Bob's Links and Rants
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Freedom's Just Another Word...
In Abu Hishma, encased in a razor-wire fence after repeated attacks on American troops, Iraqi civilians line up to go in and out, filing through an American-guarded checkpoint, each carrying an identification card printed in English only.

"If you have one of these cards, you can come and go," coaxed Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman, the battalion commander whose men oversee the village, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. "If you don't have one of these cards, you can't."

The Iraqis nodded and edged their cars through the line. Over to one side, an Iraqi man named Tariq muttered in anger.

"I see no difference between us and the Palestinians," he said. "We didn't expect anything like this after Saddam fell."
-- NY Times

US Kills 9 Children in Afghanistan
An air attack by the United States-led military against a suspected terrorist in Afghanistan apparently killed nine children on Saturday as well as the intended target, the Central Command said.

In a statement issued from the headquarters of the American-led military forces at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, the military said ground forces searching the area after the attack had found the bodies of the children as well as the body of the suspect, who was said to have been involved in the killings of two contractors working on Afghanistan's main highway connecting the capital with the cities of Kandahar and Herat.
-- NY Times

Marching through Georgia
The World Socialist Web Site has no doubt about the causes of the recent "revolution" in Georgia:
The US-backed coup in Georgia and Washington’s subsequent diplomatic saber-rattling have nothing to do with the spread of democracy or similar clichés. Georgia, strategically situated between the Black Sea and the oil-rich Caspian, has long been a focus of intrigue and conflict between the great powers. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the goal of weakening Russian influence and achieving US domination of Georgia and the rest of the Caucasus became a central preoccupation of US imperialist policy.

From the early days of the Clinton administration, Washington invested enormous political and diplomatic capital in the construction of a pipeline that would connect the oil fields of Baku, in Azerbaijan, to Western markets, while skirting the territory of both Russia and Iran. This made Georgia all the more critical, since such a pipeline would have to run through that volatile, backward and ethnically torn country.

The pipeline—running from Baku to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan—is slated to open in 2005. For Washington, the maintenance of relative stability in a Georgia run by an unambiguously pro-US regime is a matter of the greatest urgency. The interests of US energy giants and the global military and the strategic aims of American imperialism as a whole converge on this question. Herein lie the roots of the so-called “rose revolution” that toppled Shevardnadze last month.

Here's an interesting twist:
There seems little doubt that the [Shevardnadze] regime resorted to vote-rigging and ballot-stuffing, but the public perception of a stolen election was enhanced by exit polls showing a victory for the opposition parties. These polls were funded by US agencies and American-backed non-governmental organizations; they were broadcast on Rustavi 2 TV, a Western-backed oppositional media outlet.

So, in the former Soviet state of Georgia, exit polls were used to raise questions about the accuracy of an election. Last year, in the former Confederate state of Georgia, exit polls were supressed so that questions wouldn't be raised about the black-box no-paper-trail elections of a Republican governor and Republican senator, both of whom had trailed substantially in polls taken before the election:

In the meantime, exit-polling organizations have quietly gone out of business, and the news arms of the huge multinational corporations that own our networks are suggesting the days of exit polls are over. Virtually none were reported in 2002, creating an odd and unsettling silence that caused unease for the many American voters who had come to view exit polls as proof of the integrity of their election systems.
Your Ten Cents Worth
CNN asks: Whose image should be on the dime? The choices are Ronald Reagan and the incumbent, Franklin D. Roosevelt. You know what to do! (Lower right of page)
Smith backing down from bribery charges. Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) now says his allegations of attempted bribery by Repug leaders on the House floor in the all-night extortion session leading to passage of the Medicare destruction bill were "technically incorrect." Smith also said Republicans were not pressuring him to back away from his previous comments.

No word yet from the White House as to whether Smith's son will still be named an enemy combatant or whether the JFK Jr./Carnahan/Wellstone airplane sabotage team would be reactivated.

Keep up!
As you can tell, I've been a little busy the last couple of days, so I haven't commented on several new and old scandals, including the return of that old walking scandal himself, James Baker III (ay-ay-aaay!). I suggest You Will Anyway and Left I On the News as good places to catch up until I do!
Friday, December 05, 2003
Kucinich's speech in Ann Arbor
Cyndy and Craig have posted a video.

Oh, and Dennis? You're welcome! (Sorry for the self-promotion :-))
Go Jenny, Go Jenny...
I am not going to stand for cutting out the legs from the social safety net, balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens because they (Republicans) don't have the guts to pause a rollback in the state income tax that equates to $11 a person. It is irresponsible and cruel. -- Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Soros explains his contributions
in today's Washington Post.

