Bob's Links and Rants

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Quote du jour

"We are on the brink of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire." -- Chalmers Johnson, from a TomDispatch article introducing his new book.

Johnson concludes with a sentiment that I've expressed several times over the past few years: Our only escape from Bushian endless war and totalitarianism will be through financial collapse (which is pretty close to already being here in Michigan):
So far, both the Chinese and Japanese governments continue to be willing to be paid in dollars in order to sustain American purchases of their exports.

For the sake of their own domestic employment, both countries lend huge amounts to the American treasury, but there is no guarantee of how long they will want to, or be able to do so. Marshall Auerback, an international financial strategist, says we have become a "Blanche Dubois economy" (so named after the leading character in the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire) heavily dependent on "the kindness of strangers." Unfortunately, in our case, as in Blanche's, there are ever fewer strangers willing to support our illusions.

So my own hope is that -- if the American people do not find a way to choose democracy over empire -- at least our imperial venture will end not with a nuclear bang but a financial whimper.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Finally, someone qualified at the White House!

Bob Harris notes that the White House just hired a new pastry chef. The guy happens to be author of the book Desserts for Dummies.

I dunno--I think his obvious qualifications for the job make him distinctly unqualified to work in this White House.

Survey says...

Thirteen percent of U.S. citizens said they had never heard or read anything about global warming, the survey said.
How big a bubble do you have to have to have not have heard of global warming? (And have YOU ever written a sentence where every other word was "have" for eight words running? I'll bet none of the bubble thirteen have.)

And this confirms what I have found in my trips to the south:
In Latin America, 96 percent of respondents said they had heard of global warming and 75 percent rated it "very serious."

From Petar Pismestrovic (Austria).

From Mark Cohen.

FDR's first VP, John Nance Garner, compared the Vice pResidency to "a bucket of warm piss," although the papers dressed it up to be "warm spit." Losers like Nixon, Agnew, Bush Sr. and Quayle have pretty much been appropriately qualified for a job with such a description. For Cheney, however, a bucket of war piss is much too kind.

Monday, January 29, 2007

What Glenn Greenwald has been saying lately

Of course, you could just go to his blog, but in any case you should read about how the US government (read Alberto Torture Gonzales) continues to abuse Canadian citizen Maher Arar years after very wrongfully abducting him and shipping him off to Syria to be tortured for no reason whatsoever. Gonzo has kept Maher on the ridiculous "no-fly list"--as Greenwald states "almost out of spite and/or a pathological inability to admit error." The Canadian government is not pleased.

Greenwald also has a discussion about how numerous slimeballs in Congress and the media continue to refer to aWol as the "commander in chief" or worse "our commander in chief," when the Constitution makes it clear that the pResident is only commander of chief of the army and navy. If you ain't in the service, you don't have a commander in chief.

I find it truly amazing that so far I've been so lazy as to keep Greenwald off of my blog roll. One of these days, I'm going to do something about that!

Goodbye, weight room!

There are always articles circulating about weight loss, but this one, about a recent study at LSU, rings true to me. The study found that exercise and dieting are equally effective (or ineffective) in losing pounds--burn more calories than you ingest and you lose weight. It also determined that adding muscle doesn't help with weight loss. I've had a few trainers at gyms tell me that the weights are a key to weight loss--to trim that gut and butt you have to build those biceps. Time and time again I've built those biceps, with no discernible impact on the gut or butt. The time would have been better and less painfully spent, apparently, on the bike or treadmill.

In my experience, I've never found anything that worked permanently. Lots of exercise (training for marathons or triathlons) worked well (better when I was younger), but usually got derailed by injury after a few months. Low-intensity, long-time-period exercise, such as refereeing kids' soccer games for five straight hours, was quite effective (although obviously quite time-consuming)--much more so than intensive exercise for an hour. I stuck to a low-fat diet for several months about nine years ago and was able to lose about 30 pounds, but I slowly reverted to old habits (and old scale readings).

One very enjoyable way to lose weight is to go to Mexico, or some other high-altitude location. Friends of mine and I have experienced fairly quick weight loss during trips to Mexico despite eating as much or more as we do at home. Apparently, this is a widely-known phenomenon. I'll have to read more about it--something I can do on the bike and the treadmill which I couldn't do on the bench press!

