Bob's Links and Rants
Saturday, January 31, 2004

From the Black Commentator.
No need to choose
Should Bush be impeached for starting an illegal, immoral, unnecessary war, as the better Democratic candidates might suggest, or simply because he's made such an awful job of it, as wusses like Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman (who voted for the war) say? There has been plenty of evidence for the first argument in the past couple of weeks, from Paul O'Neill and David Kay especially. For evidence of the latter, look no further than today's headlines:

A car bomb targeting a police station in Iraq's third largest city killed nine people and injured 45 others Saturday, while three American soldiers died when a roadside bomb ripped through their convoy near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. -- AP

Whether you believe the ends justify the means or not, it seems as though "Bush must go" is the obvious conclusion. In the war in Iraq, the means sucked, and so do the ends.
The MoveOn Ad
For my opening post of the day, I turn my time over to the distinguished Senator from Illinois, Richard Durbin:

Before the FCC adopted rules in June to raise the cap to 45 percent, the cap was limited to 35 percent. Upset at what the FCC had done, a strong majority in the House and Senate agreed to roll back the FCC rule and take it back down to 35 percent. Why is this important? The White House and the Republicans in this conference on this Omnibus appropriation bill, with no Democrats present, came up with a figure of 39 percent as the new cap--39 percent. What is so magic about 39 percent? Allow me to explain. This wasn't chosen at random; it wasn't a good-faith compromise. No, it just so happens that Viacom, which owns CBS, currently owns stations reaching 38.8 percent of American households, and Rupert Murdoch's news corporation, the owners of that "fair and balanced" Fox Network, owns stations reaching 37.8 percent.

Interesting. Interesting that the White House and Republican leaders in Congress pushed a provision in a spending bill in the dark of night, without Democrats present, that benefited two corporations when it came to their ownership of television stations--Fox, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, and now Viacom, CBS. Both entities currently violate the old FCC limitation. They needed this new language. They would have been forced to sell off stations if their Republican friends in Congress and the White House had not come through for them.

So the White House and the congressional Republicans give CBS a significant corporate favor and CBS rewards them by killing an ad critical of the Bush White House during the Super Bowl. Doesn't that sound like a perfect subject for a "60 Minutes" investigation? Oh, I forget. "60 Minutes" is a CBS program. I don't think we are going to hear about this on "60 Minutes." I don't think Mike Wallace and Lesley Stahl are going to be taking an undercover camera into the boardrooms of CBS to find out what is going on there.

Read the whole speech, and wonder along with me: Why isn't Durbin running for president?
Friday, January 30, 2004
The next excuse
It WAS about the oil. September 11 never flew as a reason for invading Iraq. WMD's don't fly anymore, if they ever did. Even the Bushies will probably start admitting that it was about the oil, now that Human Rights Watch has shot holes in the "humanitarian intervention" argument:

Now that the war?s proponents are relying so significantly on a humanitarian rationale for the war, the need to assess this claim has grown in importance. We conclude that, despite the horrors of Saddam Hussein?s rule, the invasion of Iraq cannot be justified as a humanitarian intervention.
The invasion of Iraq failed to meet the test for a humanitarian intervention. Most important, the killing in Iraq at the time was not of the exceptional nature that would justify such intervention. In addition, intervention was not the last reasonable option to stop Iraqi atrocities. Intervention was not motivated primarily by humanitarian concerns. It was not conducted in a way that maximized compliance with international humanitarian law. It was not approved by the Security Council. And while at the time it was launched it was reasonable to believe that the Iraqi people would be better off, it was not designed or carried out with the needs of Iraqis foremost in mind.
-- via Billmon.

I haven't finished reading the HRW article, but from what I have read I see that they fairly clearly and rather authoritatively state criteria for humanitarian intervention, and show how the latest Iraq war fails to meet those criteria. Their analysis can be considered both authoritative and fairly unbiased; HRW was a major critic of Saddam's abuses back when Rummy, Powell and Bush Sr. were selling him WMD's. HRW makes no attempt to deny that Saddam was a brutal dictator; just that his crimes of a genocidal nature were well in the past and that no large-scale killing was going on in Iraq before the war started in March. HRW argues that, given the brutal and dangerous nature of war, it can only be considered as a "humanitarian" effort when genocide is ongoing or at least imminent. That wasn't the case in February 2003 in Iraq.

Billmon has lots of interesting things to say about this, as usual. I may have more to say tomorrow when I'm better rested and have time to read the whole HRW article.

The New Imperialism
From an inspiring anti-globalization article from Arundhati Roy:
Let's look this thing in the eye once and for all. To applaud the US Army's capture of Saddam Hussein, and therefore in retrospect justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq, is like deifying Jack the Ripper for disemboweling the Boston Strangler. And that after a quarter-century partnership in which the Ripping and Strangling was a joint enterprise. It's an in-house quarrel. They're business partners who fell out over a dirty deal. Jack's the CEO.
It was wonderful that on February 15 last year, in a spectacular display of public morality, 10 million people on five continents marched against the war on Iraq. It was wonderful, but it was not enough. February 15 was a weekend. Nobody had to so much as miss a day of work. Holiday protests don't stop wars. George Bush knows that. The confidence with which he disregarded overwhelming public opinion should be a lesson to us all. Bush believes that Iraq can be occupied and colonized as Afghanistan has been, as Tibet has been, as Chechnya is being, as East Timor once was and Palestine still is. He thinks that all he has to do is hunker down and wait until a crisis-driven media, having picked this crisis to the bone, drops it and moves on. Soon the carcass will slip off the bestseller charts, and all of us outraged folks will lose interest. Or so he hopes.

