Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Which tall, gaunt guy was responsible for Kerry's loss?

Kerry blames Osama; Naomi Klein blames Kerry. I'm with Naomi. Here's what Kerry was saying yesterday:
Senator John Kerry said on Sunday that the attacks of Sept. 11 were the "central deciding thing" in his contest with President Bush and that the release of an Osama bin Laden videotape the weekend before Election Day had effectively erased any hope he had of victory.
How lame a candidate Kerry really was if a last-minute reminder of Bush's inability to protect the country from terrorist attacks or to catch a criminal for three years actually HURT Kerry in the polls.

Here's some of what Naomi Klein said:
First of all, I believe that an anti-war campaign could have won the election. But even if you think I'm crazy, I believe that an anti-war campaign would have done a better job at losing the election (laughs). Elections are also moments where issues get put on the national agenda. If there had been (an anti-war) candidate with courage, for instance, it would have been impossible for Bush to name Alberto Gonzales as his candidate for attorney general. It was Kerry's silence more than Bush's win that allowed Bush to make such a scandalous appointment.

When the siege in Fallujah happened (days after the election), and the violations of the Geneva Convention were at a completely new level, there were no questions raised in the mainstream press. The New York Times reported these incidents without even an editorial or interview of experts on international law about whether it was legitimate to attack all the medical care facilities and so on. This to me is Kerry's legacy. I blame Kerry for this more than Bush because we expect this from them. We expect them to do whatever they can get away with. And Kerry let them get away with it. An election campaign was the one time there was a real opportunity to put the war on trial. And even if a principled anti-war campaign had lost, these issues would still be on the agenda.
Boy, I wish I'd said that!

Deja Vu All Over Again

United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.
That's from the NY Times, September 4, 1967, via Daily Kos, who has more. The Vietnam War intensified early the next year with the Tet offensive, and went on for nearly eight more years.

A Team Effort

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution lists the seven people most responsible for killing Iraqis over the years: Bill Clinton, Saddam Hussein, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Leonid Breshnev, George H.W. Bush, and Helmut Kohl. I think he's probably right (he usually is), although I'm totally ignorant of Breshnev's and Kohl's contributions. I also suggested in a comment to Jonathan that he might be leaving out some important contributors:
Subordinates don't count? Certainly Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Norman Schwarzkopf, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Uday, Qusay and others deserve at least dishonorable mentions. Powell's and Cheney's contributions to both wars might raise them up into the top seven, don't you think?
Update: Jonathan responds:
I don't know. There's so much talent in this field, and so much commitment, that even some incredible performers can't break into the top ranks.


Actually, I don't want to always be a "nattering naBOB of negativism," to steal Spiro Agnew's term. If the Iraqi election yesterday wasn't a farce, as the Washington Post and CNN scream from their headlines, it is definitely good news. The Iraqis will get a government with the clear authority and almost certainly the desire to tell the US troops to get the hell out.

But I know from history--the buildup to the war, the triumphalism of the initial battles and the toppling of the statues, to the killing of Saddam's sons and the capture of Saddam himself, that our mainstream media has always been ready to overhype anything remotely like "success" in Iraq. So the current triumphal reports should probably be taken with a huge grain of salt on this basis alone. But from the mainstream reports I didn't have a lot to go on to question the story.

Fortunately, the World Socialist Web Site is there once again with a good summary of the many reasons to doubt the official story. Here are some excerpts:
George W. Bush emerged from the White House briefly to make a triumphal statement hailing the vote. The US media carried wall-to-wall, gushing coverage all day Sunday. But even the combined propaganda powers of the US government and the corporate-controlled media machine cannot transform an election held at gunpoint and under military occupation into a genuinely democratic event.

Initial reports on voter turnout were driven by the political imperative to put the best possible face on the election and influence public opinion in the United States, which is increasingly turning against the war. The turnout figure began at 90 percent plus—numbers reported, naturally enough, on Fox News. Then an Iraqi election official put the figure at 72 percent nationwide. This was subsequently lowered to 60 percent nationwide, then to 60 percent “in some areas.”

The compliant US media dutifully swallowed all these numbers in succession, never challenging their accuracy or questioning how each figure could be so quickly supplanted by a lower one as the day wore on.

The 72 percent figure, for instance, issued just before the polls closed, was inherently improbable, given that most polling places did not even open in the Sunni Triangle. With the vast majority of Sunnis, some 20-25 percent of Iraq’s people, boycotting the election, turnout among the rest of the population would have to be near-unanimous to bring the total up to 72 percent.

The reports on turnout were supplemented by television news footage of happy Iraqis celebrating their new-found freedom to vote, praising the American military, and thanking President Bush. There is ample reason to believe that these scenes were largely staged for the benefit of the media—like the scenes of Iraqis tearing down the statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square after the US invasion nearly two years ago. (Similar scenes were a hallmark of the Baathist dictatorship as well, with cheering crowds vowing to sacrifice their lives for Saddam.)

According to Robert Fisk of the Independent, a major British daily newspaper, “The big television networks have been given a list of five polling stations where they will be ‘allowed’ to film. Close inspection of the list shows that four of the five are in Shiite Muslim areas—where the polling will probably be high—and one in an upmarket Sunni area, where it will be moderate.” Sunni working class areas were entirely off limits, he noted.

In some cases, the media reports were literally military propaganda handouts. ABC News, for instance, reported thousands of voters in Fallujah, the city virtually destroyed by the US military onslaught last November. The source for this report of surprisingly high turnout was the US military command in the shattered city. Meanwhile, other news outlets put the turnout in Fallujah as minuscule, on a par with the other predominantly Sunni cities where few polls opened and few voters turned out.
More fundamentally, the entire election process is fatally tainted by the US military occupation. The regime that conducted the vote was appointed by the US occupation authorities, with the United Nations giving its rubber-stamp approval. The timing and procedures for the election were determined by US officials. And it was President Bush who decided earlier this month to reject the pleas of a majority of the Iraqi cabinet and oppose any postponement of the vote so as to allow for increased Sunni participation.

January 30 saw an unparalleled display of American military power on the streets of Baghdad, Mosul and other Iraqi cities. The 150,000 US troops were out in force, backed by hundreds of armored vehicles, and supplemented by another 150,000 US-trained Iraqi police and soldiers. Even the American media could not disguise the spectacle of Iraqis filing in to the polls through rolls of barbed wire, being frisked three separate times under the eyes of US snipers, while US helicopters and war planes roared overhead.

It was not a scene of freedom, but one of occupation and brutal subordination.
Within the United States, the government-backed media blitz on the triumph of democracy in Iraq is aimed at intimidating opponents of the war and US occupation. But this propaganda campaign only intensifies the contradictions in the Bush administration’s political position. If the Iraqi people have “taken control of their country,” as the White House claims, why must 150,000 US troops remain there? Why can’t 25 million Iraqis defend themselves from the small bands of foreign terrorists and Saddam Hussein loyalists who supposedly make up the resistance?

“Democratization” is merely the latest pretext for the US occupation, following the now discredited claims that the US invaded Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction or because of Saddam’s alleged connections with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks of September 11, 2001. The democracy pretext, too, will be exploded by events.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Just a Reminder

For thorough, in-depth blogging, the kind I occasionally do but not that often, remember to check out Michelle's You Will Anyway. So many scandals, so little time! Just don't click on the "greatest music video" link. Trust me on this.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

From the NY Times:
Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other Bush administration officials have complained heatedly to Qatari leaders that Al Jazeera's broadcasts have been inflammatory, misleading and occasionally false, especially on Iraq.
And these are the experts on inflammatory, misleading and occasionally false, especially on Iraq.

The Night Before Voting

'Twas the night before voting, and all through Iraq
Folks wonder if voting will get them attacked
Why they are voting and for whom they're don't know
Many don't even know where they should go

The bombs are all placed by the boxes with care
In hopes that some voters soon will be there
Curfews and GI's with guns let them know
This talk of democracy is really all show

The freedom to cower, the freedom to die
Those are the freedoms that came from Bush lies
From Baghdad to Mosul, Ramadi Tikrit
Nowhere's less safe than an Iraqi street

Allawi, Zarqawi, Sistani, al-Sadr
The Iraqi inferno will keep getting hotter
Until the poor soldiers of the men who deceive
Give up the lie, and get up and leave.

(This is a sequel to The Night Before Baghdad, which I first wrote about 2 1/2 years ago and updated a few times.)

From Ed Stein.

From Chris Britt.

Friday, January 28, 2005

From Boondocks.

Competition continues to die

If the merger between Proctor & Gamble and Gillette goes through, all of the above deodorant brands will be made by the same company. The top three are currently made by P&G; the bottom four by Gillette. That the main benefits of the move are to eliminate jobs and stifle competition aren't even concealed in the story:
The deal will mean about 6,000 job cuts, or about 4 percent of the combined work force of 140,000 employees. It said most of the cuts would come from eliminating management overlaps and consolidation of business support functions.
But beyond the job cuts, the deal would give the company even more demand over the shelf space at the nation's retailers and grocers, real estate that is at a premium.
Those increases in leverage and cost efficiency are expected to put pressure on smaller rivals to eye deals of their own.
I'm sure that the illusion of competition will be maintained, just as it is in the other aisles of the supermarket.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

What They're Saying About W, part deux

Michelle has a lengthy selection of quotes to add to my What They're Saying About W post. Some selections:
"He was goofing around, and there's only one way to interpret that kind of behaviour just seconds before announcing war on Iraq: the man is an idiot." Kevin Lowe, 03.30.03
Yet infinitely worse, every decision he makes -- in that it is coming from that place of ego-driven insecurity -- is the exact opposite of the reasoned, compassionate, measured, rational response the world desperately needs. And confounding the problem even further, he has neither the knowledge, expertise, nor the abstract reasoning ability -- irrespective of his flawed personality profile -- to make the correct decision. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed a president, time after time, make the exact wrong call on every single issue. Lately I'm afraid to pick up the morning paper for fear of yet another foolhardy decision from the blundering Baron of Brinksmanship. --Ogi Overman

The White House announces a press conference in the morning. After the announcement comes the news that 31 Americans died in a chopper crash in Iraq (6 others died today in seperate incidents). The president takes the podium fresh with the knowledge of that tragedy--and radiates a cheerful disposition bantering with the press about senior citizens and their faulty memories.

Freedom is going, going, Gonzales

From Common Dreams:
[Gonzales] refused to be drawn into a discussion of tactics that might constitute torture. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., asked him about reports from FBI agents, recently released, that some detainees were bound hand and foot to lie in their own urine and feces for 18 to 24 hours.

"I found those e-mails to be shocking and deeply troubling," Gonzales responded. "I do not think it would be appropriate for me to address reports of interrogation practices discussed in the press and attempt to analyze whether such reported practices are lawful."
In that case, I do not think it would be appropriate for the Senate to even consider confirming this monster to be Attorney General. Just nominating this creep should be sufficient grounds for aWol's impeachment.

True Conservatives Bash Bush the Best!

Led by Bush, the Republican Party now stands for detainment without trial and war without end. It is a party destructive of all virtue and a great threat to life and liberty on earth.
-- Paul Craig Roberts, yet again. And, once again, Roberts' bio:
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of "The Tyranny of Good Intentions."

What they're saying about W

"The hubris-filled megalomaniac in the Oval Office has promised the world war without end." -- Paul Craig Roberts

"George Bush is a very simple, very violent person with very extreme views, as well as being very much an ignoramus." -- Uri Avnery

"Do millions identify with Bush because he screws up?" -- Saul Landau

"If reporters only ask about stuff Shrub knows took place, press conferences would be very short affairs indeed." -- WIIIAI

"These are very, very serious problems we can blame on that moron in the White House ... the US has a long history of murders and failed coups and the more aggressive Bush and the neocons get the bigger the backlash they will get, not only from Venezuela but also throughout Latin America." -- Bob Chapman, from an article e-mailed to me for which I don't have a link, writing about the oil arrangements that Venezuelan President Chavez has been making with the rest of South America, and with China.

And, finally, check out the first minute-and-a-half or so of the Daily Show from Monday (click on the picture above "Phoner"). Bush spoke to an anti-abortion rally in front of the White House--by phone. Jon Stewart sums it up: "Regardless of your position on this controversial issue, it's good to know that on an issue that our president feels strongly about, he has the moral courage to literally phone it in."

