Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Should We Be Worried About the Real ID Act?

Until I heard that the Real ID Act could include an RFID chip, I hadn’t given much thought to this law, enacted May 10, 2005 and due to go into effect in May of 2008. I knew that an RFID chip emits a radio frequency signal so that we can be tracked wherever we go if we have our driver’s license or I.D. card with us.

I decided to learn more and went to because this website was sent to me by a sane, not paranoiac, friend. I found the text of the law and read it for myself.

Hmmm, I didn’t see a reference to RFID chips in the “Improved Security For Drivers’ Licenses and Personal Identification Cards” (aka the Real ID Act), so I sent an e-mail to the “Contact Us” link at, and within an hour, an attorney for the Technology & Liberty Project of the ACLU replied, ‘The Real ID Act calls for a ‘common machine readable element’ to be part of every license. That technology could be an RFID chip. However, until DHS [Department of Homeland Security] issues regulations (probably this Spring or Summer) it is unknown whether they will require an RFID or something else (like a bar code).”

Several states are considering Anti-Real ID legislation. Yesterday, the Maine legislature rejected the Real ID Act. Unfortunately, my state, California, doesn’t appear to be doing anything, but I always feel better if I swing into action, so I can contact my legislative representatives. Besides, I mostly get around on foot and a bike!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Reform That Makes All Other Reforms Possible

Public Funding of Campaigns

I confess, I care about everything: climate change, a living wage, universal health care, endangered species, inequality in incomes of the rich and poor – I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Several years ago, I examined my pattern of throwing myself into one cause or another until there was a successful resolution or I became too exhausted to continue, whichever occurred first.

I came to the conclusion that virtually everything I cared about involved a decision made by an elected person, and that if I wanted to change the decisions, the people who are getting elected, the “decisionmakers,” need to be changed.

It didn’t take long to figure out that the people who successfully run for office gather up a lot of money in order to finance their campaigns. And I knew that not that many people contribute to campaigns; therefore, only a few really wealthy people fund candidates. And candidates feel beholden to their donors so they can raise enough money to run again. That’s how they vote.

If you’re interested in who gives and who gets with the current system of funding campaigns, go to for federal offices and for statewide offices.

I came to the logical conclusion that another system of funding of candidates is needed. From there, it wasn’t much of a leap to decide that public funding of campaigns would be the best solution.

I’m in good company, because Bill Moyers has made public funding of campaigns his high priority project. And he and I are not alone; there is a statewide effort in all but about seven states to create statewide public funding of candidates. Check it out at

I’ve been working with since 2003. I still throw myself into other causes, but in my heart of hearts, I know that the core reform we need in this country is public funding of all candidates from the local to the federal level.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Are You Weary of the Woes of the World?

Troop escalation in Iraq…the likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iran…43 million people in the US with no health insurance…privatized vote counting…climate change…New Orleans’ residents still homeless….had enough for an hour or so?

If you, like I, need an occasional break from the “fresh hell”* that is our daily fare, I recommend you take time to listen to an hour of From the Top. This is a wonderful program featuring talented youthful musicians. There’s a big dollop of humor, too.

In Northern California, it’s broadcast at 9 am on Sunday mornings at KDFC, 102.1 FM. To find out if it’s broadcast in your area, check From the Top Radio Stations. If not, go to From The Top's Radio Show Archive and mosey around, using your computer to listen to a show.

Yesterday morning after posting about the likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iran, I tuned in to this wonderful show while lying on the floor and laughed at a young cellist’s efforts to play classical music for a kindergarten class. Instead of “The Swan,” they wanted the theme music from Spiderman!

*Every morning, as I check the news online, I’m reminded of
Dorothy Parker's famous line, “What fresh hell is this?”

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Déjà vu: The Rollout for Another War in the Middle East

Sadly, these days and nights I feel like I did when it became evident that Bush planned to launch an attack on Iraq. This time it’s Iran.

I’ve expressed my concern to many people, and often their response is “But that’s insane!” That’s how I felt about the impending attack on Iraq, and it happened.

If you think that Bush couldn’t possibly be considering attacking Iran, take two minutes and listen to Elizabeth de la Vega, former federal prosecutor and author of U.S. v. Bush, et al., who spoke in Santa Rosa, California on January 19.

As you read the mainstream news and wonder if Bush is justified in killing and capturing Iranian “agents in Iraq, take 30 seconds and read the following excerpt from Juan Cole's January 27 post, which I’ve titled “Another Pretext for War”:

Bush says US troops are authorized to "kill or capture" suspected Iranian intelligence agents operating in Iraq. Thousands of Iranians go in and out of Iraq as pilgrims to the Shiite holy sites, so personally I'm skeptical you can know which ones are spies. And, like, it wouldn't be good to kill the pilgrims. Might cast the US in a bad light with the Shiites and all that. I'd say this man is looking for a pretext for another war.