I have scrupulously abided by both the letter and the spirit of the law. Both America Coming Together and the Voter Fund are "527" organizations -- referring to Section 527 of the tax code -- which are entitled to receive unlimited contributions from individuals. Both groups are fully transparent about their motives and activities. Both file detailed and frequent reports with government regulators.
President Bush has a huge fundraising advantage because he has figured out a clever way to raise money. He relies on donors he calls "Pioneers," who collect $100,000 apiece in campaign contributions in increments that fall within the legal limit of $2,000 a person, and on those he calls "Rangers," who collect at least $200,000.

Many of these Pioneers and Rangers are corporate officials who are well situated to raise funds from their business associates, bundle them together and pass them along with tracking numbers to ensure proper "credit." They are buying the same level of access and influence for their corporate interests that they previously obtained with their own and corporate funds. With the help of Pioneers and Rangers, President Bush is on track to collect $200 million.

To counter the fundraising advantage obtained by this strategy, I have contributed to independent organizations that by law are forbidden to coordinate their activities with the political parties or candidates. That law minimizes or eliminates the ability to purchase influence in exchange for my contribution. Moreover, I don't seek such influence. My contributions are made in what I believe to be the common interest. ACT is working to register voters, and MoveOn is getting more people engaged in the national debate over Bush's policies.

Ann Arbor News article on Kucinich visit
The good-news offensive...
Didn't work out so well for the Bushies in Iraq. Even the corporate media just couldn't bring themselves to put stories about painting schools ahead of stories about chopper crashes killing 17 US soldiers. But their good-news offensive on the economy appears to be working. Left I On the News has a good post about the meaninglessness of some of the recent numbers that have been making front-page news.

News reports claim that "productivity surged to a 20-year high," but, curiously enough, any actual data about "productivity" (output per hour), or actual data about actual output, are noticeably lacking from the article. What the data quoted in the article say is that "productivity rose at an annual rate of 9.4 percent" in the third quarter, "the best since the second quarter of 1983." In other words, the rate of increase of productivity was at a 20-year high, not productivity itself (that may be true, but, as I said, there is absolutely no evidence presented that it is).

Suppose for instance that you're considering finding loose change on the street as an alternative to your day job. Let's say you found a dime on Monday, 15 cents on Tuesday, a penny on Wednesday, and two pennies on Thursday. While Tuesday was clearly your best day to any reasonable person, it represented only a 50% rate of increase over the previous day, overshadowed by Thursday's dramatic 100% increase.

Since many of the reports released come from the Bushie-controlled government, there is really little reason to believe any of them. They have shown repeatedly that they will lie about anything to get their way, and the labor and commerce departments should probably be considered to be parts of aWol's reselection campaign. Some things may be improving in the economy; others getting worse. It doesn't really matter to the Bushies. All they care about is that there have been several days in a row with headlines about supposedly improved economic numbers. They know that the majority of reporters and the vast majority of the general public won't bother to investigate whether there is any truth and/or meaning to the numbers being hyped.
Michigan Daily Article on Kucinich visit
AWol caves on steel tariffs
Dennis Kucinich reiterated his pledge to withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO yesterday, and cited Bush's reversal on the steel tariffs as evidence that the WTO has caused the US to relinquish sovereignty. According to the NY Times:

Employing relatively untested powers, the eight-year-old World Trade Organization authorized European and Asian nations to devise retaliatory tariffs against the United States, just 11 months before a presidential election. Not surprisingly, the Europeans pulled out an electoral map and proudly announced they would single out products made in the states Mr. Bush most needs to win a second term.
The raw political fact remains that the W.T.O. made the price of protecting the steel industry simply too high. It was left to the Europeans to design the penalties, and they pinpointed textile mills in the Carolinas and farmers in the Midwest and California with a precision that Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, must have grudgingly admired.

Whether aWol succeeds in retaining or gaining the votes from those states sufficiently to counteract the possible loss of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia remains to be seen. I hope not. I was frankly hoping that Bush wouldn't cave to the WTO, not because the tariffs seemed like a great idea, but because it might have led to the destruction of the WTO, which would be a very good thing.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Great Kucinich Day in Michigan!
Dennis Kucinich came to Ann Arbor today at about 12:30. He was greeted by a large crowd at the Michigan League, then walked over to Borders where he joined the picket line. He then went on to Lansing, East Lansing, and Detroit. He was joined by the Peace Walkers, who are walking across the country to draw attention to Dennis' campaign and the issues he champions. I started my day having a bagel breakfast with the Peace Walkers, then joining the march and rally at the League and Borders, and finally driving to East Lansing for his appearance before a big crowd.