Quote du Jour

From an dentist in Baghdad, quoted in the NY Times: "The Americans, they are part of the terrorism."


Losing Feith

Neonut chieftan Douglas Feith is resigning from the Pentagon, effective this summer. WIIIAI has some good comments.

The circle closes

Back in the early 1980's, the breakup of AT&T through anti-trust action was a big story. Well, it has been undone, one step at a time. Michigan Bell joined with Illinois Bell to become Ameritech, which then joined with a couple of other baby Bells to become SBC Ameritech, and then SBC. Now, SBC is trying to buy the shell of the old parent:
SBC Communications, the second-largest regional phone company in the nation, is in talks to buy AT&T for more than $16 billion, according to executives close to the negotiations.

A deal, if reached, would be the final chapter in the 120-year history of AT&T, the first technological giant of the modern age and the original model for telecommunications companies worldwide. A deal would be a reunion of sorts, putting back together some of the largest pieces of the Ma Bell telephone monopoly, which was broken up in 1984.

From David Horsey.

From Bill Schorr.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Train Wreck

For those of us who've been watching season four of 24, today's headline is a bit disconcerting. The latest report says that the commuter train crash in Glendale, CA this morning was caused by a man parking his SUV across the tracks, then getting out and watching the collision. Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams says they'll charge the guy with murder, even as he makes the defense's case for an insanity plea very easy: "This whole incident was started by a deranged individual who was suicidal."
"I think he was intent at that time of taking his own life, but changed his mind prior to the train actually striking his vehicle," Adams said.

The collision and derailment was not an act of terrorism, the police chief said.
Of course not. People who destroy gas-guzzling Hummers without killing anyone are terrorists. People who destroy efficient mass transit are not.

Good Question

Several bloggers have asked just how Iraqi voters are supposed to know where their polling stations will be. I’m rather curious about this myself. Follow the sound of gunfire? The trail of blood?

From Ed Stein.

From Chris Britt.

Smart Aliens Choose Other Planets

From Don Wright.

From Mike Lane.

31 Dead in Chopper Crash

From CNN:
Thirty-one Marines were killed in a helicopter crash near Iraq's border with Jordan, bringing the number of U.S. troops killed Wednesday to 36 -- the deadliest day for U.S. forces since the start of the war in Iraq.
Reading the rest of the article, it appears as though this has been an unusually bloody day even without the helicopter crash, even for Iraq.

To honor those killed, the Senate is expected to confirm Condiliar Rice as Secretary of State, whose lies contributed directly to the deaths.

See what a little pressure will do?

Responding to intense scrutiny from this blog, and possibly some other sources, authorities now say that the A and C lines of the New York subway can be returned to full service in six to nine months, not the three to five years previously estimated. One still gets the feeling, however, that both estimates were just pulled out of someone's butt. Unfortunately, the new estimate seems to be based on replacing the burned 1920's-era relays with exact matches, rather than taking the opportunity to do long-overdue modernization of the system. I can't believe that the system is so complicated that the only way they can figure out how to do it is just to copy what was done 80 years ago. A finite number of track segments, a small number of trains--don't let two trains on the same track segment at the same time. The engineers have complete access to the track and the trains, so they can install as many sensors and transmitters as they need to monitor the system. Much more complicated control problems are solved daily by engineers and programmers around the world. The safety and reliability required by a subway system surely drives the cost up, but still--the basic control function could probably be handled by your cell phone's chip.

The NY Times editorializes on the problem, saying that homeless activists and the cops need to clear the subways of homeless people, need to communicate better with confused passengers, and (I like this part) lays the blame on Republican Governor George Pataki.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


From CNN:
Iraqi security forces are committing systematic torture and other abuses against people in detention, the pressure group Human Rights Watch says in a new report.

"Tolerance of the abuse of detainees by government agencies remains high," says the 94-page report released Tuesday.

International police advisers, largely funded by the U.S. government, "have turned a blind eye to these rampant abuses," it says.
Could it get any worse? Most likely. Just watch.

Paul Craig Roberts again

He has probably already been kicked out of the country club; if not, this should do it:
Can you believe this administration's insanity? Bush intends to rise from the ashes of defeat in Iraq by invading Iran, a country three times the size in population and geography? Does it remind you of Adolf Hitler who, unable to invade tiny England, marches his army off into Russia?
Here's a reminder of the bio of this latest radical to compare Bush to Hitler:
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Arundhati Roy is a smart woman

From Sharon Smith on Counterpunch:
Award-winning Indian writer and global justice activist Arundhati Roy got to the heart of the issue in a San Francisco speech on August 16: "It is absurd to condemn the resistance to the U.S. occupation in Iraq, as being masterminded by terrorists," she said. "After all, if the United States were invaded and occupied, would everybody who fought to liberate it be a terrorist?"

If we are waiting for the "ideologically pure" movement--assuming the unlikely scenario that all those opposed to the war could agree on one--we could be waiting forever.

As Roy explained, "Like most resistance movements, [the Iraqis] combine a motley range of assorted factions. Former Baathists, liberals, Islamists, fed-up collaborationists, communists, etc. Of course, it is riddled with opportunism, local rivalry, demagoguery and criminality. But if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity.

"Before we prescribe how a pristine Iraqi resistance must conduct their secular, feminist, democratic, nonviolent battle, we should shore up our end of the resistance by forcing the U.S. and its allied governments to withdraw from Iraq."
Now would be a good time to remind the sleazebags in Congress that more money won't make things better in Iraq--pretty much every dime the U.S. has ever spent destroying or otherwise inflicting its will on Mesopotamia has made things worse. Call your congresscritters today and tell them not to support the request for the waste of another $80 billion. Call 800-839-5276 and ask for your representative or senator.

New York Subway Update

The NY Times has a more informative article today than yesterday, understandably enough. Apparently the impact of the relay-room fire is even greater than reported before:
The A line will run roughly one-third the normal number of trains - meaning that riders who used to wait six minutes for a train might now have to wait 18 minutes - while the C train will cease to exist as a separate line, at least for the time being.
Apparently, the three to five years estimated for repair is because of this:
Officials said they believed that there were only two companies in the world that were able to repair the signals. One is based in Pittsburgh, and the other in Paris.

The fixed-block signaling system has been in use since the New York subway's inception in 1904. The transit agency has invested $288 million on its first computerized signaling system, scheduled to make its debut on the L line in Brooklyn and in Manhattan in July. Computer-based train operation has been a goal for decades, but since 1982 the transit agency has focused its capital spending on basic maintenance.
Apparently somebody had the same thought that I did:
An expert on the city's subways expressed amazement that a single fire in a confined space could have such a long-lasting impact. "It seems astonishing that a single signal room would be so central to the operation of the line that it would take five years to recover from," said Clifton Hood, a transit historian at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. "That's about as long as it took to build that entire line of the IND."

The first segment of the Independent Subway System, of which the A and C are a part, opened in 1932. The city's three subway divisions were unified in 1940. Professor Hood noted that four stations that were closed after Sept. 11 were reopened in a year.
The shutdown of C and slowdown of A is causing havoc with commuters:
Yesterday morning, the first commute since the blaze gave a taste of the irritation that awaits riders in the days and weeks to come. "All I can do is wait here and hope for the best," said Ana Reyes, 51, a medical receptionist from Boerum Hill who had waited half an hour for the A train at the Jay Street station in Brooklyn. "Nobody tells you anything, so I just follow everyone else. If a train comes, I'm getting on it, and I don't care where it goes."

Other subway lines buckled from the added load of passengers from the A and C lines. At the Atlantic Avenue station, a major hub in Brooklyn, Patrick Joseph, 40, a construction worker from Crown Heights, was unable to board a crowded No. 2 train. "This is the second train I can't get on," Mr. Joseph said, adding that he was in his fourth day of a new job. "I'm definitely late. I've been on the train for an hour and 10 minutes and I have only traveled from Eastern Parkway."
The snow and cold weather may have contributed to the problem, because the fire was thought to have been started by a homeless person trying to keep warm. Apparently there are hundreds of homeless people living in the NY subways. A few more fires like Sunday's, and the economy of America's largest city may go in the tank, further swelling the ranks of the homeless. If anyone in Washington or Albany has any sense at all for physical or economic security, it would seem as though a real "Manhattan Project" is called for here. I'll bet just a small fraction $80 billion could get the job done in a few months--not just fixing the fire damage, but upgrading the operation and security of the subway system. And build or buy plenty of low-income housing besides.

Intolerant of Tolerance

From the magazine Extra! via Left I on the News:
At first it sounded like a bad joke, but it turned out to be true: CBS and NBC both rejected an ad from the United Church of Christ because they deemed the ad's message of tolerance 'too controversial.' The ad emphasized that the church welcomes everyone, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance, or sexual orientation. According to a statement from CBS, the network regarded that as unacceptable because it 'touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations.' If that makes you scratch your head, another reason cited by CBS for rejecting the ad was because 'the executive branch has recently proposed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.'

From Boondocks.

Monday, January 24, 2005

$80 billion here, $80 billion there--pretty soon you're talking real money!

Actually, after reading The Creature From Jekyll Island, I don't think there is such a thing as "real money." There's just debt. And aWol wants to make a whole bunch more of it to waste on his horrid wars.

From AP:
The Bush administration plans to announce Tuesday it will request about $80 billion more for this year's costs of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, congressional aides said Monday.

The request would push the total provided so far for those wars and for U.S. efforts against terrorism elsewhere in the world to more than $280 billion since the first money was provided shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, airliner attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

That would be nearly half the $613 billion the United States spent for World War I or the $623 billion it expended for the Vietnam War, when the costs of those conflicts are translated into 2005 dollars.
And what are we getting for all this money debt? Well, the destruction of Fallujah resulted in some 6000 killed and 200,000 refugees. Meanwhile, both the power AND the water are out in Baghdad. As Riverbend says, "Water is like peace- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away." Our handpicked thug sees Saddam's legacy not as appalling, but as a challenge. And the elections are on schedule, without, apparently, any independent outside observers. Oh, and Afghanistan is back in the opium business in a big way. That's what our $200 billion has gotten us so far, along with some 1500 dead Americans. Who knows what they can do with another $80 billion?

Of course, the Democrats are going to put up a fight:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday it was Congress' "highest responsibility" to provide the money that American troops need.
Actually, Nancy, all the money they need is airfare home. I'll repeat that Jon Stewart quote from last week: "Democrats: a moment of resistance, a lifetime of capitulation." Although word has it that this time John Kerry plans to vote AGAINST the $80 billion before he votes FOR it.


From the NY Times:
A subway fire that gutted an underground communications room has crippled two of New York City's busiest subway lines, the A and the C, and full service may not be restored for three to five years, officials announced today.

The Sunday afternoon fire at the Chambers Street station was apparently set by a homeless person and is being investigated as an act of arson, according to Lawrence G. Reuter, president of New York City Transit.

The A train has been running at two-thirds of its normal frequency, meaning that riders face a wait of 8 to 12 minutes. Service on the C line, which normally runs from 168th Street in Washington Heights, Manhattan, to Euclid Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn, has been suspended indefinitely.
Much of the equipment dated to the construction of the Independent City-Owned Rapid Transit Railroad, nearly all of which was built between 1924 and 1937.
Three to five years? To rebuild one control room which was a small part of a major subway line built in 13 years 80 years ago? The article doesn't explain why it should take this long--it strikes me as a "black box" problem. There should be some point in each direction that the fire didn't reach. At these points there would be mechanical or electrical connections (cables, wires) which transferred the information in and out of the communications room. Chances are that your typical Palm Pilot has more than enough computing power to handle the computing chores of that communication room--a ordinary PC could certainly do the job. Converting the mechanical and electrical signals into data for the computer (and back) would take some work, but it should easily be within the capabilities of hundreds of engineering firms. Something is very wrong if it's going to take three to five years to fix this problem.

I see from the MTA subway map that the C line is basically just a local version of the A line. It has a shorter run on the same tracks in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, but stops at more stations. At rush hour, it appears that the A train normally runs every 5 minutes and the C train every 10. So, for most trips, three trains come by every ten minutes. That is now down to one, and apparently will be for some time. I would think that restoring full service would be a top priority--why would it take three to five years? (If anyone has any answers, let me know.)