From In Contempt Comics.

From R. J. Matson.

From Bob Gorrell.

From Kirk Anderson.

From Mike Lester.

Maybe not. Indiana does have WMD's:

The nerve agent VX stockpiled at the Newport Chemical Depot in Indiana is stored in 1,690 steel ton containers commonly known as "TCs".

From Ted Rall.
Another letter to the NY Times
To the Editor:

Re "Halliburton Says Worker Participated in Kickbacks" (news article, Jan. 24):

A spokesman for Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, claims that a contract for logistical services for troops in Iraq was awarded two years ago? Not only was our government overcharged for these services, as Halliburton now admits by repaying $6.3 million, but this contract also predates the invasion of Iraq by more than a year. How could a company get a contract for an event that had not yet taken place unless it surely knew that it would?

Paul H. O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary, surely got it right when he claimed that almost from the inauguration the Bush administration was involved in planning to invade Iraq. This is another reason, perhaps, that Vice President Dick Cheney (chairman of Halliburton until 2000) doesn't want the content of his secret meetings with energy companies made public.

Jackson, N.J., Jan. 24, 2004

Here's the relevant quote from the article she refers to:

"We will bear the cost of the potential overcharge, not the government," said Randy Harl, the president and chief executive of the Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, to which the contract in question was awarded, in a statement.

The contract was awarded two years ago by the Army Field Support Command. It called for the subsidiary to provide a number of logistical services for troops in Iraq, including housing, transportation, food, laundry and recreation. Kellogg Brown & Root, in turn, contracted with the Kuwaiti company to handle some of the work.

Two years ago. January 2002, more or less. We didn't have troops in Iraq. "Major combat operations" were just winding down in Afghanistan (still are). Bush had just introduced us to his "axis of evil." And while there were those prescient enough to see what was coming, the rhetoric against Iraq had barely begun. They didn't start selling that product until September, following Andy Card's go-to-war timetable. No Congressional resolutions, no new UN resolutions. But Halliburton already had a contract to provide services for troops in Iraq.

Those Bushies, they tell a lot of lies. But the nonsense about going to war being their last choice--Herr Goebbels must be so proud.
From today's letters to the Times
To the Editor [NY Times]:
"9/11 Commission Says It Needs More Time to Complete Report" (front page, Jan. 28) points to a troubling reality in Washington, and illuminates the rather stark hypocrisy with the post-9/11 "patriotism" flowing out of the White House.

Those who were so gleeful and aggressive in their support for an independent investigation into President Bill Clinton's sex life did not even want an independent commission to be formed to investigate the atrocity of Sept. 11, which killed my brother David, among many other people.

Now they do not want to extend the commission's deadline, afraid that the release of its report will coincide more closely with the Republican National Convention in New York City in August.

How is it patriotic to place one's re-election worries before the need of the American people and the 9/11 families to know what mistakes were made leading up to the worst attack on American soil?

Oklahoma City, Jan. 28, 2004

Some heads gotta roll!
From today's Krugman:
In any case, the point is that a grave mistake was made, and America's credibility has been badly damaged — and nobody is being held accountable. But that's standard operating procedure. As far as I can tell, nobody in the Bush administration has ever paid a price for being wrong. Instead, people are severely punished for telling inconvenient truths. And administration officials have consistently sought to freeze out, undermine or intimidate anyone who might try to check up on their performance.
These people politicize everything, from military planning to scientific assessments. If you're with them, you pay no penalty for being wrong. If you don't tell them what they want to hear, you're an enemy, and being right is no excuse.

Still, the big story isn't about Mr. Bush; it's about what's happening to America. Other presidents would have liked to bully the C.I.A., stonewall investigations and give huge contracts to their friends without oversight. They knew, however, that they couldn't. What has gone wrong with our country that allows this president to get away with such things?

Thursday, January 29, 2004
Sometimes the ACLU defends Rush Limbaugh...
And sometimes I defend the oil companies. Here's a letter to the editor in today's Ann Arbor News:

Last month I bought gas at $1.42. Now it's $1.65. That's a 16 percent hike. The oil companies say this is due to changing over their formulas due to the weather, and the increased use of home heating oil.

I don't buy that. Winter isn't unexpected, like a volcano. It comes every year.

If increased use means higher prices, then doctors should increase their price per visit, hospitals jump their room prices 20 percent and antibiotics should go out of the roof because of the flu epidemic.