Plus, when you look at where US troops are being killed, it is in Sunni Arab al-Anbar Province, and Sunni Arab Salahuddin, Diyal, Mosul, and West Baghdad. Those Sunni guerrillas are not being helped by Iran. They are being helped by Sunnis in countries allied to the US.

And then, the US hold over 10,000 prisoners swept up on suspicion of insurgent activity in Iraq. What number of them is Iranians? Slim to none. More Syrians and Jordanians and Saudis by far than Iranians.So if 99 percent of the problem is with the Sunni Arabs of Iraq, why all this big talk about Shiite Iran?

Because this man is looking for a pretext for another war.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

My End Run Around the Government

I spend about 90% of my volunteer time working on civic issues, i.e., campaign finance reform, election integrity (those pesky electronic voting machines), and impeachment. As a citizen, I consider it imperative that I work for the changes that, in my opinion, will help restore our democracy.

The remaining 10% is devoted to what I describe as my “end run around the government,” meaning the it doesn’t have to change to make my efforts on this cause worthwhile.

Because Heifer International is so successful in its goal to alleviate world hunger and poverty, I work with this organization. My grandchildren receive water buffalos and llamas for Christmas, donated, of course, to families in other countries. This morning I’m visiting the summer camp where the African Children’s Choir (photo) will be housed when they come to Sonoma County on April 27 to sing at a benefit for Heifer. I’m helping round up sleeping bags and pillows for the kids, plus will greet them as they return to the camp after their concert.

For anyone in this area who wants an uplifting experience, go to
African Children's Choir Singing on April 27 and purchase a ticket.

For those who live elsewhere, go to African Children's Choir tour schedule for a concert in your area.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Keep Your Eye on Petraeus

Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is being sent off with blessings from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to the January 25 Washington Post article, Congress's Iraqi Quagmire, along with a vote of no confidence in his mission.

But should we be confident of General Petraeus? When he was first appointed to the impossible task of “managing” our war in Iraq, I read nothing but praise about him. And he looks like a nice guy (photo).

Then I picked up the February issue of Harper’s Magazine and started wading my way through a long but interesting article titled “Dead End – Counterinsurgency warfare as military malpractice” by Edward N. Luttwak, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

The first half of the article focused on the new “counterinsurgency” field manual, “FM3-24 DRAFT, which is being proposed by Gen. Petraeus for official use. Luttwak then proceeds to pick the manual apart, section by section, and in at least two instances, states that the propositions in the sections are “questionable.” Later in the article, Luttwak concludes, “The essentially political advantage of the insurgents in commanding at least the silence of the local population cannot be overcome by technical means no matter how advanced. Nor can better operational methods and tactics advocated in FM3-24 DRAFT be of much help.”

I then read General Says Strategy Can Work Over Time in the January 24 New York Times: “General Petraeus acknowledged that the guidelines in the military’s counterinsurgency manual [referring to FM3-24DRAFT] implied that 120,000 troops would be needed to secure Baghdad. But he reasoned that the roughly 32,000 American troops that would be deployed in the capital under the plan would be enough, because the total number of American and Iraqi security personnel would be about 85,000, while the use of civilian contractors to guard government buildings would reduce troop requirements.” This sounds downright dodgy to me.

So, what’s a general in charge of the war in Iraq do to? According to Luttwak, nothing we would want him to do or would authorize him to do. We would have to out-terrorize the terrorists by deliberately inflicting horrendous damage on the civilian population. This sounds like a terrible bind, but I’m wondering if General Petraeus should be speaking up about this.

Luttwak also briefly mentions setting up a military government, complete with administrative services for the civilians as a partial solution. He then he dismisses this because of the "...crippling ambivalence of the occupiers who refuse to govern..."

Why are our Congressional representatives not asking hard questions of General Petraeus? In her January 24 op-ed column in the New York Times, Maureen Doud tartly stated “At a critical hearing yesterday, senators happily blew a chance to grill Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, W.’s choice to try to rescue Iraq, on whether those 21,500 additional troops will be cavalry to the rescue or lambs to the slaughter.”

So what do Maureen and I know? Perhaps not much, but I’m going to keep my eye on Petraeus.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Whither Iran?

Who thinks the Bush Administration is planning to attack Iran? For starters, there’s Scott Ritter (photo) and Seymour Hersh.