The story also gives some insight into how far "homeland security" has progressed in America's prime target city since 9/11:
Near the charred ruins of the signal equipment, investigators found 2-by-4-foot wooden blocks in a shopping cart, according to Assistant Chief Henry R. Cronin III, the commanding officer of the transit bureau of the New York Police Department. The investigators surmised that a homeless person had ignited the blocks to try to keep warm.

"I don't think it was an intentional act of arson," Chief Cronin said.

Mr. Reuter acknowledged that the fire highlighted the delicate nature of the subway system. Its carefully calibrated signals and lines rely on decades-old mechanical equipment. "We've said all along the system is extremely vulnerable, all the time," he said.

A transportation authority board member, Andrew B. Albert, asked Mr. Reuter at the public meeting whether fireproofing of signal equipment was possible.

"I don't think there's an easy solution to stop these types of fires," Mr. Reuter responded. He said that the relay room had been locked and that the shopping cart was found in an area that is clearly off-limits to the public.

Global Warming

A hand-picked Bushie favorite told an international conference
that he personally believes that the world has "already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and called for immediate and "very deep" cuts in the pollution if humanity is to "survive".

50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2004

The Beast has compiled their latest list, from which I steal too many:

45. John McCain:

Crimes: Survived years of torture in Vietnam only to become a bend over buddy for a sheltered rich dunce. McCain could have bolstered his largely unearned air of credibility this year had he stood against Bush, but instead chose to show us all that that no principle is too fundamental to humanity to be overlooked in the name of party loyalty. We can only hope that they’ve got something on him, something big.

Smoking Gun: Returned to criticizing Bush as soon as it didn’t matter anymore.

<>Punishment: Vice President under Rumsfeld.

40. Laura Bush

Crimes: Oh the first lady, what an inspiration she must be to android researchers everywhere. Smile, nod, smile, (look interested) nod, put on $50,000 dress, suck off the president and there you have a typical day for the first lady. Corporate yes-wives like her will hasten the coming of mandated burkas for American women. Actually looks related to George, which might explain their mongoloid children.

Smoking Gun: She married George Bush.

<>Punishment: Chugging a gallon of stem cells on Fear Factor.

32. Lynndie England

Crimes: The ultimate “ugly American,” England represents everything people hate about us—ignorance, perversion, racism, and denial. The most authentic trailer trash to enter the public spotlight since Anna Nicole, complete with illegitimate baby by an abusive ex-boyfriend and experience in the meat processing industry. Described by her no doubt horrific mother as having been “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Smoking Gun: The pictures, duh.

Punishment: Gang-raped and devoured alive by all of the hysterical Republican pundits who defended her.

31. Al From

Crimes: Founder and CEO of the detestable Democratic Leadership Council, the lead organization for the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” wing of the Democratic Party. From’s appeasement strategies have lead directly to tragic losses in the last three elections. Responsible for the inability of serious people to fully respect the Democratic Party.

Smoking Gun: Said Dean couldn’t win; backed Joe Lieberman.

<>Punishment: President Nader.
26. Terry McAuliffe

Crimes: Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Said, "This is the best election night in history" on November 2, 2004, just before 8pm EST. Not only presided over the pathetic Kerry defeat, but held the same position in the 2000 fiasco. A driving force in the Republicanization of Democrats, he personally saw to it that the charismatic Dean campaign was crushed to make way for Kerrybot. Doesn’t understand that winning is not necessarily about copying what winners do, but more often not doing what losers do.

Punishment: Hillary Clinton as a cellmate for life.

<>Smoking Gun: Said the party will spend "whatever it takes" to study complaints from Ohio voters that included uncounted votes, long lines, shortages of ballots, understaffed polling stations and voting machine errors. Still studying, apparently.

24. Ronald Reagan

Crimes: The greatest monster in recent American history. Reagan’s excruciating sanctification during his agonizingly protracted funeral was enough to make anyone with knowledge of his true legacy blow up a radio tower. Newspaper columnists performed astonishing feats of selective memory in canonizing Reagan, disregarding any inconvenient evidence of supporting terrorism, ripping off taxpayers for outrageous defense programs, or introducing crack cocaine to America, because we need our heroes.

Smoking Gun: Responsible for telemarketing and infomercials.

<>Punishment: Reanimated and killed again.
15. Condoleezza Rice

Crimes: The phrase “politics is show business for ugly people” has never had so fine a foil. Smirks condescendingly at senior Senators when they ask her silly questions about gross negligence in the area of national security. Winner of the Beast award for most likely to make Grover Norquist’s dick hard. Promoted for feverishly licking Cheney’s boot for four years.

Smoking Gun: Gets to sleep in the big house now.

Punishment: thrown into the arctic from the Exxon oil tanker that used to bear her name.

14. Tom Delay

Crimes: The worst Congressman alive. Being the most corrupt member of the House is a hell of an achievement. Delay is so brazen even lobbyists have expressed reservations. Compares the pathetic, castrated EPA to the Gestapo. A self-obsessed misanthrope in the guise of a Christian.

Smoking Gun: According to Danny Yatom, former head of Israel’s feared Mossad: "The Likud is nothing compared to this guy."

<>Punishment: Outed by Barney Frank.

6. George W. Bush

Crimes: Too numerous to mention. The worst piece of shit ever to run this country, including King George III; when’s the last time a president made half his country want to move to Canada? Lays claim to the legacy of Jesus Christ as he hungrily sucks what little life-essence is left from the world. Appears to be only dimly aware that he is destroying the future, but seems to think it’s kind of funny.

Smoking Gun: Too numerous to mention.

Punishment: To have his fortune stolen from him by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle and Wolfowitz, and be denied Medicaid.

5. John Kerry

Crimes: Managed to lose to the most hated president in American history by virtue of his total inability to convincingly portray himself as a human being. Didn’t even have the balls to show up during the Ohio election challenge in the Senate. So thoroughly vetted that he appears inhuman, incapable of speaking without repeating the same hackneyed phrases incessantly and gesticulating like a poorly operated marionette. Cursing his daughters with his frightening profile.

Smoking Gun: Actually did vote for the $87 billion before he voted against it.

Punishment: Quality time with wife and kids.

4. Dick Cheney

Crimes: So loathsome his own party is frightened of him. Manages to deliver stunning lies with an air of sneering authority. Shamelessly employs scare tactics in order to strip the federal government of any resemblance to the one described in the constitution. So visibly evil that all of the documented evidence against him is superfluous. The kind of guy who starts talking cannibalism the minute he steps on the lifeboat.

Smoking Gun: Managed to make his own shame at producing gay offspring into a negative for Kerry.

Punishment: Hacked to death by Mexican migrant workers.

3. You

Crimes: You gaze idly at the carnage around you, sigh, and go calmly back to your coffee and your People magazine. You can’t stop buying useless crap, though you’re drowning in a deepening pool of debt. You think you’re an activist because you bitch all day on the internet, but you reelect the same gangsters at a 99% rate. You consider yourself informed because you waste a significant portion of your life watching the same three news stories cycle over and over again on your gargantuan, aerodynamic television set while you eat processed food. You really thought everything would be okay if Kerry won. Not only do you believe in an invisible man who magically farted out the universe, you also excoriate and marginalize those who disagree. You have a poorer understanding of your country’s foreign policy history than a third world peasant, but you can’t wait to see what Julia Roberts will be wearing at the Oscars. You cheer as Ukrainians challenge an election based on exit poll data, but keep waiting around for someone else to fix your problems. You can’t think, you can’t organize and you won’t act. This is all your fault.

Smoking Gun: You’re fat.

Punishment: You’re soaking in it.

2. Donald Rumsfeld

Crimes: At least Herman Goering knew how to conquer people. Rummy is the richest person in the white house, a former auto and pharmaceutical CEO and the one who nurtured Dick Cheney’s career. So rife with corruption and fascist desire he makes dirt look clean. Carries himself in press conferences like a cranky grandfather who is sick of hearing his daughters whine about how he molested them every now and then.

Smoking Gun: Abu Ghraib.

Punishment: Abu Ghraib.

1. Kenneth Blackwell

Crimes: The greasy, rancid piece of crap who delivered Ohio for Bush by any means necessary, and then bragged about it in a recent fundraising letter. A black man who has no reservations about screwing over his own people in his lust for power and money. Blackwell is the kind of soulless traitor without whose complicity no nefarious evil plot ever goes down. In step with the future of global elections.

Smoking Gun: Phony recounts, media lockouts, intentional misallocation of voting machines, you name it.

Just Punishment: Dissolved in barrel of acid.

Listserv infiltrators?

Our local peace listserv, which is a Yahoo group, has a "member" going by the name of "Peace25." Peace25 only posts messages with a subject beginning with "URGENT," and they usually request that we immediately contact Congress about something. These frequently have to do with China, generally supporting the Chinese government. The most recent, however, is in support (!) of the Condi Rice nomination.

My guess is that a Chinese government office has created automated "members" of listservs as a way to get their messages out to activist types. I know that many of my readers are members of similar listservs. Do you recognize "Peace25" as a frequent contributor (although never responder) on your listserv? I've also seen one going by "Peace27." E-mail me if you have. Thanks.

From Daryl Cagle.

From Jen Sorensen.

From Ted Rall.

Why I don't read Thomas Friedman

His column yesterday starts out:
There's only one thing you can say about the elections in Iraq: They are either going to be the end of the beginning there or the beginning of the end.
First off, that sounds like two things, not one. Secondly, if that is/are the only thing(s) you can say about the elections, Thomas, what are all those other paragraphs in your column about?

Happy New Bus Route Day!

I was so happy last week to see that the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority had changed my bus route, I was beginning to wonder "How pathetic am I?" But, putting my rationalization skills to good use, I realized that the new route, with stops much closer to my office than before, will give me an additional 20 minutes or so each day for working, blogging, sleeping, whatever! Another hour and a half each week! So I should be happy. The new route also goes from my office fairly directly to the gym, so I should be able to easily make up for the reduced walking. Locals who have haven't found the bus to be convenient before should check the new shedules; there are a lot of changes, and they've coordinated with the UM bus system better.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

What Condi should have said...

"Nobody could have possibly forseen that Abraham Lincoln and SpongeBob SquarePants would be outed in the same week."

Everybody's nuts now!

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution that will have you laughing and/or screaming (judging from the comments on the first, it will be mostly screaming if you haven't sold your soul to the Microsoft devil).

The first links to a wmv file which should convince you that filming a beheading video is anything but easy (and watching it is impossible without Windows). The second post employs a little history to satirically illustrate how truly crazy the neocons are. I especially liked Jonathan's very cynical note in his comments:
politics at a high level is generally a battle between the sane evil people and the insane evil people. And you have to pray the sane evil people win.

The sane evil people are those like Scowcroft, Powell, Albright, etc. They do make some sort of rational, if evil, cost-benefit calculation.

I assume the insane evil people currently running the US are making some kind of cost-benefit calculation in their minds. But it's certainly not rational.

As Harry says, they're not (just) profiteering. They really have some sort of grand vision of a purified world. You can see this even with Social Security, where they may try to borrow trillions of dollars to accomplish their ideological goals... even when doing so would risk crashing the US economy, thereby costing their benefactors far more money than they'll get looting SS.

That's why they're so scary. You really can't predict how far they'll go, because they've already shown they'll risk destroying themselves. (And us, of course. But that's irrelevant, both to sane and insane evil leaders.)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

From Lalo Alcaraz.

From Mike Keefe.

Share with the class

I was going to do some blogging today. However, a couple of feet of snow fell here overnight, and I had a few other things to do around the house in addition to shoveling. When I did get to the computer, I spent most of my time answering two e-mails from readers. Since my answers were probably better thought out than my typical blog post, I think I'll share them here.

First, Dena from New York asked me to comment on remarks from General George Casey Jr., the current disaster manager in Iraq (he replaced Abizaid, who replaced Franks). Dena had the remarks forwarded to her from a right-wing friend of hers; they had been edited from the original, which was a press conference Casey gave on December 16. In the press conference, Casey was pretty upbeat about Iraq. In the e-mail, he was practically halucinatory, since any hints of doubt had been removed. In any case, the e-mail basically quoted Casey as saying that things are pretty much wonderful, the insurgency is being crushed, elections will be held and will fix everything, blah blah blah. Dena was asking me for a response she could send back to her friend. Here's what I wrote:
There seems to be a blitz of such talking points coming out of the military recently. A few days ago, Michelle quoted extensively from a Lt. Col. Tim Ryan (US Army), who said many of the same things.