-Dan Den Houter, Whitmore Lake

I try not to devote too much blogging time to the ravings of idiots, except for those in the Bush administration. But this guy wrote in complete sentences, and raised some interesting points despite being extremely clueless. So...

First off, the flu is caused by a virus, so a flu epidemic won't have much effect on demand for antibiotics. Nevertheless, I believe I've read that the costs of health care, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and drugs, have been skyrocketing for some time now. Next, seasonal variations in prices in lots of commodities are to be expected, and shouldn't come as a surprise to Mr. Den Houter.

But the main reason I'm bothering with this at all isn't to shoot down some paper tiger. It's this idea that gasoline prices are high. They aren't. They're outrageously low compared to most of the rest of the world, and even historically when inflation is taken into consideration. And the absurd distortions on the American economy and landscape have done permanent harm to millions of people and their home planet. Wars are being fought for cheap oil. Mr. Den Houter is right to distrust the oil companies. But I'd rather see gasoline selling for $10 a gallon myself. Then we'd have real mass transit, an end to sprawl, and real efforts towards conservation and alternative energy.
$87 Billion, and the troops are getting hand-me-downs

If and when bullets rip into the Humvees of Army National Guard F Co., 425th Airborne Infantry in Iraq, a lot of Michigan police officers - including those in Ann Arbor and Sumpter and Van Buren townships - are hoping their used, bullet-resistant vests will protect the soldiers inside.

The unit's Humvees, designed to supply combat units but not to work in combat zones, are not armored. So the soldiers have been retrofitting the vehicles with panels from bullet-resistant vests that police discarded because of expiration dates. Soldiers from the Army National Guard 1462nd transportation unit based in Howell are doing the same, with vests donated from three Livingston County police agencies.
The effort to help the 425th Airborne began after a Southfield firefighter in the unit, Staff Sgt. Gerhard "Gary" Seidel, wrote to fellow firefighters about the lack of armor on Humvees.

Seidel asked for help in finding donated bullet-resistant vests, said Southfield Fire Capt. Joe Dell. A few laptop computers, accessories and a computer projector with extra bulbs wouldn't go wanting, either, Seidel told the firefighters. They would help with morning briefings and allow the troops to e-mail families or watch DVDs.
-- Ann Arbor News.

7 Dead, 3 Wounded
In W War I, that is, Afghanistan. That brutal and pointless war has been going on for over two years now, and seven more US soldiers are now dead because of it.
Oh, the things they said!
Atrios has a long rundown of Bushie WMD hype dating back a year and a half. The last one comes from Fearmaster Cheney:

Iraq is busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents, and they continue to pursue an aggressive nuclear weapons program. These are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam Hussein can hold the threat over the head of any one he chooses. What we must not do in the face of this mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or to willful blindness. (8/29/02)

Actually, the wishful thinking and willful blindness described in the third sentence is exactly what the first two sentences were.
Why do people believe that Saddam was a threat?
Because they were told, and told, and told, and told. The Bushies are still telling the lie, and the media is only hesitatingly suggesting that it may not be precisely the whole truth.

I consider the entire Bush "presidency" to be an impeachable offense, but I think there are two overriding issues that need to be pounded into everyone's heads until impeachment hearings begin.

The first is the ongoing effort to prevent us from knowing what really happened on September 11, 2001. The administration's stonewalling of the 9/11 commission after delaying its inception for over a year is clear demonstration that they have plenty to hide and have no interest in knowing how to best protect the country. They had two hydrocarbon-based war plans on the table, and 9/11 provided them with a convenient excuse to undertake both. There were also stacks of suggestions for curtailing civil liberties that had been thoughfully provided by fascists in some law enforcement agencies, and the Bushies used 9/11 as a reason for giving these nuts what they wanted as well. As has been pointed out here several times, there are plenty of holes in the 9/11 story, and the Bushies don't want them filled in. Whether their pre-9/11 sins were of omission, commission, incompetence or something else, there is no way that not finding out what went wrong on 9/11 can possibly make us safer. It only allows them to carry on with their criminal agendas.

The second, of course, is the lies told to Congress and the American public about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq being a threat to the U.S. As I pointed out yesterday, no matter how well-intentioned or apparently authoritative the evidence was that they used to argue their case for war, that evidence was shown to be seriously flawed well before the war began. That the Bushies went ahead with their pre-emptive war, which was illegal even if Saddam had had WMD's, without rechecking their sources based on the reports of the UN weapons inspectors, was a high crime of the highest order.

Hopefully we'll hear plenty about these issues from the Democrats, and from MoveOn, TrueMajority, and others. But please, everybody, do whatever you can to make this an issue! Call your Congress critters (Capitol switchboard--800-839-5276). Write a letter to the editor. Contact the presidential candidates. Join in a protest march (we've got one here in Ann Arbor on March 20). The Bush administration is the worst criminal gang ever in America, and if they're not stopped now they may never be stopped.
Army to add 30,000 soldiers
"Add" isn't quite the right word, since the basic plan is to force soldiers to stay in through "stop-loss" orders. Dropping a war or two here and a base or fifty there would be a lot smarter and cheaper, but sense in the Bush administration is like WMD's in Iraq--there ain't any.
Don't confuse Dick Cheney with the facts
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes some great editorials. Yesterday's was in response to David Kay's statements about the phantom WMD's. Here's the conclusion:

Recall what was happening at the U.N. Security Council prior to the war. France, Russia and Germany weren't denying that Saddam might pose a risk; they disputed that the risk was imminent; they disputed that war -- especially immediate war -- was the only alternative.