I think they just like playing God

Not talking about the Bushies this time--talking about Pfizer. After Pfizer's stunning announcement last week that they're bugging out of Ann Arbor, taking 2100 jobs with them, I shared the aerial photos I posted here with my colleagues at work. One responded quickly, pointing out that the construction I noted in that post wasn't the half of it: Some of the buildings in the 2000 photo were brand new, and Pfizer has bought, built and remodeled numerous other properties in the area, outside of what is shown in the photos. Amazing.

Then today another colleague sent me a link to this article about the infamous Kelo vs. New London eminent domain case, which I have written about before. In that case, decided by the Supreme Court in the summer of 2005, the Supremes voted 5-4 that the city of New London, Connecticut could use its power of eminent domain for the purpose of private development. The decision was immensely unpopular across the political spectrum, taking people's homes so that big corporations could use the land as they see fit (in the name of economic development). The biggest corporation involved in the development project? One guess.

They're abandoning hundreds of millions of dollars of investment here, disrupting thousands of lives, and moving jobs to facilities newly-built on land taken from people who desperately did not want to move. To be fair, the people were paid for their land and houses. But why be fair to a scumbag corporation like Pfizer, apparently just jerking people around because they can?

I wonder if this is maybe some sort of reward to Holy Joe Lieberman for being the worst person on earth. Who knows--it makes no sense.

Perpetual war is the goal

Chris Floyd agrees with me: The American-looking, American-armed, English-speaking, SUV-driving perpetrators of last-week's deadly attack on US soldiers were most likely Americans:
Has anyone considered the possibility that these gunmen dressed as Americans, speaking English, driving American-style security vehicles and carrying American weapons were, well, Americans? Given the Pentagon's never-repudiated plan to foment terrorism to achieve the Bush Regime's geopolitical objectives; given the fact that Iraq is filled with private military "contractors," some of whom are almost certainly on retainer to U.S. security organs for various bits of "wetwork" and other ops on what Dick Cheney calls "the dark side"; given that we are already being told that the people who carried out this killing were "Iranian operatives" or Iraqis funded, armed and trained by same; and given the fact that the Bush Regime is now openly seeking any half-plausible pretext to launch its long-planned attack on Iran--would it not be irresponsible of us not to speculate on the ultimate origin of this bloody strike?
Floyd goes on to point out that all of this huffing and puffing about Iran's "meddling" in Iraq and the re-demonization of Moqtada al-Sadr does nothing to improve the security situation in Iraq or to make the U.S. military's "mission," whatever that might be this week, any easier. Maliki's government depends on the support of al-Sadr, and the meager Iraqi security forces are largely composed, or at least heavily infiltrated by, al-Sadr supporters. Floyd:
One of the main thrusts of Bush's "surge" plan is that U.S. forces will soon be directly engaging the Mahdi Army. Thus American troops will be fighting against a sectarian militia that has in part been armed and trained by American troops. What's more, these "surging" Americans will be fighting alongside Mahdi Army troops that have infiltrated the official Iraqi army.

George W. Bush has put U.S. soldiers--the ones he and his sycophants claim so loudly to "support"--into a circular firing squad, where they will, in effect, be killed with their own weapons. All questions of moral equivalency aside, you would have to go back to Nazi Germany to find a major power whose leaders act in such a howlingly stupid and self-destructive fashion.
There would appear to be no conceivable benefit to Iraq, or even to US "interests" in Iraq, in pursuing this course of trying to turn the Shiites on each other with US troops caught in the middle. The only conceivable reason Bush might have, if he has one at all, is somehow to turn this chaos into his long-sought war with Iran. I see it as yet another tilt of the teeter-totter which has been rocking back and forth for decades. Until 1979, the US supported Iran (the Shah) as a supposed bulwark against possible Soviet advances in the region, including a potential Soviet client state in Iraq. After the Iranian revolution, the US switched to supporting Iraq and its willing leader Saddam Hussein, who was encouraged by the Carter and Reagan administrations to undertake a brutal war against Iran. Of course, US officials didn't really want anyone to win that war, so they proceeded to arm both sides. When the war finally ended, the Bush I administration continued to arm Saddam right up until, with US encouragement, he invaded Kuwait. Then, overnight, he became "worse than Hitler." Nevertheless, once they had him on the run after the Gulf War, the Bush I administration took steps to ensure that Saddam remain in power, even encouraging Shiite and Kurdish uprisings and then standing idly by while Saddam crushed them. Years of lying about Saddam's weapons programs, more on the part of US officials (of both major parties, of course) than on the part of Saddam, were apparently an attempt to keep Iran at bay. However, in 2003, the teeter-totter swung back in favor of Iran, as the US first demonstrated (through forcing UN inspectors in) that Iraq had no WMD's, and then by removing Saddam from power and eliminating Iraq as a military threat to Iran. But now, with a Shiite government in place (sort of) in Baghdad, it is time for the criminals in Washington to tilt the teeter-totter one more time. The goal clearly isn't "victory," whatever that might mean. The goal is perpetual war.