Obviously, I'm in no position to contradict every claim. I would point out that Gen. Casey's career future, like that of Col. Ryan, depends on him saying what he's supposed to say. Officers who play the game can look forward to lucrative careers in the weapons industry or in government (see Powell, Colin, for example). Those who deviate from the talking points can look forward to years of being outcasts and branded as traitors (Zinni, Ritter, Shineseki, Kwiatowski).

One of the talking points that Michelle has pointed out repeatedly is this blather about 14 out of 18 provinces being quiet. The four other provinces are the biggest ones in Iraq, with more than half the population, and include Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul. It's like saying that America has never had a mass-casualty terrorist incident in 48 out of 50 states (although what has happened in places like Baghdad, Najaf and Fallujah has been far more deadly and destructive than the attacks in Oklahoma and New York).

I'm sure the general is right about lots of people putting shovels into the ground. But I'll bet that most of the time they're digging graves, and most of the rest it's for making a bomb shelter.

He says that, historically, insurgencies take a long time to defeat. What he doesn't say is that in most cases they aren't defeated. The Vietnamese fought against the Japanese invaders in WWII, and then had to fight the French colonialists for nine years, and then the American imperialists for another 20. They suffered setback after setback, but in the end their "insurgency" triumphed. Similarly in Algeria. Filipinos rebelled against the Spanish colonialists, then the American colonialists, then the Japanese imperialists, and then against the American puppet regime of Marcos. Perhaps the wisest act of Jimmy Carter's presidency was not sending US troops to prop up the Shah of Iran. Probably the stupidest act was goading Saddam Hussein to attack Iran as our proxy. (We've had some awful national security advisors--Kissinger, McFarlane, Powell, Rice--but Carter's NSA Zbigniew Brzezinski was as bad as any of them.)

But I guess the core argument, one that should carry some weight with a libertarian, is this: What right does the US have to come in and impose any sort of government on Iraq? Suppose that the US president was someone your friend despised--Kerry, Chomsky, Rather, Manson, Bush, whoever. And suppose that the European Union, Russia, China and some other countries had decided to revive the League of Nations due to their frustrations with the US veto at the UN. The League of Nations decides that the US president is in violation of League resolutions, having used weapons of mass destruction, invaded neighbors, and was in general posing a threat to its neighbors and the world. Suppose that the League's intelligence agencies have determined that America's homeland security is, in fact, as worthless as 9/11 seemed to suggest. Each League member donates a certain number of airliners, which are then flown by remote control into most major command and control facilities of the US military and government. This is followed up immediately by an invasion from both coasts by League forces. Would your friend, or General Casey, immediately collaborate with the invaders who were "liberating" him from this awful president?

I doubt it--in fact, I suspect that he would call anyone who did so a traitor. There is a word which is commonly used to describe natives who oppose invaders. The word isn't "insurgent;" it's "patriot."

Even had the wild claims about WMD's and ties to al Qaeda been true, invading Iraq was a crime and would have been opposed by millions of Iraqis. Under the circumstances, for someone like Gen. Casey to pretend to occupy the moral high ground in this situation is lunacy.

Next, Mike from British Columbia asked me to comment on this article by Victor Thorn attacking Michael Ruppert for selling out the 9/11 conspiracy movement, or something. Here is my response to Mike:
I bought the "Ruppert Package" back before Christmas. I took the DVD with me on the train, but left the hefty "Crossing the Rubicon" at home. I did read David Ray Griffin's "The New Pearl Harbor" on the train, which I found very interesting and pretty convincing--and probably better written than either Ruppert's or Thorn's book. (I've now read about 70 pages of Rubicon, and my judgment of Thorn is based on the diatribe you sent.)

Exactly what goal Thorn is trying to reach by quibbling with Ruppert I don't know. He has certainly been living in a cocoon for a couple of years if he actually believes this: "Well, no one is denying that war games took place on the morning of 9-11, and no one is denying that our military stood-down. No one is even surprised that Dick Cheney was one of the individuals behind it." No one, that is, except for the vast majority of the population that has never heard of Michael Ruppert and isn't even aware that there are flaws in the official explanations of 9/11. Ruppert has been doing a pretty good job of getting people into that room--if all they hear when they get there is holier than thou conspiracy theorists arguing, they'll probably run back out of the room and never come back.

If you have the quote from Ruppert that Thorn cites in context, I'd be interested in seeing it. My guess is that Ruppert is saying that if the 9/11 questions could have made headlines before November 2, they might have changed the election. But they didn't, and clearly the Democrats aren't about to take a stand on anything. ("Democrats: a moment of resistance, a lifetime of capitulation." -- Jon Stewart) So, perhaps, Ruppert is now suggesting going in a different direction. Thorn may not approve, but it hardly means that Ruppert has sold out or whatever. I'm pretty sure that he does have a big ego--that seemed pretty obvious from the video. It sounds like Thorn does, too. It takes an ego of at least a certain size to accuse the vice president of the US of mass murder!

BTW, there was another article complaining about Ruppert--from Kurt Nimmo on Counterpunch.

I got an e-mail about a week ago from a right-winger. I had quoted from a letter to the editor he had written last year, and he found my blog when he googled his own name. I've since exchanged a couple of e-mails with him. One thing he said he didn't like about liberals was that they stifle debate. I told him that, while I could understand where he was coming from with some of his comments, he clearly knew nothing about liberals if he thought we don't debate!

Back in my spiritual questing days, one of the best books I read was "Mere Christianity," by C.S. Lewis. I remember him saying that the point of his book wasn't to make the reader into a Catholic or Baptist or Lutheran. The idea was just to get him into the big room--mere Christianity. I hope that Ruppert and Thorn and Griffin and Nimmo will focus on bringing people into the big room where it's okay to question 9/11 (and government actions in general), rather than having a shootout in that room that scares people away.

Two more things. One--I watched the film 9/11 twice during my trip, once on the train, once with my brother. It was filmed by two French brothers who were making a documentary about a rookie NY fireman. It has extensive footage from inside WTC 1 from shortly after it was hit by the plane until after WTC 2 collapsed. I highly recommend it. For this discussion, the interesting thing is the one scene when the firemen are back at the station on the afternoon of 9/11, discussing what they saw. One described the collapse of one of the towers (approx. quote): "It just went pop, pop, pop, all the way down, just like a demolition."

The other thing. In my opinion, the quickest way to get someone into the big room of doubt is to focus on the Pentagon. How is it possible that a plane could have crashed into what should be the best-guarded building on the planet? If they try to go all Condi on you, saying nobody could have seen that coming--suggest that that may have been a remote possibility an hour earlier. But after the second plane hit the WTC, everybody, even Bush, knew that the nation was under attack. That the Pentagon was undefended, even unevacuated, 34 minutes later is outside the realm of possibility if one believes that our government is good and pure. I almost think the Pentagon attack was like the second bullet in Gary Webb's "suicide:" A message to the nosy that these are very serious dudes running this show. They want their complicity known to those who look and think closely--and they want those people to believe that they can't be stopped.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Good Riddance

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, will reportedly announce his resignation on Friday, according to an article on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. The FCC could not immediately be reached for comment. Selected four years ago by President Bush, Powell has pushed to introduce more free-market principles into federal policy on communications law. Yet his tenure was marked by several controversies, particularly in the regulation of speech and media-ownership rules. One of the top candidates to replace Powell is Rebecca Klein, a Gulf War veteran and former head of the Texas Public Utility Commission. Other possibilities are current FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin and former Bush telecom advisors Michael Gallagher and Janice Obuchowski.
While his father will likely move on to a lucrative post at the Carlyle Group, I'm willing to bet that Mikey will be rewarded for his many gifts to corporate media with a high-paying job at Disney (ABC), Viacom (CBS), GE (NBC), NewsCorp (Fox), or ClearChannel. Or maybe Carlyle will take care of both father and son--Mikey's predecessor as FCC Chairman, Clinton appointee William Kennard, is already on the Carlyle team. One of Colin's SecState predecessors, the hideous James Baker III, is Senior Counselor at Carlyle (a firm in which Bush 41 and the Binladen group were charter investors).

So close, Juan, why'd you have to ruin it?

In a pictorial commentary, Juan Cole points out how the first four years of aWol's reign directly contradict the opening sentence of his coronation speech, which included the phrase "we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution." Cole is very clear about what needs to be done:
Bush has sworn an oath to uphold the US Constitution. He won't. But Congress can. It should insist that the sunset provisions of the so-called "Patriot Act" (which should be called the "Abrogation of the Constitution Act") be allowed to expire in 2005 and that the extremely dangerous "Patriot Act II" be completely defeated. Republicans who care about the Constitution should join Democrats who care about the Constitution in putting a stake through the heart of this abomination.
But then he turns the gun around and points it at his own credibility with this sentence:
A noble 200-year-old experiment in civil liberties and democracy, for which US troops are giving their lives, must not be ended by a single act of terrorism and a clique of authoritarians in Washington.
(emphasis added)

Surely, Juan, you know that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing to do with preserving our experiment in liberty and democracy. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite. War in general is the enemy of true freedom--Lincoln, Roosevelt and Bush all have had thousands of innocent people locked up for months or years because of war. The ONLY way that either Iraq or Afghanistan were "threats to our freedom" was that they provided an excuse for Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft to destroy them. The only thing the troops in Iraq are fighting for now is to survive--they're not doing one whit of good towards even freedom in Iraq, much less freedom in America.

Juan Cole does get back on the right track, even implicitly contradicting that awful sentence above:
Bush's speech was about bringing liberty to the rest of the world. Let's see if he can first do something to restore to the American public the liberties we enjoyed, as free men and women, until 2001. Let's see if he can bring US government policies back into alignment with the Geneva Conventions and other international law on human rights, to which the US is signatory. Only then would he have earned the right to even think about trying to extend liberty to others. As of now, folks, your library records can be viewed at will by agents of the US government, and the librarian is forbidden to reveal to anyone that the government looked at these documents. Not only is a warrant not required, but even the invasion of your privacy is top secret and you will never know about it. Can anyone even prove that the 19 hijackers of 9/11 ever checked a book out of a US library? The Republic may not be able to withstand four more years of this.

Freedom on the March

Speaking of spreading freedom, the WaPo says that the prison camps maintained by the US in Iraq are almost full, with about 9,000 prisoners, and more every day. If Venezuela, say, arrested thousands of opponents in advance of an election, what would the US say about that?
Whatever it was, the WaPo would be screaming that it wasn't harsh enough. And hey, it works in Florida--forever! Cop drops some weed in a black guy's car and he can't vote--for life.

I saw bits of aWol's coronation speech on the Daily show, and have seen a few quotes. The general consensus seems to be that he made "freedom" and "liberty" sound like some bad medicine that we're going to force down the throats of the world, even if it kills them. Which I think is pretty much how he sees "freedom." The scariest thing is that there is probably still a large segment of the population (51%?) who actually believes this BS.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

How the Bushies plan to pull off the January 30 Iraqi elections

They'll secretly hold them on January 28! That'll fix them insurgents! Worked for the transfer of sovereignty charade--should work for this charade as well.

Poison Me Once, Shame on You...

I think that the only "truth" that we can know for absolute sure is that we are being lied to constantly. Via Xymphora, I learned of a NY Times article about the alledged behind-the-scenes activities which changed the Viktor of the Ukrainian "election." (Probably almost all "elections" deserve to be put in "quotation marks" these days.) I haven't read the whole article yet, but the passage highlighted by Xymphora should be enough to make anyone realize that whatever happened in Kiev, it certainly wasn't democracy:
Not long after Pravda posted the transcript, General Smeshko left the meeting with Mr. Kuchma and headed to a S.B.U. safe house in Kiev for a secret liaison with Mr. Yushchenko, the opposition leader.

The meeting had self-evident ironies. Mr. Yushchenko, nearly incapacitated after being poisoned by dioxin in the summer, a crime that remains unsolved, had publicly linked the poisoning to a meeting with General Smeshko and another S.B.U. general.

Now he wanted another talk. The group met in a tiny room, behind a drawn yellow curtain, and ate fruit. Present were General Sarnatskyi, General Smeshko and General Romanchenko, as well as Mr. Yushchenko, Mr. Ribachuk and another Yushchenko ally.
At first, it seems a little bizarre that someone would go back to dine again with a guy who may have done this to him:

But then I realized that metaphorically, this being inauguration day and all, that's pretty much exactly what America has done.