The Bush administration was having none of it; Saddam had 12 years to comply with U.N. demands and had not; years of inspections had failed. Iraq needed to be invaded.

Adopting that unyielding line was a political decision, not an intelligence judgment. It came from the neoconservatives in the administration and was pushed most actively by Vice President Dick Cheney.

He's still at it. Last week, Cheney continued to assert that the United States had discovered two mobile biological weapons labs. That is simply false. Ask Kay; he'll tell you the two mobile trailers were just what the Iraqis said they were: hydrogen generators for weather balloons.

Cheney also continues to spread the tale that "there's overwhelming evidence there was a connection between Al-Qaida and the Iraqi government." That, too, is false. There is no such evidence, as Secretary of State Colin Powell and others have acknowledged.

What the American people are hearing from Cheney now is just what the world heard from other prominent administration officials before the war. It's all wrong, and Cheney's responsibility for that can't be neatly off-loaded onto intelligence agency scapegoats.

Shorter Star-Trib: Fearmaster Cheney is a lying liar.


From Steve Sack.
It wasn't just the UN inspectors...
Telling the Bushies that Iraq didn't have WMD's before the war. The Center for American Progress lists several instances where the Bushies were told of the "dodgy" character of their "intelligence:" From the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy, the State Department, and the Air Force.

This is all in addition to the UN inspectors, who had full run of Iraq for nearly four months, and couldn't find any of the weapons that Bush, Powell and Blair insisted were there. Tuesday, Bush repeated his earlier attempt to deny that the UN weapons inspectors ever existed:

And then we went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution -- 1441 -- unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.

Some Republican senators are picking up on this talking point. Weapons existed. Weapons inspectors didn't. We have always been at war with Eurasia. The Big Lie. Goebbels would be proud.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Shorter Previous Post
(The post below seems a bit wordy, so I'm going to summarize it here.)
Four months of UN inspections may not have proved that Iraq didn't have WMD's, but it did prove that US intelligence on Iraq's WMD's was crap. We don't need David Kay to tell us that; we knew it back in February.
Kay's getting close...
[Kay] said he did not believe that anyone had pressured intelligence officials to conclude that Saddam's government had banned weapons.

"Almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that," Kay said. "We get rid of the people who, in fact, were exercising that.
-- CNN

Kay's attempts to cover for the Bushies, blaming one of the most stupendous "mistakes" in US history on some obscure intelligence failure, instead of a clear intention to find any excuse to go to war, fly in the face of plenty of evidence. From 2001, there was the clear intention to "take Saddam out," as reported by Paul O'Neill, even though Colin Powell and other administration officials stated publicly that Iraq had no significant WMD's and was not a threat to its neighbors. From early 2002, Bush's statement overheard by some congresspeople: "F*** Saddam. We're taking him out."

But mostly, I don't see how anyone can excuse them after UN weapons inspectors had returned. They went everywhere the US told them to go (although the US didn't give them all of "intelligence" it had, which in itself was a violation of Res. 1441) and found nothing. Even if this weren't proof that Iraq didn't have WMD's, it was certainly very strong evidence that whatever evidence the Bushies were claiming they had was seriously flawed. WE KNEW THIS BEFORE THE WAR STARTED. Double checking and investigations into the sources of these claims should have been done then.

War was the reason; WMD's were the excuse. The UN inspectors had nearly succeeded in destroying the excuse, so Bush called them off and started the invasion. As far as Bush's guilt in lying to take us to war, it doesn't matter if the CIA gave him completely bogus information or not. That information, wherever it came from, WAS being checked and it WAS found to be erroneous (or dodgy, as the Brits would say), but it was still used as the casus belli.

IMPEACH, INDICT, GUANTANAMO! Bush looked like such a dork in that flyboy jumpsuit, but he would look simply fabulous in a bright orange jumpsuit basking in the Cuban sun for the next 25 years. They could paint an arrow on the floor of his cell pointing to Wall Street.
Fouling our own nest
This is what has happened: The GOP has succeeded, woefully, viciously, in demonizing nature. Right now, to love our unlogged forests or to wish air quality to be protected or to hope our leaders don't allow monster crony oil companies to jam their snarling proboscises into our country's nature preserves for a handful of crude is now to be thought of as a dreadlocked Greenpeace-Earth First!-tofu lover.

It's true. You cannot think solar power is cool without being labeled a hippie. You cannot want the U.S. Navy to knock it off with the goddamn high-powered sonar that damages whales without being cast as some sort of New Age freak. You cannot drive a Prius without being deemed some sort of nutball geek who probably feeds your kids only hemp seeds and homemade sproutburgers with a side of fresh mulch.