Here are three photos that I took. You can see the rest at Ofoto.

Kucinich addresses the crowd outside the Michigan League

Kucinich on the picket line

Breakfast with the Peace Walkers (walkers Clara Wilson and Jonathan Meier are in the back left corner of the table)

Borders Readers United has more pictures.
Won't be much blogging today
I'm heading downtown to help with the various Kucinich events, and then on to East Lansing for another Kucinich rally. When I get back, I'm going to a Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition meeting, and will then watch the Red Wings on the TiVo after that. I'll probably post something at 11:30 or so; maybe some pictures from the rallies.
Checkbooks roasting on an open fire...
Polizeros reports:
An Austrian trade union has claimed the repetitive playing of Christmas carols in department stores is "psycho-terrorism" for salespeople.

Here's the comment I made on his site:

Amen to that! I was in a local grocery store before Thanksgiving and they played one of those half-hour versions of "Chestnuts Roasting" sung by some lounge lizard. I have a soft spot for some of the traditional carols, but these sleigh-ride to grandma's house for some fantasy very-white Christmas songs seem intended to enrage or depress just about everyone.
More on the Nick Smith affair
As you may recall, Nick Smith is the retiring Republican congressman from Michigan's 7th district. He was reportedly told that $100,000 in campaign contributions would be given to his son, running to take his seat next year, if the elder Smith voted for the Medicare "reform" bill. This attempted bribery is a clear violation of the law.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence McAuliffe has written a letter to AG Ashcrotch asking him to investigate and prosecute the matter. Josh Marshall has a copy of the letter.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Kucinich in Ann Arbor tomorrow!
The schedule:

10:15 am: Breakfast with Peace Walkers at Bruegger's Bagels, 709 N. University. The Peace Walkers are four people who are walking across the country to draw
attention to the Kucinich campaign and the issues it addresses, especially peace and international cooperation.

11:30 am: Presentation/discussion by Peace Walkers at the Michigan League, North University at Fletcher, 3rd floor, Room D.

12 noon: Dennis Kucinich arrives at the League for a short speech and discussion.

12:35 pm: Walk from the League to Borders to support the striking workers and join their picket line.

Please join us if you can!
Much less safe than we were three years ago
Stan Goff reports that the Bushies combination of secrecy, punishment of whistleblowers, favoritism for corporations, and wars (which have the dual impact of enraging much of the world AND sending many of our first responders off to get shot at) has left us pretty much completely vulnerable. Some choice quotes from the long article:

Mark Hertsgaard, "Nuclear Insecurity," Vanity Fair, November 2003: Over the past two years, the Bush administration has talked tough about defending the United States against terrorism, pointing to the September 11 tragedy to justify much of its domestic and international political agenda, from invading Iraq to limiting civil liberties to relaxing environmental regulations. But... the Bush administration is in fact failing disastrously at the practical job of keeping the American homeland safe from terrorist attacks. In particular, the administration is doing worse than nothing ... leaving serious flaws in the nuclear-security system unrepaired, it is silencing the very public servants who are trying to fix the problem before it is too late.

Argonne National Laboratory, for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1982: [A] large commercial airliner striking the reactor dome... would easily penetrate the reactor dome... obliterate the reactor core's primary containment thereby immediately releasing massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere without any chance of evacuation. Thousands of people would quickly perish and thousands more would perish over time... the explosive force of jet fuel exploding inside the containment dome would... convert the containment dome itself into a bomb.
Whistleblower protections were excised from proposals for the Department of Homeland Security and the newly formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA). To his great credit, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa--breaking ranks with many in his party--issued a call in 2002 to restore whistleblower protection to all jobs and contracts.

"Government agencies too often want to cover up their mistakes," said Grassley, "and the temptation is even greater when bureaucracies can use a potential security issue as an excuse. At the same time, the information whistleblowers provide is all the more important when public safety and security is at stake."
The nation's 103 nuclear power plants have packed the waste fuel from each reactor into water-filled cooling pools like sardines. In addition to the threat of intentional activations of these cesium-bombs for malicious motives, accidental loss of cooling will also cause a pool fire, which Brookhaven National Laboratory estimates could cause--depending on the location and conditions--up to 140,000 cancer deaths, $500 billion in off-site property damage, and contamination of thousands of square miles.