Things really suck...

When the current Supreme Court is "the good guys."

From USA Today via Michelle:
A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed lawsuits by seven foreigners held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The judge ruled that suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives there have no constitutional right to challenge the legality of their indefinite detentions.

The Supreme Court said last June that the 550 detainees at Guantanamo could file lawsuits in U.S. courts to challenge their detentions. In the first federal court ruling on the issue since then, District Judge Richard Leon said President Bush had not exceeded his war powers by ordering the detentions.
The concentration/torture camp at Guantanamo has been in operation for three years now. Every day is a new crime against humanity. Finally, last summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the hostages there (that's what they are) actually had a few tiny crumbs of human rights. Now Judge Leon decides he's not only above the constitution, he's above the Supremes! I'm with ya, Rush! These activist judges have to go. How about sending Leon to Gitmo? He's obviously an enemy of the state.

Short Memory

Even the good cartoonists, and Walt Handelsman is a good one, have short memories.

Here's Walt's cartoon from September 29:

And here's his latest:

From Ann Telnaes.

From Jeff Parker.

From Mike Keefe.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Public Service Announcement: Free Tax Prep Software from the IRS

Before you buy TurboTax or other tax software, you should check out the IRS web site. They are offering free tax prep software! So if you're not rich enough to get out of paying taxes, at least don't spend more than you have to!

Symphony of Destruction

From Michelle I learn of US Army Lt. Col. Tim Ryan, who seems determined to redefine the definition of military nutcase:
From where I sit in Iraq, things are not all bad right now. In fact, they are going quite well. We are not under attack by the enemy; on the contrary, we are taking the fight to him daily and have him on the ropes. In the distance, I can hear the repeated impacts of heavy artillery and five-hundred-pound bombs hitting their targets. The occasional tank main gun report and the staccato rhythm of a Marine Corps LAV or Army Bradley Fighting Vehicle's 25-millimeter cannon provide the bass line for a symphony of destruction. As elements from all four services complete the absolute annihilation of the insurgent forces remaining in Fallujah, the area around the former insurgent stronghold is more peaceful than it has been for more than a year.
I think someone should tell Col. Ryan to go to hell, but he's already there. He just doesn't know it yet.

From Tom Toles.

The Boxer Rebellion

Michelle has a bunch of great quotes that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) laid on Condiloser Rice. Only Boxer and John Kerry, who apparently is no longer running for president and has his spine back in place, voted against Condi. From the NY Times:
The Republicans who voted for Ms. Rice were Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the committee chairman, and Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, George V. Voinovich of Ohio, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mel Martinez of Florida.

Democrats voting in favor were Senators Joseph R. Biden of Delaware, the ranking minority member; Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland; Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut; Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin; Bill Nelson of Florida; and Barack Obama of Illinois.
They must all really hate America if they think Condi is acceptable as Secretary of State.

Crossing the Rubicon

I have Michael Ruppert's Crossing the Rubicon on my shelf back home, but I haven't started reading it. I did watch the video "THE TRUTH & LIES OF 9/11" (same link, farther down the page), which is mostly just a recording of a lecture given by Michael Ruppert back in November 2001. If you're looking for a "shorter" version of "Crossing the Rubicon," Michael Kane has provided it.

I'll say that in general I agree with that there is a high probability that Dick Cheney was involved with 9/11, at least to the degree of letting it happen. The details will likely remain unclear, but the official explanation is probably the most ridiculous of the various conspiracy theories that I've heard. (See The New Pearl Harbor for details on lots of the unanswered or clearly wrongly answered questions about what happened on 9/11.)

One minor point: Kane twice refers to "peak oil" as being when half of the oil is gone. This isn't right. "Peak oil" refers to the time (usually given as a year, but could be "refined" to a month or day) when world oil production reaches its all-time high. Since this is likely to occur soon, during a time of rapidly increasing world demand, the economic consequences are likely to be massive, if not catastrophic. Determining when peak oil production has occurred will be relatively straightforward, although it may take two or three years after it happens to be sure that it has been reached. Knowing when exactly half of the oil is gone would be impossible, since no one knows for sure exactly how much oil there is, and since some types of oil may remain economically unrecoverable even at much higher prices. It's possible that world oil production will max out at approximately the same time as we have used half of all the oil (by some definition), but there is no reason at all that it has to. Kane should know the distinction (I'm pretty sure that Ruppert does). Making a stupid factual error when presenting a bold conspiracy theory just makes it too easy for critics to discredit the whole thing.

Uncle Tom's Deluded Rice

WIIIAI comments on the condifirmation hearings:
Condi: “The tsunami was a wonderful opportunity for us.” Oy.

Condi: “The time for diplomacy is now.”

“Our interaction with the rest of the world must be a conversation, not a monologue.” Of course the rest of the world’s role in that conversation will be confined to “Sir, yes sir!”

She’s the last Bushie still to claim that the US had to invade Iraq over WMDs, which she somehow combines with admitting that there were none. I don’t understand how she does that either. “Now, there were lots of data points about his weapons-of-mass- destruction programs. Some were right and some were not.” I don’t know what a data point is when it’s at home, but I’m pretty sure a data point that is wrong is not a data point. “But what was right was that there was an unbreakable link between Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.” That sentence has less meaning each time I read it.
You could probably grab a random person off a bench in the Omaha Greyhound station and get a better Secretary of State than Condi.

Your tax dollars at work

Federal money may go to help Wal-Mart set up a distribution center in Delaware:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s newest planned distribution center could receive up to $1.3 million in federal aid following approval of a Community Development Block Grant application by Somerset County Commissioners this month.

The bulk of the grant - $810,000 - would help fund Wal-Mart's purchase of land for the proposed center on Revells Neck Road in Westover. Currently, the land is owned by Mitchell Bonneville Jr., who operates a borrow pit on the site.

According to the proposal, $500,000 from the grant would help fund street improvements between Sign Post Road and the entrance to the Eastern Correctional Institution. Wal-Mart's trucks likely would use this stretch of the road to access the center. Another $30,000 would cover the county's administrative costs in connection with the project.

With the grant application, approved following a public hearing, county officials upheld a vow to assist Wal-Mart in gaining financial support to place a distribution center in Somerset. Commissioners also have borrowed $500,000 as a loan that will allow water and sewer installation at the proposed center's site.
Oh well. Prisons and Wal-Marts seem to be the future of America. They'll probably need good signage so the drivers don't turn the wrong way.

CIA's Greatest Hits

If you haven't read Chomsky or William Blum or similar authors about the various crimes of the CIA in various countries extending back over half a century, Mark Zepezauer's The CIA's Greatest Hits web site provides an excellent summary, including one-page descriptions of the interventions in various countries. Yugoslavia is particularly interesting.

Ask the Moron

Not the idiot-in-chief moron, but his minion moron over at the Pentagon. From A Tiny Revolution I learn that family members of soldiers killed in Iraq are going to try to ask Rummy the Dummy a few questions:
a.. Why were our loved ones sent to war in the first place, given that there was no threat to the U.S. from Iraq?
b.. When they were sent, why were they not supplied with proper training, planning, armor or equipment?
c.. How did our loved ones die?
d.. Why are there troops in Iraq who still lack the proper training, armor and equipment; and what are the plans for immediately furnishing them with these items?
e.. What are the plans for ending the war and bringing the troops home?
Jonathan adds a much more detailed question about specific lies that Rummy told in 2002.

I'm gonna do what now?

From a CNN story on the four car bombings in Baghdad this morning:
Despite the loss of life, Murray said all of the suicide bombers failed to hit their intended targets.

"Out of the four car bombs in Baghdad ... in every case, there was an Iraqi soldier either from the Iraqi army or the Iraqi national guard or an Iraqi policemen that prevented that car bomb from getting to its intended target," [3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry commander Col. Mike] Murray said.

"As tragic as it is, there were some Iraqi security forces that paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect their countrymen, the same way that they're going to do on election day."
That ought to encourage them! Way to go, Col. Mike!

BTW, Col. Mike, don't you think that the Iraqi national guard or policeman may have been at least a secondary target?

I swear, if these guys had had a volleyball game scheduled on the beach in Aceh on the morning of December 26, they would have gone ahead with it even as they watched the tsunami arrive. That's pretty much what this Iraqi election is going to be like.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Global Warming vs. Global Dimming

Mike sent me this link to the transcript of a recent BBC science program. Scientists discuss the effects that particulate pollution may be having on clouds and the reflectivity of the earth--in effect, reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the surface. After exploring effects on Ethiopia (possible cause of the widespread famines of the 1970's and '80's) and elsewhere, they conclude that this pollution IS reducing the amount of light and heat reaching the planet. They suggest that it has had a countering effect on global warming, and that the recent heat waves in Europe may be due to the effective anti-pollution measures that have been taken there. Without this "global dimming," they suggest, the effects of global warming would be much more obvious. However, they warn against fighting global warming with global dimming because the particulate pollution is very bad for health, and also affects global weather patterns in unpredictable and frequently disastrous ways.

I haven't seen this mentioned before, even though some of the research mentioned goes back decades. When I get a chance, I'll google around and try to find the web sites of both the global dimming prophets of doom and the corresponding naysayers (and you KNOW that both are out there!). For starters, you can read the transcript and judge for yourself.

Or At Least Some!!

Screen capture of CNN website at about 7:30 pm EST.

King's Message Still Valid a Day After His 76th Birthday

They must see Americans as strange liberators... They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "insurgent"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food.
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, quoted by Bob Harris

Okay, I changed the word "Vietcong" to "insurgent." Unfortunately, probably nothing else in the paragraph needs changing to apply it to Iraq--especially if the whole sordid fifteen-year Gulf War/sanctions/"Iraqi Freedom" history is included (or even worse, extend it to include the Iran-Iraq war when Carter and Brzezinski encouraged Saddam to invade Iran, and then Reagan and Bush Sr. proceeded to arm both sides).

Bob Harris quotes extensively from King's 1967 speech, and points out how Dr. King's anti-war speeches and activities tend to be completely forgotten during the MLK Day commemorations. So, a reminder:
There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube...

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry... I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent...

... I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission -- a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for "the brotherhood of man." This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war...

Bowling for Davison

Davison (MI) High School decided to cancel its Hall of Fame inductions rather than even consider the nomination of its most famous graduate, Michael Moore. (Other articles: Flint Journal, Detroit Free Press, Arbor Update, Get Mike In)

I lost a lot of respect for Michael Moore because of his eager support for Kerry (when his movies and books are full of skewerings of similar sellouts by others--and "Fahrenheit 911" is almost as much an indictment of Kerry as it was of Bush). But a world-famous, Oscar-winning bestselling author-provacateur can't get elected to his high-school Hall of Fame?

The New American Militarism

Paul Craig Roberts reviews a new book by military expert Andrew J. Bacevich: The New American Militarism.
Bacevich understands that the problem is not how to deal with terrorism but how to deal with the hubris, laden with catastrophe, that America is God's instrument for bringing history to its predetermined destination. Being assigned such an exalted role creates the delusion that America's virtue is unquestionable and its use of preemptive coercion is infallible, delusion that led to the "cakewalk war" that would entrench Democracy in the Middle East and have the troops home in 90 days.

American hubris, which flows so freely from President Bush's mouth, explains why half the US population yawns over the US slaughter of Iraqi civilians and torture of Iraqi prisoners. The "cakewalk war" is now almost two years old and has claimed 10 percent of the US occupation force as casualties. Yet, the delusion persists that the US is prevailing in Iraq.
The new American militarism has abandoned the Founding Fathers, deserted the Constitution, and unrestrained the executive. War is a first resort. Militarism is inconsistent with globalism and with American ideals. It will end in abject failure.

The world is a vast place. The US has demonstrated that it cannot impose its will on a tiny part known as Iraq. American realism may yet reassert itself, dispel the fog of delusion, cleanse the body politic of the Jacobin spirit and lead the world by good example. But this happy outcome will require regime change in the US.