In a follow-up post, Floyd notes:
Let's add another plain fact here, one which we have noted before, but bears repeating: The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, does not control Iran's armed forces. He does not control Iran's nuclear program. To be sure, he is a prating, full-of-himself religious crank like George W. Bush, but no matter how inflammatory his rhetoric (some of which has been deliberately mistranslated), even if he picked up the phone tomorrow and ordered an all-out attack on Israel or a barrage of missile strikes on American forces in Iraq or the shut-down of the Straits of Hormuz--nothing would happen. Nothing. In the Iranian system of government, he does not have the power to make any of his rhetoric regarding military and foreign policy come true. (See also: Reality and Revisionism in Iran.)

The Bush Administration knows this. The Olmert government knows this. Yet at every turn, they inflate Ahmadinejad into yet another "new Hitler" and pretend that he has dictatorial powers in Iran. But just as his predecessor, Mohammed Khatami, could not make his heartfelt rhetoric about reforming Iran come true, neither can Ahmadinejad do anything at all to actualize whatever fantasies he may mouth.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

From Clay Bennett.

From R. J. Matson.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Friday, January 26, 2007

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck...

It must be an Iranian. This AP article describes the perpetrators of an attack in Iraq last week that killed five US soldiers:
In perhaps the boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare, gunmen speaking English, wearing U.S. military uniforms and carrying American weapons abducted four U.S. soldiers last week at the provincial headquarters in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and then shot them to death.
The brazen assault, 50 miles south of Baghdad, was conducted by nine to 12 gunmen posing as an American security team, the military confirmed. The attackers traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles (the type used by U.S. government convoys), had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English, according to two senior U.S. military officials as well as Iraqi officials.
Iraqi officials said the approaching convoy of black GMC Suburbans was waved through an Iraqi checkpoint at the edge of the city. The Iraqi soldiers believed it to be American because of the type of vehicles, the distinctive camouflage American uniforms and the fact that they spoke English. One Iraqi official said the leader of the assault team was blond, but no other official confirmed that.
Not once does the article suggest that the attackers may actually have BEEN Americans. False-flag ops are nothing new to the US (although I guess this would be "reverse-false-flag"), and of course pretending that they are the work of the enemy-du-jour is standard operating procedure. Still, the military apparently missed the point:
Friday's military statement referred to the attackers as "insurgents," which usually suggests Sunnis.
But an Iraqi official, I'm guessing a Sunni, apparently understood what was happening:
A senior Iraqi military official said the sophistication of the attack led him to believe it was the work of Iranian intelligence agents in conjunction with Iraq's Shiite Mahdi Army militia, which Iran funds, arms and trains.
But of course! Our government wants a war with Iran, so it must have been Iranians! Blond, English-speaking, US uniform-wearing, SUV-driving Iranians.

You see what you want to see, I guess.

Not going anywhere for a while?

Learn about the long, sordid history of American imperialism by reading these five excellent essays by Arthur Silber.

Dangerously close to getting it right

AWol went to Missouri yesterday, and pretty much said that universal health care would be the best way to go:
We've got to level the playing field, from a taxes perspective. It is by far the most hopeful and fair option of any medical health care option out there today, unless, of course, you want the federal government providing it all, saying, okay, we'll provide you insurance, but we'll provide everybody insurance.
Sounds good! Only one problem--I took the quote slightly out of context. The final period was in fact a comma, followed by "which would be a mistake."

To paraphrase: My crazy plan is the best one available except, of course, for the best one available, tried and tested in numerous other countries, which we obviously can't do here because we'd lose all those campaign contributions from drug and insurance companies.

Obviously accidentally coming this close to the truth tossed Bush from his verbal mountain bike, for his next two sentences were:
Anyway, listen to health savings accounts, but I don't want to be Mr. Lecturer. But she is -- it's an interesting option for you.
There she is, Mr. Lecturer--trying to be heard over those noisy health savings accounts.