This nightmare scenario can be rendered moot by simply re-racking these waste fuel assemblies back to the original design distance, where air convection can prevent self-ignition. Unfortunately, few elected officials want to confront the nation's powerful utilities about their irresponsible behavior, and the putative Nuclear Regulatory Commission has its leadership appointed by people who win elections with generous contributions from the very utilities that continue to gamble with public safety to protect profit margins.
While European nuclear plants began in the eighties to harden their own plants--especially spent fuel storage--against aircraft crashes, accidental or intentional, the NRC made a conscious choice not to impose this financial hardship on the U.S. nuclear industry.
Apparently "al Qaeda" figured out that there is no need to transport a radiological weapon into the United States, when 103 of them are already deployed around the country, invariably near urban centers.

What the Department of Homeland Security apparently has not figured out is that it is likewise not necessary for attackers to hijack airplanes outside the country to activate the huge "dirty bombs." The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report in September 2003 that showed 70 general aviation aircraft had been stolen inside the United States within the last five years. That is an average of 14 aircraft a year. These are small planes at short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) airfields.

Cursory research shows that the most common light aircraft in the United States is the Cessna Skyhawk.

A Tomahawk Cruise Missile is a precision weapon that can hug the earth, evade radar, travel to a range of 600 miles, and deliver up to 1,000 pounds of high explosive onto a target. A Cessna Skyhawk has a range of 687 miles, can carry a payload up to 675 pounds, and likewise can hug the contours of the earth to evade radar and deliver its payload with pinpoint accuracy.

These general aviation aircraft then, with the simple addition of a committed pilot prepared to die and 500 pounds of high explosive, could be employed as a "poor person's Cruise missile."
It is very difficult to understand how (1) muzzling whistleblowers, (2) concealing security criteria from public scrutiny and accountability, and (3) "backing off" on reporting security violations are consistent with this administration's rhetoric about "homeland security."

Since September 11, state and local emergency services budgets have been stripped bare, National Guard troops have been sent to Iraq, reservists who worked in local police, EMS, and fire departments have been subtracted from net manpower, the entire northeast was blacked out, California burned, children across Southwest Asia and North Africa wear Osama bin Laden t-shirts, and Iraqis are more and more often naming their newborns Saddam.

Sleep well.

Turns out it was Thanksgiving dinner, after all
Wayne Madsden has a long article on the various forms of atrocious reporting surrounding aWol's turkey hop to Baghdad. A Washington Post reporter had written that Air Force One landed at Baghdad Airport at 5:20 AM, while it now seems likely that it landed at 5:20 PM. (I'll admit that I was confused by the supposed morning time. I first heard about the trip shortly after noon (EST) on Thanksgiving. The CNN embeds (they're ALL embeds) were saying that they couldn't report anything until after the plane had taken off. Since Baghdad is eight hours ahead of Michigan, that means they were reporting at about 8:30 PM Baghdad time. That's consistent with AF One being on the ground from 5:20 to 7:55 PM. (Insanity base: The turkey has landed.)

The article points to lots of other inconsistencies in the various stories about this expensive GOP campaign stunt.
More on the Samarra shootout
The US military’s initial account of Sunday’s firefight in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, uncritically relayed to the American people by a servile media, has proven to be a tissue of lies. It turns out that the “major victory” over the Iraqi resistance consisted of American forces blasting away indiscriminately in Samarra’s city center, killing innocent men, women and children, damaging property and buildings—including a mosque and a kindergarten—and further enraging the local population.

The Samarra incident in its various aspects—the battle itself, the military’s claims, the media’s role—is a microcosm of the US occupation of Iraq.

Read the rest at the WSWS.

Paramilitaries: the key to security?
Apparently helping to pave the way for the eventual Iraq civil war, Paul Bremer and the Iraqi Governing Council plan to set up a paramilitary force with militias from five of the major factions in Iraq. According to Juan Cole:

Ghazi al-Yawar, a Sunni member of the IGC, told the LA Times that this was a very bad idea, and that the militias should be disbanded rather than being legitimized.

Al-Yawar is right, of course. This step is ominous, moreover, because this genderamerie will report to the Interior Ministry, which is dominated by the appointees of ex-Baathist Iyad al-Alawi.