This is the other thing: Bush is the worst environmental president in the nation's history. Period. The proofs are irrefutable, and the list of his administration's sinister assaults on the pale blue dot we all call home is painful and tragic and punishable in the afterlife by seven billion years of listening to Lynne Cheney being scraped across a chalkboard.

No natural resource has been left unmolested: From forest management to air quality to water pollution to emissions standards to land management to industrial farming to reduced controls on heavy polluters to global warming to nuclear waste to our energy policy, BushCo has made atrociously efficient progress in decimating, in just three short years, 30 years of staunch environmental protections.
-- Mark Morford

I'm going to do a little experimenting with alternative energy sources. I have ordered a "power pack"--a combination battery and inverter which can provide 120V AC power. It can be charged just by plugging it into the wall, or more interestingly by connecting it to a solar panel or high-tech windmill. If anyone has any suggestions in this area, bring 'em on!

Welcome to my world

Photo taken yesterday morning as I walked from the bus to work.

I also used my digital camera to film a bit of my trudge through the snow. I actually recorded over 2 minutes, but trimmed it to a 12-second Quicktime file for your viewing pleasure.
23 Minutes
That's how long American Airlines Flight Attendant Betty Ong talked to employees at American Airlines operations in North Carolina. She described the situation on the plane--people stabbed, mace or some other choking gas being used, the cockpit locked and inaccessible by intercom. Air traffic controllers knew that the plane had veered off course and that they couldn't communicate with the crew. But no alarms were sounded, and no fighter jets were scrambled in time to protect either WTC tower or the Pentagon. (The heroic "let's roll" scenario with brave passengers struggling with hijackers may not be what actually caused Flight 93 to crash in Pennsylvania.)

When air traffic controllers lost contact with golfer Payne Stewart's plane in 1999, fighter jets were escorting it within 20 minutes, trying to contact the pilot and ready to shoot it down if it appeared like it would crash in a populated area. On 9/11, there were fighters closer to the hijacked planes and their probable targets than in the Stewart case, yet at most one of the four was successfully intercepted. The plane that hit the Pentagon is completely inexplicable. It had been off course and out of radio contact for over an hour, and even Condi Rice could have figured out by then, with both WTC towers on fire, that terrorists might actually use airplanes to attack buildings. And Andrews Air Force Base is ten miles away.

It's no wonder that the Bushies continue to stonewall the 9/11 commission; the political price of obvious stonewalling is clearly much lower than what they'll face if the truth about 9/11 ever gets out. Thanks to Eli at Left I for pointing out the 23 minutes part of the Washington Post article. The Post writers seem to have missed the significance completely.

Bush Knew
The 9/11 Commission is asking for more time to do their work, while Republicans oppose it and the White House continues to stonewall:

The administration initially opposed creation of the 10-member independent commission, known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Administration officials have acknowledged concern that Democrats, particularly the Democratic nominee for president, will try to make use of the report's findings to embarrass Mr. Bush, especially if the report contains any suggestion that the White House failed to act before Sept. 11 on intelligence suggesting that a catastrophic attack might be imminent.

The White House confirmed news reports last year that an Oval Office intelligence summary presented to Mr. Bush shortly before the attacks suggested that terrorists might be planning an attack using passenger planes.

"It smacks of politics to put out a report like this in the middle of a presidential campaign," said a senior Republican Congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Democrats will spin and spin."
-- NY Times

The report could have been done long ago if the White House hadn't opposed it every step of the way. That smacks of politics of the worst kind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004
"RFID" stands for "radio frequency identification," and many corporations are hoping to make it the invasive wave of the future. Microsoft is now on board. If you fully trust Microsoft, other large corporations like Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble, AND the US government to always act in your best interest, you should have no problem with this. Otherwise, watch out! Products that you buy, from pens to razors to sweaters and lots of others, may soon be individually identified with RFID tags. These tags can be passively read at a distance of twenty feet or more by scanners. Whoever has one of these scanners will be able to find out what is in your pocket or purse, as well as what is on your back. If they are connected to store databases, those items may identify you directly (if you purchased the item with a credit card, or used a store "discount" card, OR if you were carrying some previously identified item with you when you made the purchase). In other words, you will have no privacy. You'll get sent to the long line at the airport if you've got an Al Franken or Michael Moore book on you, while O'Reilly and Coulter "readers" will get the express treatment. And when the hammer comes down, all of us who disagree with our current government will be rounded up--easily.

Go here for a lot more on the dangers inherent in this technology, and why and how you should oppose it.
The Coalition of the Willing...
May get run out of office. Tony Blair's in trouble. Ariel Sharon's in trouble. George W. Bush definitely should be, although the US doesn't have a free press like Britain and Israel do.
The carnage continues
A roadside bomb exploded next to a passing U.S. military convoy west of Baghdad Tuesday followed by a second bomb when reinforcements arrived, witnesses said. Three American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians were killed.

A U.S. military spokeswoman said the casualties occurred in a "large explosion,'' but gave no other details.