I think that Nancy, Harry and the other Dems should make it abundantly clear to Bush and his co-conspirators that they will pay no attention whatsoever to any of Bush's legislative proposals for the next two years. Probably should be true for me, as well. Maybe if we ignore him he'll just go away?

Pot-Kettle-Black Department

Orwellian quote du jour: "Iran seems to be conducting a foreign policy with a sense of dangerous triumphalism." -- CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden, speaking to Congress recently.

The quote comes from a WaPo article which states that the Bushies have "authorized the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives inside Iraq as part of an aggressive new strategy to weaken Tehran's influence across the Middle East and compel it to give up its nuclear program."

The real goal, I'm afraid, is to create a pretext for going to war with Iran, as Paul Craig Roberts writes pretty much every week.

[Update 10:40 AM] Chris Floyd comments:
What Bush has done with this order is to turn the American military into his own private death squad. It is an act of breathtaking dishonor, of unspeakable moral filth. That this pathetic little man and the jumped-up thugs around him--especially the hulking, smirking, lying coward Dick Cheney--are allowed to show their faces among civilized people, much less exercise power over a mighty nation, remains an unfathomable mystery...and a source of deep shame for all Americans.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

From Matt Bors.

From Adam Zyglis.

From Vic Harville.

From Tony Auth.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Moyers: The Secret Government ... The Constitution in Crisis

Via A Tiny Revolution I found this Bill Moyers' documentary about Iran-Contra and the many secret government crimes leading up to it. It features many facts you'd normally only read in a Chomsky book--PLUS, John Kerry making sense! The description below the video comes from Google video, and seems worth keeping.

FOR TOO LONG the full length 90 min. version of this documentary has been unavailable. Only a 20 minute version has been circulating. Here now as of January 10, 2007 this failure of access ends. Bill Moyers, the respected TV journalist, analyzes the threats to constitutional government posed by an illegitimate network operating from within the government but using secrecy to set itself up outside of the government / peoples oversight. All this back in 1987. This documentary gives a fascinating overview of what has actually happened in the last 50 years regarding the CIA and the Cold War (including Iran, Guatamala, Cuba, Vietnam and Chile). The foundation for the massive push towards greater secrecy in government going on today.

Kerry Out

Finally, some good news: John Kerry has decided not to run for pResident in 2008. He decided not to run in 2004 shortly after winning the Democratic nomination.

Scratch Edwards off the list

A few days ago I suggested that John Edwards was the only likely pResidential candidate I would find remotely acceptable aside from Dennis Kucinich. Well, scratch that:
"Iran is serious about its threats," former US Senator John Edwards has told an audience in Israel.

"The challenges in your own backyard--represent an unprecedented threat to the world and Israel," the candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination told the Herzliya Conference, referring mainly to the Iranian threat.

In his speech, Edwards criticised the United States' previous indifference to the Iranian issue, saying they have not done enough to deal with the threat.

Hinting to possible military action, Edwards stressed that "in order to ensure Iran never gets nuclear weapons, all options must remain on table."

On the recent UN Security Council's resolution against Iran, Edwards said more serious political and economic steps should be taken. "Iran must know that the world won't back down," he said.
Edwards is one of many potential pResidential candidates who have spoken to this Israeli conference, either in person or via satellite. Others include John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani. That Edwards believes that Iran is a threat, and that he feels it is more important to speak to Israelis than to Americans, is enough to cross him off my list.

Why is it that most states get two senators, while Israel gets 100?

Neoconservatism--An inherited psychological disorder?

Glenn Greenwald explains how many of the most prominent neoconservatives, including of course Brainless Leader, inherited their insane ideology from their parents.

Lieberman--Scum of the Earth

Glenn Greenwald writes about how Holy Joe has continued to equate any (however feeble) opposition to the war with treason, and how Virginia's Senate delegation, one long-time Republican, one freshman Democrat, showed some actual backbone in responding to Lieberman's slanders. Greenwald:
Lieberman's behavior has become so toxic and ignoble that even decorous, restrained Senate Republicans -- no strangers to the art of the political smear -- have begun condemning him in unusually strong terms. What is more pernicious than for a politician, in a Senate hearing with the country's new top General in Iraq, to expressly equate disagreement with their war views with treason? Not much.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Greedy bastard--You got your wish with Kerry!

From Tony Auth. Nice Hummer pajamas, though.

Of course, the Repugs won't sit idly by hoping and praying that the Dumbos will commit Hillari-Kari--they'll be using their corporate media to tell us that Hillary is the only "electable" candidate. Katie Couric was doing her part last night, interviewing Hillary in the middle of the CBS Evening News. When's Dennis going to be on, Katie?