Escape hatch closing?
Our cold neighbor to the north, Canada, has seemed to many liberal types as a cool alternative to this ever-worsening batch of nationalistic fundamentalist patriotic yahoos we call the United States. Unfortunately, Canada has a new prime minister, and he's already talking about increasing the military and dropping out of the Kyoto agreement. Not a good sign.
88% of Canadians support mandatory labeling of GMO foods
Meanwhile, probably 95% of Americans aren't aware that they're eating frankenfoods every day, one of the many great stealth crimes perpetrated in the last ten years on the people and the planet by the amoral corporations and their Republican friends.
Supreme Court's decision to review "enemy combatant" crap...
is already affecting the Bushies. Not only are they releasing many of the "detainees" at Guantanamo Bay, they have now granted one of the three US-citizen "enemy combatants" the right to a lawyer.
Dingell's Visit
My congressional representative, John Dingell, spoke to a group of students and townspeople at the Michigan Union last night. As congresscritters go, he's one of the best, and has been in the House since 1956, longer than any other current member. He helped to create and pass Medicare in the 1960's, and was not at all happy to witness the beginning of its destruction in 2003. He was harsh in his criticism of the Republicans in the House for their shutting Democrats out of debates on key issues like Medicare. Dingell said he could accept the reduced leadership role as a member of the minority party in the House, but could not accept that the Republicans were closing the door on representation to the millions across the country, including us, who are represented by Democrats. His outlook on the wars was bleak, as was his view of the economy, given the huge deficits being run up.

I asked him if he witnessed any bribery or other shenanigans going on during the all-night House vote on the medicare, since I had read about Rep. Nick Smith's apparent allegations of attempted bribery. While Dingell said he didn't personally witness any bribery, he did say "If Nick said it, it's true." He was harsh in his criticism of the Bush administration in dragging the vote out in violation of House rules in order to overturn a clear vote (218-216) against the Medicare bill.

Dingell was asked about fuel economy, one issue on which he has disappointed me. He said, frankly, that it is a difficult topic for him to address since so much of the economy of his district is tied up in the auto industry. His main suggestion was to follow the lead of Europe by getting the sulfur out of diesel fuel. He feels that diesel is a better option than hybrids or fuel cells, and that most large European cars are now diesels. He said that switching to diesel could double fuel economy.

All in all, Dingell is an excellent congressman, and it's a shame there aren't many more like him. He voted against the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, the tax cuts, and the Medicare bill.
Quote du Jour
From the Gropenator, aka ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman. -- Progressive Review.
Caucasian Chalk Circle
Michelle is making an admirable attempt at explaining what's happening in Georgia. I just read it, and I'll have to admit I'm pretty confused. Which I think means Michelle's doing an excellent job; if you think you know what's happening there, then you probably aren't paying attention.

It occurred to me that Condi Rice may be having problems explaining the situation to aWol as well, given that he's an idiot, while she's either an idiot or does a good imitation of one. Let's imagine their conversation.

Condi: Mr. President, there are some issues in Georgia that need your attention.

aWol: Well, I'll be in Atlanta next week for a fundraiser. Maybe I can talk to somebody then? How about that Zell Miller guy--I'll talk to him.

Condi: Not that Georgia, sir. The one that used to be in the Soviet Union.

aWol: You're pullin' mah leg, right? Georgia in the Soviet Union? Is there still a Soviet Union?

Condi: No sir. It broke up back when your Daddy was president. Now it's a bunch of little countries, including Georgia. NOT our state Georgia, sir, the one in the Caucuses.

aWol: I thought I didn't have to worry about the caucuses since no Republicans are running against me.

Condi: The Caucuses are a mountain range, sir.

aWol: Well, we got through them in 2000, we'll do it this time. So what were you tellin' me about?

Condi: They had a crooked election in Georgia.

aWol: I know. Thank God! That Max Cleland was nothing but trouble. Always flaunting his triple ammuni-...ampura-...that he only has one arm and no legs. Like he's some sort of hero or something. Thank that Diebold guy for me again, willya?

Condi: Yes, sir. No, sir, the crooked election was in the other Georgia, in the Caucuses.

aWol: Whatever. So we want to fix it?

Condi: Well, they've already overturned the results of the election and replaced the government.

aWol: Hmmm...that's a dangerous precerent. Should we change it back?

Condi: No sir. Shevardnadze wasn't doing what we wanted, so he had to go. We like the new guy, Saakashvili.

aWol: Does he have a nickname?

Condi: Not that I know of, sir.

aWol: Well make one up for him, willya?

Condi: Right away, sir. I think we need to get someone over there to talk to him so we can get our pipelines built.

aWol: They've got oil?

Condi: Not much, but there's lots of oil on the other side of them. We need to be able to run pipelines through Georgia to keep it out of the hands of the Russians.

aWol: Okay. Tell Powell to fly to the capital tonight.