He said three American soldiers and one Iraqi civilian were killed and several Iraqis were injured. Hospital staff, however, put the Iraqi death toll at two.
-- AP

The New Hampshire primary and the snow will drive this news way back in most papers, but people continue to die in bunches in a war started to disarm an unarmed man.

He should know
Corruption provides sanctuary to the forces of terror (and) saps the legitimacy of democratic governments. In it's extreme forms, corruption even threatens democracy itself, because democracy lives on trust, and corruption destroys trust.

When governments play favorites, when they award contracts and make decisions based on corruption that favors the connected, rather than competition that favors the citizenry, freedom is stymied.
-- John Friggin' Ashcroft, speaking at Davos, via Billmon.

From Jim Day.

From Rob Rogers.

From Nick Anderson.
Rubber Ducky, You're the One!
World traveler Bob Harris goes to Raratonga and names a new constellation:

I say this in all seriousness: for the first couple of days, I had a little trouble believing this place is real.

Imagine water so clear that you can often stand on the shore and simply watch as brightly-colored schools of tropical fish swim by in all directions, just as if you were snorkeling without a mask.

Imagine an island so small that you can ride a mountain bike all the way around in just a couple of hours... so quiet and isolated that it's hundreds of miles to the next largest island, and almost two thousand miles to the nearest actual city... and so thinly-populated that after just a few days, you realize you're seeing the same friendly faces again and again, wherever you go.

Y'know that "beach" screensaver you see sometimes? Back home, when I stop working for more than five minutes, my Macintosh begins a montage of ridiculously green trees, blue water, and white sand. This is that. I can't swear to it, but it sure seems like they must have taken some of those pictures here.
You may have to drive to the middle of nowhere to see it, but I'm really not kidding...

There is a gigantic rubber ducky just to Orion's left. Plain as day. It's the clearest image in the starry sky, at least when there's hardly a damned bit of light for a thousand miles and all the stars are out.

From here, she (imposing gender) is just to the left of Orion, about the same size, and turned 90 degrees so her bottom points toward Orion and her beak is pointing to Earth. Which means, I guess, that in the northern hemisphere, Bob's Big Rubber Ducky (as I hope future astronomers will call her) would be to Orion's right, with the beak pointing away from the ground.

I'm really not kidding. I pointed out the BBRD to a young couple walking on the beach, and (once they got done thinking I was nuts) they saw it, too -- even laughing about how obvious it was.

If you feel like taking a virtual trip around the world on the cheap, check out Bob Harris' complete travelogue; he's promising pictures soon as well.
Monday, January 26, 2004
52% say they don't want Bush re-selected
But 78% say it is at least somewhat likely that he will be. (New Newsweek poll.) I guess that speaks pretty clearly about Americans' faith in our "democracy."
We're waiting, Bill
"If the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again." -- Fox blowhard Bill O'Reilly, March 2003.

According to a web site called, O'Reilly has several times set deadlines, and then extended them. On June 11, 2003 he said "We the people deserve an extensive update from the President before he goes on summer vacation. This is not a partisan issue. This is a people issue. There are things we have the right to know about, and the President must tell us." On July 31, he said "We're confused about the WMDs. And Mr. Bush has an obligation to clear this up by the end of the year." And on October 8 he said "Well, certainly the WMD situation is troubling, okay. All Americans should demand within the next nine months -- before the Presidential candidate, uh candidates, really swing in -- for an explanation of what exactly happened."

The White House continues to try to spin the issue:

[Press Secretary Scott] McClellan, traveling with President George W. Bush in Arkansas, was asked repeatedly by reporters if the White House still believes weapons of mass destruction will be found -- but he did not reply. In the past, he has insisted WMD would be found.

But he continued to defend the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq as the "right decision.

"Saddam Hussein was a dangerous threat. The world is safer because of the actions we took," said McClellan.

So with Kay saying that it is unlikely that weapons will be found, and the White House no longer insisting that they will, isn't it time for O'Reilly to drop the hammer and stop spinning in his "no-spin zone?" We await your apology, Mr. Bill.
Oh Joy
A winter storm is expected to dump several inches of snow throughout Michigan during the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.
AWol merely AWOL or a deserter?
Orcinius examines the issue in detail.
You still have the right to remain silent
Thanks to a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling today which upheld Miranda rights. Feel free to use it when dealing with cops, but don't be afraid to speak out and let people know what the Bushies have done!
Glass House Dweller Throws Stones
Russia's democratic system seems not yet to have found the essential balance among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Political power is not yet fully tethered to law. Key aspects of civil society - free media and political party development, for example ? have not yet sustained an independent presence.

Certain aspects of internal Russian policy in Chechnya, and toward neighbors that emerged from the former Soviet Union, have concerned us, too. We recognize Russia's territorial integrity and its natural interest in lands that abut it. But we recognize no less the sovereign integrity of Russia's neighbors and their rights to peaceful and respectful relations across their borders, as well.
-- Colin "Satan" Powell, in an op-ed he wrote for the Russian paper Izvestia.

