm having a great deal of difficulty getting to web sites, including blogger. Hopefully everything will get worked out. Check out the other blogs over there --> to keep up to date on things. I'll be able to post some from my work computer, and I'll get this fixed, one way or another.

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