Condi: Tbilisi?

aWol: I doubt it. Colin's starting to get pretty feisty about goin' on all these trips.

Condi: You might want to talk with China's president before he goes.

aWol: And that's who?

Condi: Very good, sir!
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
RICO Complaint filed against aWol and cabinet
I thought that I had posted this before, but I can't find it. Stuff like this gets way too little attention!

A 9/11 victim's wife has filed a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) complaint against the Bushies.

Philip J. Berg, Esquire, announced today that he, attorney for Ellen Mariani, wife of Louis Neil Mariani, who died when United Air Lines flight 175 was flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9-11 at a news conference regarding the filing of a detailed Amended Complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on 11/26/03 in the case of Mariani vs. Bush et al that he is alleging President Bush and officials including, but not limited to Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Feinberg that they:

1. had knowledge/warnings of 911 and failed to warn or take steps to prevent;

2. have been covering up the truth of 911; and

3. have therefore violated the laws of the United States; and

4. are being sued under the Civil RICO Act.

Go get 'em, Philip and Ellen! But be careful; mobsters have notoriously unscrupulous ways of "resolving" court cases.
The only thing to fear
From Charley Reese, via Michelle:
You should also remember that two years later, the Bush administration has: (1) failed to identify and capture the anthrax killer; (2) failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the actual boogeyman who got us; (3) failed to capture or kill Saddam Hussein; and (4) failed to capture or kill Mullah Omar of Taliban fame.

Worse, rather than going after the terrorists who actually attacked us, Mr. Bush has invited all of the world's terrorists to attack us by declaring war on them and has gotten us bogged down in two guerrilla wars. Whatever happened to the peace dividends? You certainly can't find them in our $400 billion military budget.
The secret of the game afoot is that Mr. Bush has no desire to win the war on terrorism. What he wants is perpetual war, because that means perpetually enhancing the power of government.
First it was fascism, then communism and now Islam. In the meantime, our own country grows less and less free and more and more in debt while those who profit from the war state rake in their billions of dollars.

You as a citizen ought not to fall for this fearmongering. All we have to do is cut the apron strings from Israel and pull our troops out of the Middle East, where they have no business being anyway, and Middle East terrorism directed toward us would evaporate overnight. We have no natural conflict with the Arab world or it with us, and most assuredly Islam is not our enemy.
The truth is, the only enemies we have are those our own government is manufacturing to justify a powerful central government that is sucking the wealth and liberty out of this country like some monstrous leech.

There is no need to be $6 trillion in debt, there is no need to maintain a $400 billion defense budget, and there is darn sure no need to give up our liberty in the name of security.

Sprawl Affecting Military Bases
Apparently bases that used to be out in the middle of nowhere are being surrounded by subdivisions, and some of the new homeowners are complaining about all the noise and shaking and accidental explosions and such. From Reuters.

My solution: Get rid of both!
They're at it again
Assuming, as seems likely, that the situation in Iraq has pretty much no chance of improving in the next year, and that all the BS about the improving economy is just that, the Bushies are busy laying the groundwork for more wars. Neocon wingnut Under Secretary of State John Bolton leads the way today:

"If rogue states are not willing to follow the logic of non-proliferation norms, they must be prepared to face the logic of adverse consequences," Bolton said. "It is why we repeatedly caution that no option is off the table."

Bolton specifically cited Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya and Cuba as rouge nations "whose pursuit of weapons of mass destruction makes them hostile to U.S. interests."

Look here, Bolton, you moron, by the administration's decision to attack Iraq, which didn't have WMD's, while not attacking North Korea (or India or Pakistan or Russia or France or Great Britain or China or Israel or North Frigging Dakota) which does, you made it pretty clear to the world that having nukes is about the only defense against a US attack that any nation has. The US of A is the now the roguiest of the rogue states in the world.
Democracy in Action
Some Republican leader tried to bribe a Michigan congressman during the three-hour Medicare vote last week. Nick Smith's district is just to the west of here; he represents my sister, brother-in-law, two nephews, their wives, and numerous friends. Smith didn't cave into the threats and bribe offers, but now he's apparently not talking about who actually made the bribe offer. From Slate:

Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., says that sometime late Nov. 21 or early in the morning Nov. 22, somebody on the House floor threatened to redirect campaign funds away from his son Brad, who is running to succeed him, if he didn't support the Medicare prescription bill. This according to the Associated Press. Robert Novak further reports,

On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, [Rep.] Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.