The Efficiency of Capitalism

As I mentioned yesterday, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced that it is shutting down its entire Ann Arbor facility and its 2100 jobs. Let's look at how they prepared for this step. Here's an aerial photo of the Pfizer campus from April 2000:

Image from TerraServer.

And here's one taken more recently, probably last summer:

Image from Google Earth.

Note that buildings A, B and C were under construction in April 2000, while D, E and F hadn't even been started. In addition, Pfizer spent many months building a pedestrian tunnel under Huron Parkway (the north-south street in the photos) and making numerous other changes in parking and landscaping. (I work in the building at the lower right of the bottom photo, the only building in that photo which is not a part of the Pfizer campus, so I've seen it all.) In addition, the city has reworked the traffic patterns several times with islands, left-turn lanes, and relocating sidewalks.

Many of these buildings appear to be laboratories (it is, or was, Pfizer's world research headquarters), so they probably were much more expensive to build than ordinary office construction. I would guess that Pfizer has spent at least several hundred million dollars on expanding the Ann Arbor campus in the past seven years--and now they're abandoning it. Most of the 2100 employees are likely to have a difficult time finding other employment, and local property values (including my house) have just dropped substantially in value. Because Pfizer's fourth-quarter profit of $9.45 billion apparently just wasn't enough.

Monday, January 22, 2007

There goes the neighborhood

The building where I work for the University of Michigan is practically surrounded by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer's research facilities--about five huge buildings on both sides of a major street. Several of these buildings were constructed in the last six years.

Pfizer announced today that it is closing the entire Ann Arbor facility, eliminating 2100 local jobs. I don't know the details, but I know that the city has bent over backwards to encourage Pfizer to locate and expand here.

From Andy Singer.

From Steve Sack.

From Tom Toles.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

From Mr. Fish.

From Etta Hulme.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What a system

Where a woman despised by perhaps 75% of the population is considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for pResident. Bob Harris explains the math--hardcore Repugs will always irrationally hate Hillary, while most Democrats will rationally despise her for her support for Bush's wars. As Harris says (and I'm pretty sure I've said it before, but am too lazy to look for right now): "If this were a just world, not one person who authorized Bush to invade Iraq would ever be re-elected to anything."

That should have been a deal-breaker for the 2004 nomination, but somehow the worthless Kerry got the nomination anyway. If the Democrats want to disappear from the political scene permanently, it's hard to imagine a quicker way than by nominating Hillary.

WIIIAI chimes in on the big announcement as well.

Fixin' to prepare to get ready to maybe start blogging again

I got back from Mexico on Thursday night. I looked at the news and the blogs occasionally--just enough to get bummed out about it. Bush is surging troops into Iraq, bombing Somalia, and escalating against Iran. Dick, George and Condi try to outdo each other saying ridiculous lies. And, joy of joys, the ultimate sellout Dumbocrat, Hillary Clinton, is now running for pResident. Like most of her colleagues, Hillary is now complaining about the war, but is unwilling to even discuss the two actions that could make a difference--defunding the war and impeachment. I wouldn't say that I despise Hillary, but I wouldn't cry if she contracted a fatal disease and was unable to run. Okay, I do despise her. Kucinich is the only good candidate in the race, and Edwards is probably the only other one I would find remotely acceptable. In appearance, Obama is the exact negative of Hillary--man instead of woman, black instead of white, charismatic instead of bone-chilling dull. In substance, however, they seem to be twins. Neither is a threat to world-destroying US imperialism.

Anyway, welcome back to anyone still checking to see if I've written anything lately. I should get back into regular blogging in a few days.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Gerald Ford Buzzes Ann Arbor On His Way Out

Clearly the most important story of the day is that Air Force One, flying the body of Gerald Ford back to Grand Rapids, buzzed Michigan Stadium at treetop level.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

What they said

Being in Mexico, what little blogging I do will rely even more than usual on linking to other blogs. Hopefully, however, no subsequent post will be as bad in this respect as this one. In the meantime,

Read what Mitch said. (And this one too.)
Read what Jonathan said.
And, as always, read whatever it is that WIIIAI says.
Oh, and Chris Floyd, too, who comments:
The level of sheer idiocy and incompetence it would take to make Saddam look good even for a nano-second is almost inconceivable; yet the remarkable Mr. Bush and his team were obviously up to the challenge.