The Repugs in Congress enact Bush's insane agenda, no questions asked. Bush uses a recess appointment to install a racist judge while Congress, who had already rejected said racist, is out. Congress crassly hands over the authority to go to war to a pResident clearly unworthy of it. And Powell has the nerve to lecture the Russians on the "essential balance" among the branches of government.
Earth to Republicans--Does the name "Hans Blix" ring a bell?
The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday that his panel is investigating the prewar data. But Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas told CNN's "Late Edition" that if Hussein didn't have weapons of mass destruction, "why on Earth didn't he let the U.N. inspectors in and avoid the war?" -- From the LA Times

Fortunately, for once, the press sets the record straight. The next paragraph in the Times is this:

Hussein did allow U.N. inspectors into Iraq in November 2002 as momentum for war built, and they conducted nearly 600 inspections of about 350 sites. The inspectors made no significant discoveries of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs, although there were unresolved questions.

AWol himself said the same thing back in July (last paragraph--it's even on video! Go here and click the video link on the right side. It's amazing, since his aides try two or three times to get him out of there before he says something stupid, but he keeps taking one more question until out it comes!) Here's what aWol said on July 14, which has renewed relevance in light of David Kay's recent statements:

The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region. I firmly believe the decisions we made will make America more secure and the world more peaceful.

Anti-immigration activists looking to take over Sierra Club
Anti-immigration activists some with loose connections to alleged white-supremacist groups, have launched an aggressive bid to take over the Sierra Club, one of the most respected environmental groups in North America. -- From the Globe and Mail.

In the fall of 2002, I was disturbed by the Sierra Club's unwillingness to oppose Bush's war plans. (I'm a long-time member.) The national club was even reprimanding local clubs in California and Utah for passing anti-war resolutions. When I got my notice to renew my membership, I sent it back without any money, and included a note telling them that they couldn't pretend to be protecting the environment if they didn't oppose war. Apparently I wasn't alone, as shortly after that the Sierra Club signed on to True Majority's "Win Without War" campaign, probably the wimpiest anti-war stance around outside of Wesley Clark's, but still anti-war. So I renewed my membership.

When I got my ballot for SC board members, I e-mailed all of the candidates telling them that an anti-war position was required for them to receive my vote. Most candidates replied quickly and supportively, and I voted for those who seemed to be most anti-war.

This Globe and Mail article is the first I've heard about these "anti-immigration activists" attempting to take over the SC board. I don't know what to recommend right now, except to look more fully into the issue. There are certainly valid reasons for opposing Bush's immigration plan that was recently announced, and I'm willing to consider the possibility of plans to reduce immigration if they recognize the economic factors driving it and the complicity of the US government and corporations in driving those factors (forcing people off the land in Mexico and Central America, especially). If their plan is based on America first xenophobia and racism, I am not willing to consider it. But certainly anyone who is a member of the SC should be aware that this is going on, and may want to query the board candidates about their positions. I haven't received my ballot for this year yet, but I'll try to get statements from the candidates on their approach to the immigration issue and summarize them here.
W goes to Roswell
Michelle links to a page on the White House web site describing "Remarks by the President to the press pool" from last Thursday. Bush is at a restaurant trying to order some ribs, and reporters keep asking him questions. He keeps telling them to stop asking questions and order some food so they'll help the local economy. It's kind of funny, and I can almost sympathize with Bush in this situation--they want to talk, he wants to eat. What's really bizarre is that this exchange was posted on the White House web site at all; and that it came from Roswell, N.M. So they may have had even stranger visitors in that restaurant.
aWol, the Dry Drunk
Cyndy at MouseMusings links to this Counterpunch article which attempts to explain the weird psychology of the eldest son, an on-the-wagon alcoholic, following in his father's footsteps.

George W. Bush’s father set him up in business, and his father’s presidency helped him get his start in politics. His father, for all his success, experienced failure on three occasions. He was widely criticized for not finishing the job in Iraq-- for not moving the troops in to “take out” Saddam following the Gulf War victory--and he failed to get his bill to fund a NASA flight to Mars, and finally, he lost his bid for re-election.

What a unique opportunity has fallen George W Bush’s way. The prodigal son can not only prove himself to his father but he can show up his father at his own game. Remember that for his cabinet and key advisers, he chose some of the same men from his father’s regime. He chose people, furthermore, who would be favorable to a return campaign, “a crusade” against Iraq. Given his past history and tendency toward obsessiveness, the temptation to achieve heroism through a re-enactment of his father’s war clearly would have been too much for George Bush Jr. to resist. To accomplish his mission he would have to throw caution and international diplomacy to the winds, lie convincingly to the American people, threaten allies, bully members of the United Nations, but in the end he would be able to dress in full military regalia and declare “mission accomplished.”

Read the whole thing; it's pretty interesting.
Blogs and the blogging bloggers who blog them
A Fair and Balanced Look at the Blogosphere
Billmon reports that the wealthigencia gathering at Davos are discussing blogs. If you're interested in blogs, how they relate to the mainstream media, their hopes and dreams for the future, etc.--read Billmon's post.

From Mike Thompson.