So good job, Nick, for not caving. Now, keep up the good work by turning in whoever it was who offered you the bribe. According to the article, Smith has already indicated that it wasn't Speaker of the House Hastert, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, or Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, whose very presence on the House floor that night was in violation of long-standing House lobbying rules.

Perhaps those of you in his district should contact him, thank him for not caving to the pressure and the bribes, and encourage him to turn in the attempted briber(s). Heck, we all should! Smith's contact information is here, or, like everyone in Congress, his office can be reached toll-free through the Congressional switchboard: 800-839-5276. You may want to read the whole Slate article before calling.
Pravda Reports
From Left I on the News:
On the subject of media dutifully reporting what they're told, CBS News reporter Mark Knoller, on the "White House beat" reported tonight (in a piece entitled "Clueless in Crawford") on being "fooled" by being handed, and then reading on the air, false reports that George Bush was making holiday phone calls to U.S. troops overseas, when in fact he was in Iraq at the time. Knoller closed his piece with this observation: "From now on, when I report that the President is at his ranch, neither you nor I will be sure of it." Now one might ask this: if Knoller isn't sure of it, why is he reporting it as fact? If he is just going to read White House press releases, why exactly do we need him anyway? Can't the White House just email its press releases in to CBS Evening News?

Another soldier killed
How many more?
Trying to keep up!
Congressman John Dingell will be talking with us this evening at the Michigan Union (Pendleton Room, 6 pm). Tomorrow night the four "Steps for Peace" walkers will reach Ann Arbor, and will be here on Thursday when Dennis Kucinich arrives! Kucinich will appear at a rally on the UM campus at 12:10. The crowd will then proceed over to Borders on Liberty Street and join the picket line there.

So with all this going on, I'm having trouble keeping up with everything, especially the multitude of confusing developments in various former Soviet republics. Michelle in Missouri sent me an e-mail about how someone could be both Soros and against us (which really means for us, because he's anti-Bush), explaining that Bush may have supported the ouster of Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze for the usual fossil-fuel reasons, while billionaire Bush-hater George Soros may have supported Shevardnadze's removal on democratic prinicples. Michelle is also looking into links between what is going on in Georgia and what has been happening in Russia--the arrest of billionaire oil magnate Khodorkovsky by Pooty-Poot and how Soros may be involved with that as well. She's got another good post about Georgia as well.

So I'll be spending much of this week trying to get Kucinich elected and getting the Borders' workers a fair contract. Oh, and working, too. If I get a chance, I'll try to figure out what's going on in Georgia, but you might want to keep checking Michelle's blog for now.

From Doonesbury.
Monday, December 01, 2003
They'll lie anywhere, anytime
Apparently, a British Airways pilot saw Air Force One, the blue-and-white 747 sneaking aWol into Baghdad, while it was crossing the Atlantic:

Bush aides recounted with excitement the moment during the flight to Baghdad when the BA pilot thought he spotted the president's blue and white Boeing 747 from his cockpit.

"Did I just see Air Force One?" the pilot radioed.

There was a pause. Then came the response from Air Force One: "Gulfstream 5" -- a much smaller aircraft.

As one of Bush's aides recounted, the BA pilot seemed to sense that he was in on a secret, and replied: "Oh."

Probably familiar with the ways of Bush, the pilot then knew for sure that it was Air Force One. And "Bush aides recounted with excitement?" Get a life.

Meanwhile, Michelle links to a Counterpunch article which did the math and shows that aWol's Thanksgiving "dinner" in Baghdad Airport was really breakfast.
The answer to my poll question below is Nebraska, according to today's NY Times. Nebraska has seven of the twelve poorest counties in the nation, including the three poorest. If I hadn't read the article, I would have said Mississippi.
Words versus Actions
My attitude is the more money you've got in your pocket, the more likely it is your family is going to be okay. -- aWol today, speaking today employees at a small Michigan company.

Under a proposal by President Bush, more than 8 million workers might not be paid extra for the overtime hours they work. President Bush can make these changes through executive order, even over objections from Congress. Please show your support for overtime pay during the Overtime Pay National Week of Action by signing this petition.

More on Gitmo
According to Time, activities leading toward release of the 140 prisoners have accelerated since the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. It said U.S. officials had concluded some detainees were kidnapped for reward money offered for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. -- ABC

Two years in a concentration camp, 8000 miles from home, without any legal rights whatsoever, as punishment for being kidnapped? You were kidnapped because the US military was offering reward money? You are only released because the Supreme Court FINALLY agreed to consider the constitutionality of your detainment?