Our No-Account pResident

From WIIIAI, (who identified his/her gender and first name to me in an e-mail, but whose blogging anonymity I will continue to respect):
This blog has spoken frequently about the poverty of Bush’s understanding of democracy in the context of Afghan and Iraqi elections, but I’d like to return to his much-quoted comment in the WaPo interview that “We had an accountability moment, and that’s called the 2004 elections.” Here’s how my computer dictionary defines “moment”: “1 a brief period of time. 2 an exact point in time.” In Bush’s vision, democratic accountability is an exact point in time, Election Day, one day out of 1,461, and the very last accountability moment of his political career is now behind him. What does that make him, class? That’s right: unaccountable. So abandon your protests, your speeches and diatribes, your letters to the editor or the White House, your petitions and remonstrances, because the moment in which even Bush considered himself accountable to the American people has come... and it has gone.
I'll confess that I'm currently both cynical and depressed enough to believe that the only thing that's going to bring Bush down is the crushing reality of his failed policies. His supporters are, for the most part, completely immune to facts and arguments, and there appears little hope that Congress or the media will ever reign him in. How bad things will have to get before these fascists are finally removed from power is the big question.

From Ed Stein.

Doubts in the Heartland?

From Jeff Koterba.

I post that cartoon because Koterba, from Omaha, drew what I considered perhaps THE most obnoxious cartoon of the past two years, this one from April 15, 2003:

Not only were the protesters right, but I don't think I've met a single one, even back in the supposed "Mission Accomplished" days, who was ever embarrassed in the least about having protested the war.

I don't know if Koterba is widely read or admired in Omaha, or if there's much to his new-found doubts about the war (as apparently evidenced in the top cartoon above). The rabid right seems always willing to cast aside any of their own at the slightest hint of doubt.


It's interesting, and a bit depressing, reading the financial press discussing oil prices. Their longest time horizon seems to be about two weeks--"Oh, it's colder than we thought!" or "Another attack on a pipleline in Iraq," or "Larger than expected deliveries from Venezuela this week." That they're dealing with a finite resource being quickly exhausted (in a mindset that deals with years and decades) never seems to enter the equation. The general consensus of all the world's business and government leaders, and not just in the US, seems to be "Let's get ours now; the future be damned." OPEC seems to adjust prices not to protect the long-term future of its member nations, but to maximize current income. And while attacks on pipelines and political unrest and cold weather are pretty much guaranteed from time to time in the long run, they treat each incident as a reason to drive up the price, while two or three relatively trouble-free days will drive the price down $5. Everyone seems to be just living in the extreme short term, which is likely to lead to a lot of suffering in the long term.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Product-Placement Inauguration

DETROIT (Reuters) - President Bush will ride down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day in the new Cadillac DTS limousine, giving the first glimpse of the new flagship sedan from General Motors Corp., the automaker said Monday.

The black presidential limousine is wider, taller and longer than the DTS sedan, but it shows the new sharper-edged styling for the new model, which goes on sale this fall.

Transporting Bush in Thursday's parade will help reinforce Cadillac's image, said Keith Spondike, marketing manager for the DTS and its predecessor, the DeVille.
It would be a lot more appropriate if aWol were inaugurated in downtown Baghdad, and rode there from the airport in a un-armored Humvee. Then on to balls in Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul and Basra. Maybe he could hang out in Iraq and supervise the elections personally? Our nation's capitol and our retirement money would both be a lot safer.

Who you going to believe? Seymour Hersh or your own lying president?

From CNN:
The Bush administration has been carrying out secret reconnaissance missions to learn about nuclear, chemical and missile sites in Iran in preparation for possible airstrikes there, journalist Seymour Hersh said Sunday.
In an interview on the same program, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said the story was "riddled with inaccuracies."

"I don't believe that some of the conclusions he's drawing are based on fact," Bartlett said.
From My Lai to Abu Ghraib, Hersh has a long history of telling the truth. From Enron to Fallujah, Bartlett and the rest of the White House occupiers have a long history of lying. So I'm with Hersh on this one.
"The planning for Iran is going ahead even though Iraq is a mess," Hersh said. "I think they really think there's a chance to do something in Iran, perhaps by summer, to get the intelligence on the sites."

He added, "The guys on the inside really want to do this."

Hersh identified those inside people as the "neoconservative" civilian leadership in the Pentagon. That includes Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith -- "the sort of war hawks that we talk about in connection with the war in Iraq."
The plans are not limited to Iran, he said.

"The president assigned a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other special forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as 10 nations in the Middle East and South Asia," he wrote.

Under the secret plans, the war on terrorism would be led by the Pentagon, and the power of the CIA would be reduced, Hersh wrote in his article.

From Ted Rall.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

I Hate That Man!

AWol chatted with the Washington Post:
The Post: Why do you think [Osama] bin Laden has not been caught?

THE PRESIDENT: Because he's hiding.

The Post: Our allies have done all they can do to help catch him?

THE PRESIDENT: We're on the hunt.

The Post: Do you think others are on the hunt, too? Are you happy, content with what other countries are doing in that hunt?

And then there's this:
The Post: In Iraq, there's been a steady stream of surprises. We weren't welcomed as liberators, as Vice President Cheney had talked about. We haven't found the weapons of mass destruction as predicted. The postwar process hasn't gone as well as some had hoped. Why hasn't anyone been held accountable, either through firings or demotions, for what some people see as mistakes or misjudgments?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.
After being lied to and bribed, 51% supposedly voted for the chimp over his dullard frat-brother who disagreed with him on nothing substantive. Even the "values" issues that they supposedly disagreed on--gay marriage, abortion--seem to have no place in Bush's second term agenda (not that I'm complaining), even though it's how he conned millions into voting for him. Instead, he's focusing on further ways to separate the masses of the people from the masses of their money--trash social security and expand "free trade." And he treats his re-selection like it is a total approval of his god-awful Iraq policy, on which Kerry differed hardly at all.

What a %$@!^ bastard.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Big Lie Triumphs Again

From Rob Rogers.

From Chris Britt.

Friday, January 14, 2005

In search of outrage...

I've been reading the news and the blogs, trying to regain the old blogging outrage. Bush is trashing social security and trial lawyers; the war gets worse and worse; the economy teeters on the edge of a precipice. Blah blah blah. But finally, over at WIIIAI, I come across two articles to rekindle the flame!

First, the LA Times reports about a new renewable-energy project at Guantanamo Bay:
Four new windmill towers and turbines rising from the crown of John Paul Jones Hill will begin powering the U.S. Navy base here next month, saving $1.5 million in annual oil imports, reducing pollution and showing energy-starved communist neighbors what they are missing.

The wind-generation project that will provide 25% to 30% of the base's energy needs is a rare embrace of renewable resources for the U.S. military, which can seldom justify the high start-up costs or efficiently extend new technologies to the small, scattered communities they serve.

At Guantanamo, where the population has grown fourfold since the base began housing hundreds of suspected enemy combatants captured mostly in Afghanistan, favorable winds and Pentagon-mandated energy independence have converged to allow the base to boast the largest stand-alone hybrid wind and diesel power system in the world, according to its developers.

Johnston and the base commander, Capt. Leslie J. McCoy, noted that Cuban military officials with whom they met periodically had been keenly interested in the wind project, which is now the most visible feature of the base from any direction.

"The Cubans are very intrigued by the wind generators, but I see no potential for sharing the technology at this time," McCoy said, alluding to the absence of diplomatic relations with Havana and a trade embargo that had been in place since shortly after Castro came to power in 1959.

Cuba has suffered widespread and protracted electricity outages in recent years as the price of oil has driven up production costs. The country has invested little in developing alternative energy resources.
This article is so wrong in so many ways! For starters, WIIIAI (I don't know his/her name) asks "What they’re missing? Windmill-powered genital shocking?" To this, I add: To the extent that Cuba is "energy-starved" it is so because of the US embargo. Also, Cuba has several rural electrification projects using solar power--Home Power magazine had an article in the August/September issue about solar-powered TV buildings in rural Cuba--used for both education and entertainment. But hey, the US media figures it can never go wrong badmouthing Cuba and Castro.

They feel the same way about Venezuela and Chavez. Which brings me to the second point of outrage from WIIIAI's post--yet another Washington Post diatribe against Chavez. The Post seems to be regularly clamoring for the US to instigate "regime change" in Venezuela, even more so than the neonuts in the administration. I'm guessing it's a shadow dance--the same people are pulling the strings at both the Post and the White House, and having the "press" taking the lead may be seen as the right move at this time.


Oil is on its way back up, after dipping down to near $40 a barrel. (I still don't know why, out of all of the financial data and charts available on the web, I can't find a regularly-updated oil-price chart.)

Government of Big Pharma, for Big Pharma, and by Big Pharma

From Bob Herbert:
If the malpractice legislation so relentlessly touted by President Bush became law, Pfizer, Merck and Eli Lilly would be immunized against even the possibility of punitive damages arising from any harm to patients that resulted from use of these drugs - as long as the companies followed F.D.A. rules. All three drugs were approved by the F.D.A.
The drug companies have an incredible racket going, as Marcia Angell, the former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, documents in her book "The Truth About the Drug Companies."

"Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit," she wrote, "this industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the U.S. Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself. (Most of its marketing efforts are focused on influencing doctors, since they must write the prescriptions.)"

Among those co-opted is the president himself. Nothing's too good for the drug companies. If ordinary Americans got the same sweet treatment from this administration as the great pharmaceutical houses, we'd all be in a much better place.

From Mark Cohen.

From Jack Ohman.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Poor Victimized Wal-Mart

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer, launched a national advertising campaign Thursday in an effort to burnish an image that has been tarnished by claims about its hiring practices, stance toward labor unions and actions against smaller competitors.

The company is running a full-page advertisement in more than a hundred newspapers, touting the number of jobs it plans to create in 2005, its employee-benefit packages and the diversity of its workers. The company also has started a Web site to support its campaign.

The ad, which is running in newspapers such as USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, says the company plans to create 100,000 U.S. jobs in 2005 and that 74 percent of its hourly employees work full-time.

"For too long, others have had free rein to say things about our company that just aren't true," Chairman Lee Scott said in a statement. "We've decided it's time to draw our own line in the sand."
Here's some of the BS from their web site:
The truth is Wal-Mart provides great value for customers, opportunities for our workforce, economic support for communities and a helping hand for charities across America. We work hard to make life better for everyone. Can our critics truly say the same?

Wal-Mart is committed to those who shop with us every day — many of whom depend on us to provide value for the products they want at the lowest prices possible. Last year, more than 90 percent of Americans — 270 million people — chose to shop at Wal-Mart.
That last statement is scary, but almost has to be a lie. While Wal-Mart is almost everywhere, it isn't everywhere. Certainly more than ten percent of Americans live far from a Wal-Mart. Millions live in nursing homes and prisons or would otherwise be unable to go to Wal-Mart even if they wanted to. And millions are babies and toddlers who may have gone to Wal-Mart, but certainly couldn't be said to have chosen to do so. And then there are those of us who KNOW that Wal-Mart sucks in just about every way possible and wouldn't shop there if our lives depended on it.

Wal-Mart works hard to make life more impoverished for everyone--not better. It has destroyed downtown after downtown after downtown, and even strip mall after strip mall! (I saw this on my train trip, especially in Grand Junction. There was a strip mall across from my hotel with I think two out of twelve units occupied--and I saw several others like it in that town of about 45,000. Then somebody came up to the hotel lobby and asked the clerk where the Wal-Mart was, and she responded "Which one?")

Now the bastards who are destroying America want us to feel sorry for their rich behinds. Go Cheney yourself, Wal-Mart.

Truth Tellers Will be Punished

Greg Palast blasts CBS for its craven backdown on the AWOL story. I said earlier that was probably the lamest expose I'd ever seen on "60 Minutes," and I still think so. If anything, the stuff they showed weakened the solid case that Bush dodged Vietnam with the aid of wealthy family friends--and that was even before the hounding and backtracking started. The "revelations" just weren't much, and their authenticity seemed doubtful, even just watching the show. As such, I thought that the show made little difference one way or the other--one tiny bit of shaky evidence matters little when there are mountains of solid evidence available.

But Palast points out that the people fired weren't fired for this lame "60 Minutes" segment. Like WMD's in Iraq, that was just the cover story. One of the fired execs was "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes, who produced the Abu Ghraib story last spring. Mapes wasn't fired for running a lame story with questionable evidence--she was fired for running a massive scandal story with unimpeachable evidence. They just had to wait a bit for her to slip up a little on something else before the hammer came down.

[Update] The WSWS weighs in on the CBS story.