From Ted Rall.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
60 Minutes
I just watched, via TiVo, Leslie Stahl's 60 Minutes piece on companies doing business with "rogue states," aka countries which "sponsor terrorism." So many levels of hypocrisy here, but still a great story to have out there, and this time it wasn't competing with an NFL playoff game.

Stahl interviewed William Thompson, the New York City comptroller who oversees the $80 billion in pension funds for all city workers. He wants investors to know about three corporations which are doing business in Iran and Syria, nations on the State Department's list of "terrorist" nations. The three corporations? Conoco Phillips, General Electric, and HALLIBURTON.

Halliburton uses apparently sham subsidiaries in the Caymen Islands and Dubai in an attempt to meet the letter of the law, but Stahl's investigation showed that these subsidiaries were not independent as the law requires. These deals were apparently set up during the five-year reign of Dick Cheney as Halliburton's CEO. Lord, I'd love to see that excess of evil behind bars.

The other level of hypocrisy, besides that of the corporations, is the arbitrary labelling of Iran, Syria and Libya as sponsors of terrorism, while countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt (not to mention Israel) are left off the list. Eighteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers came from either Saudi Arabia or Egypt. While I'm sure some case can be made for dozens of states being connected to terrorism (including Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, TEXAS...), the State Department's list is purely political. Unfortunately, 60 Minutes, Thompson, and the whole gist of the story bought the whole "state sponsors of terrorism" BS without question.

Good to see them going after Halliburton, though. Once people start to see the hypocrisy, maybe they'll catch on that there's a whole lot of it out there. Bush's speeches immediately following 9/11 opened my eyes to it, and you can see where it has led me!
Kay covering for Bush, sort of
Newly-resigned weapons inspector was interviewed by NPR today. He repeated his statements from Friday that he believes Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He also attempted to provide some cover for the war criminals in the Bush administration:

"We led this search to find the truth, not to find the weapons. The fact that we found so far the weapons do not exist, we've got to deal with that difference and understand why,'' Kay said Sunday on the National Public Radio program "Weekend Edition.''

Asked whether he feels President Bush owes the American people an apology for starting the war on the basis of apparently flawed intelligence, Kay said: "I actually think the intelligence community owes the president rather than the president owing the American people.

"You have to remember that this view of Iraq was held during the Clinton administration and didn't change in the Bush administration. It is not a political 'got you' issue. It is a serious issue of how you could come to the conclusion that is not matched by the future.''

Actually, I don't mind him saying this. For one thing, it should enhance his credibility with fence-sitters who haven't been willing to believe that our lying liar of a pResident has been lying. Kay is trying to say what he found (nothing), rather than attacking Bush. Harder to marginalize than O'Neill was with his "blind man deaf people" quote.

And, if we can get anybody to pay attention, his mention of the Clinton view contradicts what Powell said in February 2001--that sanctions had worked, Saddam had no significant WMD's, and posed no threat to his neighbors.

We should recall that aWol claimed that the war was necessary because Saddam was in violation of any number of UN resolutions. Most of these hinged on WMD's; without the WMD's, it seems as though Saddam certainly wasn't violating as many resolutions (of course, the US-British aggressive war violates the UN CHARTER). And lets look back at why Congress, including candidates Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman, authorized aWol to go to war in the first place:

Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;

Whereas the efforts of international weapons inspectors, United States intelligence agencies, and Iraqi defectors led to the discovery that Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical weapons and a large scale biological weapons program, and that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program that was much closer to producing a nuclear weapon than intelligence reporting had previously indicated;

Whereas Iraq , in direct and flagrant violation of the cease-fire, attempted to thwart the efforts of weapons inspectors to identify and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction stockpiles and development capabilities, which finally resulted in the withdrawal of inspectors from Iraq on October 31, 1998;

Whereas in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in `material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the President `to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations';

Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;
-- from the Joint Resolution

I'd say their "Whereas's" are looking pretty bare-assed about now. And where'd they get those lies from? George W. Bush.

Impeach. Now.
The World Socialist Web Site explains the horrible spending bill passed by the Senate last week. It cut overtime pay for $8 million workers, allowed further media consolidation, and included billions in pork. In other words, just one more giant forced gift from the people to the corporations. The whole ugly mess was constructed by the White House, and was presented to Congress as a yes-or-no proposition. Senator Robert Byrd spoke for the old (true) Democrats:

“Under the constitution, Congress writes the laws and the president executes them,” declared Byrd. “Under the constitution, the power of the purse rests with the Congress, not the president.... This omnibus bill leaves those pillars of our constitutional system in shambles.”

Tom Daschle spoke for the new (false, wimp, sellout, Republican) Democrats:
“We feel we’ve had the opportunity to make our statement about this issue,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota, declared Wednesday, signaling an end to Democratic opposition to the legislation. “We’re certainly not going to shut down the government ... or deny important funding.”

Of course not. That would call attention to the criminal nature of this bill, the Republicans who promoted it, and the Democrats who permitted it. Out of the 8 million who lost overtime pay, probably 7 million won't realize it until after they get their first 40-hour paycheck for their next 60-hour week.

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