God bless America, we sure don't deserve it. More here and here.

Colorado's GOP redistricting plan unconstitutional
Chalk one up for the good guys. Hopefully this decision will lead to a similar result in Texas.
A quiz for you!

Answer later.
Hostages to be released from Gitmo?
Senior Defense Department officials said Sunday that the military may soon release to their home countries scores of detainees, perhaps more than 100, who are being held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

That would still leave over 500, none of whom have been charged with crimes, none of whom have had access to lawyers, and most of whom have been there for nearly two years.
Major Combat Operations Just Beginning
The military now says that 54 Iraqis were killed in the attempted ambush of two US convoys yesterday. According to the NY Times:

The A.P. quoted residents as saying that when Saddam loyalists attacked the Americans, American forces began firing at random, prompting civilians to get guns and join the fight. It said many civilians were bitter about recent United States raids in the night.
Residents and police officers in Samarra said less than a dozen Iraqis had been killed and contended that many of those wounded were civilians, the Associated Press reported. The residents were clearly incensed at the immense firepower used by the Americans.

No matter which side is telling the truth (probably neither), carnage on this scale is clear evidence that there is very little hope for the US military ever creating a democracy in Iraq. Not that that was ever their intention. It's about oil and empire, and always has been.

I think we're starting to see the latest excuse for continuing this bloody occupation, and battles like this one are key to it. Anyone paying any attention already knows the stuff about WMD's and al Qaeda ties was all lies. The democracy BS is looking pretty frayed too, especially when the Bushies' concerns for democracy in places like Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan are concerned. No, the main reason being sold to the mostly ignorant American public now is simply the "these colors don't run" nonsense--the idea that "loss of honor" is worse than the loss of thousands of troops (as if US honor wasn't already completely destroyed by the illegal invasion in the first place).

Screw all that. Bring the troops home now. Whatever chaos ensues in Iraq is unlikely to be any worse than the chaos that will happen if the troops stay, and the troops will without a doubt be better off at home.

From R. J. Matson.

From Kirk Anderson.
Georgia on other people's mind
The Globe and Mail's Moscow correspondent Mark MacKinnon doesn't answer my questions (below) but does say that excitement for peaceful revolution has spread from Georgia to other former Soviet republics, especially Moldova and the Ukraine.
Georgia still on my mind
Cyndy forwards a BBC article which says:
Ousted Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze has accused the US of helping to remove him from power.

So we've got two articles from a Canadian journalist, one pointing the finger at the Bush administration while the other points it at George Soros, and now this article which supports the first explanation. I'm still looking for an article which either explains how (and why) both could have been involved, or which supports one explanation while refuting the other.
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Bloodbath in Samarra
The BBC reports that several innocent bystanders were shot by US tanks responding to an attempted ambush of their convoy.

The US military has reported killing 46 militants and wounding 18 in clashes in the central Iraqi city of Samarra. Five US soldiers and a civilian were wounded in the fighting which raged as militants made a series of attacks on convoys in the city on Sunday.

But witnesses said a US tank had fired indiscriminately during the fighting, killing at least two factory-workers.
Frightened witnesses in Samarra told a correspondent for the French news agency AFP who managed to enter the city that US forces had repeatedly come under attack on Sunday.

However, they added that, in the aftermath of one attack at about 1255 (0955 GMT), an American tank had opened fire on workers leaving a factory at the end of their shift, killing two and wounding "many".

"We're sending a clear message that anyone who attempts to attack our convoys will pay the price," the [US military] spokesman said.

Actually, it sounds like the military has decided to go with Trent Lott's suggestion from October: “If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens. You’re dealing with insane suicide bombers who are killing our people, and we need to be very aggressive in taking them out.”

November saw the most coalition casualties of any month in the war, and today was apparently the deadliest single for Iraqis since "major combat operations" ended. I'm afraid that December will break both records. The article reports that there were seven Spaniards, two Japanese, two South Koreans and a Colombian killed in Iraq this weekend.

[Update] The Washington Post doesn't mention the factory workers, only that
American military officials said they had no information about any possible Iraqi civilian casualties.
Quote du Jour
He's just as much of an ass in Baghdad as he is in Washington. -- from Baghdad Burning.
New Kucinich poster from George Lois

Read more about it here.
Good Doonesbury today
And Mr. President? It was the Marlins over the Yankees in six.
Two more killed, one more wounded
I saw several headlines yesterday saying "deadliest month comes to an end" and kept thinking they were being a bit premature. Unfortunately, I was right.

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