Hothouse of the Right

One of my favorite lines in What's the Matter with Kansas? comes (page 82) when Thomas Frank is describing the wealthy Koch family of Wichita. Frank says:
Koch money props up such hothouses of the right as Reason magazine, the Manhattan Institute, the Heartland Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, and the Democratic Leadership Council.
I thought it must be the right-wingers who gave us sellouts like Clinton, Gore, Kerry and Edwards. Now I know!

Let us not become the evil we deplore...

An AlterNet article on the Armstrong Williams scandal (the Bushies paid a black right-wing TV pundit $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind during his "news" broadcasts) ends like this:
Armstrong Williams, Karen Ryan and Ketchum PR are all bit players in what is a big budget, major studio production. Even George W. Bush is just one of the actors in this production. The real story here is about the conservative movement and the ways that that movement – primarily through the marketing of conservative ideas – has molded and continues to mold public opinion in America. Conservatives are beating progressives with an effective marketing machine. However, no such infrastructure exists on the left.

While clearly conservatives' tactics (i.e., bribing pundit entrepreneurs and faking news spots) are deplorable, progressives can learn from their overarching marketing strategy. Progressives must frame their ideas in ways that resonate with the American public and disseminate those ideas through a variety of diverse channels in a coordinated effort.

The hopes of the Democratic Party in 2008 rest on one key question: will progressives spend the next four years viewing the world through the same narrow scope of the past, or will they embrace the big picture and see that in order to change the direction of the country, they must effectively counter the conservative movement?
To which Michelle responds perfectly:
For all the truth in this and other articles about "the left" needing to get good and slick in the advertising department in order to reach the other half of America, I don't think I'd like living in that version, either. A country where people are willing to remain ignorant and be manipulated by slick promos and feel-good slogans? Where the "ideas" don't count - just the packaging? No thanks. I'm looking for a place where people want to understand what's really happening to them and to the rest of the world in their name.

Lie your way to the top

That's how it works in the Bush administration:
The man who insisted that President Bush make the claim that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa is poised to assume a top State Department job that would make him the lead US arms negotiator with Iran and North Korea, according to administration officials.

Robert G. Joseph, a special assistant for national security to President Bush until a few months ago, is on the short list to become undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, the nation's senior diplomat in charge of negotiating arms control treaties, said the officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named.
Over at CBS, they fired four people for putting together probably the lamest expose "60 Minutes" ever did. While they apparently didn't carefully check their facts, the resulting program brought almost nothing important to light as far as aWol's AWOL status was concerned. Meanwhile Joseph blatantly lies based on a forgery far cruder than anything "60 Minutes" had, helping to promote a war which is killing hundreds of thousands.

Michelle provides the following definition from the Bush dictionary:
ac·count·able : adj. due for a promotion

From POAC.

From Ted Rall.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I'm not on that one, either!

From AP:
An Amtrak train derailed after running into a pickup-sized boulder, authorities said. Six people were injured, none seriously.

The California Zephyr struck the 12-by-12-foot boulder late Tuesday just west of Grand Junction, Mesa County sheriff's spokeswoman Susan McBurney said.

The train was en route from Chicago to suburban Oakland, California, with more than 100 people on board.
That's the second Zephyr to derail in four days! My train being late by three hours to California, and the one being six hours late on the way back--doesn't seem like a big deal anymore.

I'll have to check and see if I got a picture of the boulder.

Snow Job

Orwellian quote du Jour: "The trade gap reflects the fact that Americans are becoming more prosperous." -- Treasury Secretary John Snow. This was in reaction to this news:
The nation's trade deficit jumped sharply in November, rising to $60.3 billion, the highest figure ever and an increase of 7 percent over the month before, the Commerce Department reported today.
I think Snow's quote provides insight into the house of cards that is our economy. Our government is dropping any pretext of balancing either the trade or the budget deficit--they can't and they won't, so why not start treating them as good things instead of bad ones? That there are many indications that Americans are not becoming more prosperous certainly isn't enough to keep Snow from saying that they are. The global economy continues to ruthlessly pump the value out of the planet and the impoverished billions and into the hands of Bush, Snow, and their other accomplices. Certainly riding on Amtrak past closed-down factories from Michigan to California, and nearly-dead farm towns in Iowa and Nebraska, and jostling over poor-quality rails on a train with Baghdad-quality electricity, didn't give me any impression of a more-prosperous nation. Granted, there were miles and miles of McMansions indicating that some folks are getting more than their share. But even they won't be able to afford both the mortgage payments and the gasoline to get to jobs they may not still have when gas prices quintuple. The McMansions and luxury condos and the Wal-Marts and the office parks and casinos and yacht clubs contrast sharply with the decaying factories and tracks, physically demonstrating the trade deficit: Americans consuming but not producing.

The whole house of cards seems to stand on the fact that the world uses the dollar as its reserve currency--money that can be used to buy oil or cars or guns or drugs anywhere. But the dollar is tanking while the euro presents itself as a very attractive alternative. Once oil shiekhs and druglords start demanding euros instead of dollars, the game will be up. And it could happen any day. We'll be left here in what should be the richest country in the world, totally reliant on a global economy which no longer wants our Monopoly money. The Bushies will, of course, continue to try and fight our way out of this box rather than negotiate the dysfunctional American way of life.

I'm currently reading What's the Matter with Kansas? Thomas Frank investigates why this state with a long progressive tradition has become the reddest of the red, with huge numbers of middle-class and lower people voting Republican, against their own best interests. Here's a selection from page 5:
While earlier forms of conservatism emphasized fiscal sobriety, the backlash mobilizes voters with explosive social issues--summoning public outrage over everything from busing to un-Christian art--which it then marries to pro-business economic policies. Cultural anger is marshaled to achieve economic ends. And it is these economic achievements--not the forgettable skirmishes of the never-ending culture wars--that are the movement's greatest monuments. The backlash is what has made possible the international free-market consensus of recent years, with all the privatization, deregulation, and deunionization that are its components. Backlash ensures that Republicans will continue to be returned to office even when their free-market miracles fail and their libertarian schemes don't deliver and their "New Economy" collapses. It makes possible the policy pushers' fantasies of "globalization" and a free-trade empire that are foisted upon the rest of the world with such self-assurance. Because some artist decides to shock the hicks by dunking Jesus in urine, the entire planet must remake itself along the lines preferred by the Republican Party, USA.
Unfortuanately, I'd bet that among readers of Frank's book people who didn't vote for Bush outnumber those who did about 50 to one.


Anybody but Kerry in '08!

Actually, I think all "anybody but" campaigns are absurd copouts, and the "anybody but Bush" slogan only led to one thing--Bush. But John Kerry is such a pitiful excuse for a candidate and a human being--I think it is time now to make it clear to him and everyone that he will NOT be an acceptable candidate in 2008.

Michelle has an infuriating post about how Kerry still has some $15 million to $17 million in his campaign account, money that might have gone to try and swing another state or two, or maybe monitor polls in Ohio, or perhaps to benefit other Democratic candidates. However, MSNBC says that Kerry may be planning on using the money to jump-start a 2008 presidential bid. That would be SO wrong, since probably 90% of the money came from Democrats for whom Kerry was the third or seventh or ninth choice, and wished fervently that they had a better (and anti-war) candidate to support. And if he couldn't beat the worst president in history, whose policies were actively crumbling before our eyes during the campaign, what makes Kerry think he could beat any other Repug?

Go Cheney yourself, John Kerry.

No WMD's

From the NY Times:
The top American weapons inspector in Iraq, Charles A. Duelfer, has wrapped up his work there, a step that ends the search for illicit weapons, an intelligence official said Tuesday night.

Mr. Duelfer issued a comprehensive report last fall that acknowledged that Iraq had destroyed its chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990's, years before the American invasion of 2003. But Mr. Duelfer returned to Iraq for further investigations after that report was issued. In an article in its Wednesday issue, The Washington Post reported that he had ended that work in late December.

The intelligence official said that Mr. Duelfer was still likely to issue several small additional statements on his findings, but that none would contradict the central conclusions that Iraq did not possess illicit weapons at the time of the American invasion.
Over a billion dollars was spent on the Iraqi Survey Group, a 1,200-member military organization, headed up first by David Kay and then by Duelfer, to reach the same conclusion that reasonable people had reached back in the fall of 2002--Iraq posed no threat whatsoever to the US. That this idiot country could re-elect the criminals who started this mayhem based on total lies is depressing beyond words.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

International Terrorists

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution points out that the "Salvador option" being considered by the Pentagon as a way to battle the Iraqi insurgency makes the Bushies officially a "terrorist group" by the U.S. legal code. And this from one of the comments there:
"If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers themselves. And they take that lonely path at their own peril." -- George W Bush, 2001

And take Dick with you!

I just got this by e-mail; I don't know the original source:
One night in the week before Christmas, George W. Bush tossed restlessly in his White House bed. He awoke to see George Washington standing by him. Bush asked him, "George, what's the best thing I can do to help the country?"

"Set an honest and honorable example, just as I did," Washington advised.

“But that would mean I’d have to tell the truth about my National Guard duty and my drug abuse! I can’t do that!” cried Bush.

Washington shook his head and then faded away.

The very next night, Bush was astir again, and saw the ghost of Thomas Jefferson moving through the darkened bedroom. Bush called out, "Tom, please! What is the best thing I can do to help the country?"

"Respect the Constitution, as I did," Jefferson advised.

“But I can’t do that! You see, we have these terrorism fellas who kill folks and we have to take away rights to protect the people of the USA!” objected George.

Jefferson shook his head and dimmed from sight.

The third night’s sleep was still not in the cards for Bush. He awoke to see the ghost of FDR hovering over his bed. Bush whispers, "Franklin, what is the best thing I can do to help the country?"

"Help the less fortunate, just as I did," FDR replied and faded into the mist.

“Now, Franklin, I can’t do that,” Bush shouted after him. “I have to help my oil buddies who helped get me elected and then I gotta take care of Dick’s friends at Halliburton. I’m sorry, but the poor just aren’t on the radar.”

Bush still isn't sleeping well by the fourth night when he sees another figure moving in the shadows. It is the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Bush pleads, "Abe, what is the best thing I can do right now to help the country?"

Lincoln replies, "Go see a play."

From David Horsey.

From Ed Stein.

From Rex Babin.

From John Trever.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Two paragraphs from CNN

The absurdity would be funny if it weren't so tragic:
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi acknowledged an escalation of violence as the January 30 elections approach. But he vowed not to delay them and said "there will be no safe haven" for "terrorists in Iraq."
Or for anyone else, apparently.
Iraqi and U.S. officials have long warned there could be a spike in violence before the elections, as insurgents tried to disrupt them. They have worked to convince many Iraqis that it will be safe to vote.
Right. Telling them that there will be a spike in violence ought to convince them!

I'm not on that one

The phrase "I'm not on that one" has become a bit of a joke between my brother and me--sort of a new saying to replace "I'm not down with that" or more simply "That sucks." But it takes on new meaning when I read what has been happening to more recent versions of Amtrak 's California Zephyr train than the one I was on, which was only six hours late. From CBS:
More than 220 Amtrak passengers were back in Sacramento on Sunday after spending the night stuck in their train in deep snow west of Donner Summit, spokesman Marc Magliari said.

One car of the California Zephyr, eastbound from Oakland, Calif., to Chicago, derailed in the snow Saturday evening. No one was hurt. Amtrak officials moved the passengers to other cars and the train reversed course and returned to Sacramento about 6 a.m.

Because of the derailment, a westbound Zephyr had to stop in Reno and its roughly 140 passengers completed their trip to California by bus.
For the eastbound passengers, their timetable looked something like this:
  • Oakland--9:35 am
  • Sacramento--11:30 am
  • Colfax--1 pm
  • Donner Pass--4 pm
  • Donner Pass--6 pm
  • Donner Pass--8 pm
  • Donner Pass--10 pm
  • Donner Pass--12 midnight
  • Donner Pass--4 am
  • Donner Pass--8 am
  • Colfax--11 am
  • Sacramento--12:30 pm
So, only 25 hours to go from Sacramento to Sacramento! I have to say, and gladly, "I'm not on that one!"

Then again, in the 1840's a group of settlers from the east spent some five months stranded at Donner Pass, with many of them dying.

Annual Energy Outlook 2005

The Department of Energy's Annual Energy Outlook 2005 (Early Release) is now available on the web. The 2004 version was quoted widely in Michael Klare's Blood and Oil, which I just finished reading. I haven't read it yet, and it probably has politically-slanted conclusions, but judging by the data cited by Klare in his book, there should be plenty of interesting information pointing to the coming energy crunch. Also, quoting this source might carry more weight when arguing with red-staters than, say, something from Michael Ruppert. (Although one key feature of many red-staters is a decided imperviousness to facts, regardless of the source.)

Bringing the joys of Central-American genocide to Iraq

Wouldn't it have been simpler just to leave Saddam in place to murder Iraqis than to use Salvadoran-style death squads to kill the insurgents and their supporters and their neighbors and anyone who looks like them or who happens to get in the way? From Steve Gilliard:
Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success—despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)

Following that model, one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries, officials tell NEWSWEEK.

First Peak Oil Rant of the Year

Quoting from page 186 of Michael T. Klare's Blood and Oil:
Let me propose an alternative approach, one that has a chance of freeing us from our deepening dependency, from dangerous and immoral foreign commitments, and from the deceptive promise of independence: a national energy strategy of autonomy and integrity.

By autonomy I mean a situation in which we have acquired the self-reliance and freedom of action to extricate ourselves from the pernicious effects of petroleum dependency. We would not have to cease petroleum imports altogether. But we would have to find the will to say no to any conditions--whether in the form of diplomatic or security obligations--that come attached to the oil we want to buy. If a foreign producer were willing to sell American refiners petroleum at an affordable price and with no strings attached, they should be free to buy it. But any transaction that entailed an American security guarantee or any other political favor would be strictly off-limits.

By integrity I mean a state of affairs in which we make decisions on energy policy in accordance with fundamental American values and with a view to the nation's long-term interests. At the very least, integrity would require us to repudiate any arrangement with a foreign oil provider that obliged us to collude in despotism or the denial of basic human rights. It would also demand that we base any major decision on national energy strategy on a transparent assessment of the relative advantages and disadvantages of all the available options--not the kind of secretive, industry-weighted process the Bush-Cheney administration used to come up with the National Energy Policy of May 2001.

Integrity also entails respect for the environment and, much more important, for the needs of future generations. While we certainly have to reduce our reliance on foreign oil producers, we're not doing ourselves, or our posterity, any favors by defacing our few remaining wilderness areas in the pursuit of an insignificant, short-term increase in domestic crude production. Nor are we promoting our nation's long-term interests by gorging ourselves on cheap oil at the expense of our children's and grandchildren's welfare. Recognizing the obvious--that petroleum is a finite resource and that our successors are going to have to rely on other sources of energy--we have an obligation to lighten their burden by taking steps now to ease the way.

Book Review!

I wrote this on the train last night after finishing the book:

My overextended train trip has given me the opportunity to finish reading the book The Creature From Jekyll Island, by G. Edward Griffin, published in 1994. The book explores America’s money system and its history. The book’s major purpose is to call for the abolishment of the Federal Reserve System.

At times the book reads as a fascinating and well-documented history; at other times it seems more like an ideological screed based on highly-selective sources. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the book is that the author starts with a set of postulates quite different from mine, (or Michael Ruppert’s, for example), yet arrives at almost the same conclusion—that the country and indeed the world are being run by a small and secretive cabal with actual goals far different from their stated ones. Griffin’s postulates, or maybe core beliefs, seem to include:
• Free markets are at the core of the best economic systems;
• Big government is bad;
• Socialism is totally evil (I’ll have to review definitions of socialism—I think he generally means something more like Stalinism than what I think of with socialism)

A few other attitudes come through in his writing which suggest that he’s very much on the right-wing libertarian side of the political spectrum. Still, he strongly condemns the current system and both major parties for their continuing support (and hiding) of it.

Regardless of his starting points, or what he thinks are the worst features of our current system, or where he thinks the cabal is leading us (he claims it is a UN-led one-world government), his indictment of the current system as totally corrupt and immoral seems very sound. The Federal Reserve Notes in my wallet ARE funny money, backed by nothing of value except the threat of force from the US military and police forces. Money gets created “out of nothing,” as he says, every time a loan is made by a bank, and each such loan further devalues the currency. He points out again and again how throughout history certain monetary schemes have been deemed “too big to fail,” requiring government interventions which have in the long run have been even more catastrophic than if the scheme (bank or currency) had been allowed to fail. And our current system of the Federal Reserve, Treasury notes, and the dollar is far larger than any of the previous schemes. It too is deemed “too big to fail,” but the chances are almost 100% that it WILL fail in the next few years, or else be prevented from failing by some scheme that will prove equally catastrophic (albeit with perhaps different victims).

Anyway, stuck here on my late train I can’t look up the references in the book or see if Griffin has any updates (like a web site), but I’ll try to do that soon.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Mothball Fleet

Is that one of those infamous Soviet spy trawlers of the cold war? No, it's a side view of one of the rows of the mothball fleet in the Suisun Bay portion of the Sacramento River near Vallejo, California. The fleet contains over 150 merchant and military ships tied together and rusting away. I had some pretty good views of the fleet from the train. Here are a few:

View from the bridge over the Sacramento River (click here for larger photo).

View from the side.

More on the mothball fleet.


I wish I could say that I recommend Amtrak highly, but I can't. The California Zephyr arrived in Chicago last night about eight hours late, missing just about everyone's connections. They did provide bus service for us Michigan passengers, which got me to the Ann Arbor train station at about 5 this morning, only about 5 hours late. The Zephyr was running out of food, water, and electricity--they fed us an emergency dinner about 4:30 yesterday afternoon by glowstick! Nerves seemed frayed among the cabin crew (stewards, waitresses and such), who, unlike the engineers and conductors, stayed on the train for the entire trip from Oakland to Chicago. The sleeping car wasn't that much more comfortable than coach, especially when I wasn't trying to sleep. For anyone contemplating a cross-country train trip, I highly recommend the way that I went to California over the way I came back. On the way there, I traveled coach, but got off the train in Grand Junction, Colorado and spent a day there walking, working out, eating in real restaurants, and sleeping in a real bed in a nice hotel. It all cost much less than the added price of the sleeper compartment that I rode in on the way back.

On the plus side, the scenery is absolutely spectacular, especially in Colorado and Utah. The big delays we experienced in California and Nevada on the way back had a plus side--we crossed Utah during the day. The scenery there is amazing! I'll try to organize my hundreds of photos in the next few days and post some of the best a bit at a time.

Another positive was that the delays gave me time to finish The Creature From Jekyll Island, which I will post about soon. In the meantime, I have laundry and sleep and news to catch up on, not to mention the NFL playoffs and the season premiere or 24!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Heading Home!

Tomorrow morning, I'll be taking the CalTrain from Palo Alto to San Francisco, and then an Amtrak bus to the Emeryville (Oakland) station. The California Zephyr will leave Emeryville, hopefully, at 9:35 am, arriving in Chicago on Saturday about 3:30 pm. I'll then take the 6 pm train for Ann Arbor, arriving hopefully around 11:55 pm. I think they've got some WiFi in the train station in Chicago, but other than that I'll be out of touch until then. I'll be turning off and packing up this computer shortly and heading for bed, ready for that early departure.

I'm going in style this time, with a sleeper car! In addition to the private room with flat bed and electrical outlet (no internet, though), all meals will be included. I'll probably read and sleep more and sightsee and photograph less on the way back, although Colorado is definitely worth a second look. Hopefully all of the snow now falling from Nebraska to Michigan will be cleared off the tracks before I get to it!

Anyway, I should be back into the working and blogging routine by next week. Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Solar Shingle Project!

My big plan for this year is to install a solar photovoltaic system to provide most or all of the electricity for my house. I've been leaning towards Unisolar's solar shingles, especially since my current roof will be needing replacement soon. I've been wondering if the shingles are a good choice, or if I should go with the somewhat less expensive standard solar panels (like the two small ones I have now). Fortunately, I just discovered (while sitting in my brother's house here in California) that there is an awesome demonstration project using the shingles at Oakland University--which is not in Oakland, California, but in Rochester Hills, Michigan, about 50 miles from Ann Arbor. They've got a web site documenting the project, including a full report, historical kilowatt-hour production, and real-time power production monitoring. Since the latitude and climate are almost identical to mine, I should be able to quite accurately determine how many shingles I'll need for my situation.

I may have to take a trip over there in the next month or so and see if I can get any advice or maybe find a consultant who is actually interested in helping me with my project (I'm 0 for 2 on that so far).

Indonesian Military Uses Tsunami to Quash Rebellion

From the WSWS:
There are growing signs that the Indonesian military (TNI) is exploiting the current catastrophe in northern Sumatra to crush the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and establish its unchallenged control over the resource-rich province of Aceh.

So far the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Aceh on December 26 is more than 100,000 and is likely to rise much higher. From Lhokseumawe on the east coast through the provincial capital Banda Aceh near Sumatra’s northern tip to Meulaboh on the west coast, cities and towns have been obliterated.

Transport and other infrastructure have been torn apart. Hundreds of thousands are desperately in need of water, food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. There is now a serious risk that further lives will be lost through disease and hunger.

Yet, rather than concentrating resources on emergency relief efforts, the Indonesian armed forces, with the approval of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, are preoccupied with their counterinsurgency operations against GAM fighters. While refugees are desperate for supplies and relief workers for transport, the TNI has launched offensives against GAM in various locations across the province.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Social Security Explained

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution knows Social Security. And he's willing to share with the class!

Blogged Up

I'm still here in rainy California. We had trouble with my brother's wireless network yesterday, and of course my whole routine is different. I'll be taking the train back to Michigan, leaving Thursday morning and arriving Saturday evening, with probably no chance to blog during that time. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I'm going over to Santa Cruz to visit my niece and her boyfriend at UCSC. Last Friday, my brother drove me over to Mount Diablo, the 3,849-foot mountain which dominates the landscape just east of the Bay Area. We hiked around a bit up there, enjoying the views of San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and more. Saturday we went for a long run through the Stanford campus and up a hill to a couple of radio telescopes. Good views from up there as well.

Anyhow, blogging will probably remain light until next Monday when I'll start getting back into my routine. Michelle, as usual, has tons of interesting stuff on her blog, and Cyndy has links to some real scary stuff about energy surges, earthquakes, and weather control.

I'm reading along in The Creature From Jekyll Island, which I'll probably have finished by the end of my next train ride. (My earlier comments on that book.)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

“Whatever Happened To...?” Awards for 2004

WIIIAI has a list of the big stories of '04 which have been basically forgotten. A sample:
Friendly militias. In August, Paul Wolfowitz proposed to the House Armed Services Committee that the Pentagon build a “global anti-terrorist network of friendly militias,” death squads, warlords and the like. There were no angry editorials, denunciations by John Kerry, nothing, so in October they slipped it into a Pentagon authorization bill, and away we go.

Happy New Year?

It would be nice to think that 2005 couldn't possibly be worse than 2004, but that's obviously not true, or even likely. While tens of thousands died violent deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and from various natural disasters, the main thing that most Americans lost last year was hope, which was very feebly represented by John Kerry and the Democratic party. Our hope was fed by the revelations from Paul O'Neill, David Kay, Richard Clarke and others, which made us think that possibly THIS was finally something that the media, the Democrats and the public at large couldn't ignore. But ignore it they did, and the worst and most criminal president in our history was re-selected.

If there's any basis for hope in 2005, it would see to come from the realization that there is NO hope for resolving this situation through political means only. The Democrats sold us out big time by nominating a pro-war, free-trading dullard who didn't even seem to want to be president (I despise you, John Kerry!!!). Chances are that economic collapse will be the only way to wrest control away from the warmongering imperialists, Republican and Democratic. The collapse will almost certainly happen; we need to be prepared so that the country and world will move towards a more just system and not fall into Nazi or Soviet totalitarianism.

My belief, and meager hope, is that we can hasten and guide the collapse of the present corrupt system, and help to develop a better one, by withdrawing our participation in the global economy as much as possible. Buy nothing in preference to buying something. Buy used over new, local over national or imported. Stay out of debt. I don't know for sure what will work, but I'm convinced that the present system is a sure recipe for global disaster. Check in here and at various other web sites like Homeland Absurdity and From the Wilderness for ideas and updates on how we might be able to change things for the better.

Happy New Year.