An in-depth discussion between Ritter and Hersh was presented by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! on December 21st, 2006, transcript available at Target Iran, and they concluded their discussion on whether or not Bush really intended to attack Iran as follows:

SEYMOUR HERSH: Final question: given all this, are we going to do it?

SCOTT RITTER: Yes, we're going to do it.

Perhaps you’ve been hoping, as I have, that there are signs that the Bush Adminstration is backing down. Scott Ritter doesn’t think so. Yesterday he posted Stop the Iran War Before It Starts at The Nation online. I consider this a “must read.”

Ritter repeats the words used by President Bush in his State of the Union address which clearly warns us in several sentences that Bush considers the Iranian regime a serious enemy and reiterates that it remains “the policy of this government to use…military action…to find these enemies and to protect the American people.”

Comparing the disaster in Iraq, brought on while the Republicans in control with the potential disaster in Iran, Ritter states, “The looming conflict with Iran, however, will be assessed as a product of a Democrat-controlled present and future. If Iraq destroyed the Republican Party, Iran will destroy the Democrats.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cheney's Resignation - Too Much to Hope For?

Until last night, it was only a wild dream that Cheney might be forced to resign. But then I checked Steve Clemons’ The Washington Note and read Steve’s take on the consequences to Cheney of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s opening statement in the CIA leak trial yesterday alleging that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff lied about Cheney's early involvement in the disclosure of a spy's [Valerie Plame] identity.

Steve then compared the presence of newly confirmed Supreme Court Associate Justice Alito as Bush’s “ornament of success” in his 2006 SOTU address to Cheney’s presence at last night’s SOTU: “Tonight, Cheney won't be an ornament of success -- but rather a ball and chain dragging him down and reminding Americans about Iraq, the Valerie Plame affair, cherry-picking of intelligence, and official duplicity and corruption.”

Why do I care if Cheney resigns if Bush is still in office? Because I agree with Phil Burk,,* that the best impeachment scenario is for Cheney to vacate the office by impeaching him first or, better yet, by his resignation, thereby forcing Bush to appoint a Veep who couldn’t possibly be as bad as Cheney. Then we put pressure on Congress to impeach Bush!

Even Nancy Pelosi, who may be modestly disavowing the possibility of becoming President if Bush and Cheney are both impeached at the same time, might put impeachment “back on the table” if Cheney resigns.

*Phil reserved the website shortly after Bush was elected in 2000, thinking he might need it in the future.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fear of Islam and War on Iran

I’m sifting through the comments to my post “Is Fear of Islam Stalking the Land?” (January 20) and wondering about the nexus between this fear and what is looking like a likely war on Iran. As I ponder on this, I offer you the following poem by David Whyte, which came to mind as I read the comments as they came in.

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you can know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequences of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

If the poem doesn’t appear to be related to fear of Islam, you might read
Addam the American by Raffi Khatchadourian in the January 22 issue of the New Yorker. And if none of this is making sense to you, don’t worry. I’m not sure it makes sense to me, either, but I’m working on it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Worth Pondering

“Love of the Truth Puts You on the Spot,” the Naropa Institute motto.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Little Houses for My Feet

When I showed up at the starting line in May, 1996, for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon, my first at age 56, I wore the jogging shoes in the photo above, 8 ½ D, i.e., “little houses for my feet.”

The other women, most of them considerably younger than I was, were wearing sleek jogging shoes with Nike swooshes and gel soles. I recall hoping they wouldn’t look at my shoes and laugh.

I ran every step of the 26.2 miles, and because I had such wide, roomy shoes, my feet didn’t suffer.

From this experience, I learned a valuable lesson that I get to apply to all areas of my life: in order to do what I want to do, I need to be willing to be different.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Does Fear of Islam Stalk the Land?

Within the last few months, three friends, all of whom I have known for other thirty years and are intelligent and bright, have expressed their belief that “Islam” or “radical Islam” is the greatest or second greatest threat to civilization.

A thumbnail sketch of each:

1. My former political science professor in the 60's, now conducting leadership workshops. Definitely a liberal . Of the three, this person appears to have narrowed his concern of Islam down to: 1) a secondary threat after climate change, and 2) “radical Islam.” Yet he sent me a list consisting of 21 acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims in comparison to those perpetrated by Jews. Here’s a sampling:
Muslims have crashed more planes into buildings than Jews have.
Muslims have taken many more hostages than Jews have.
Muslims have hung more charred dead American bodies from bridges than Jews have.

2. A former high school classmate of mine, class of 1958. He was one of the brightest students; brilliant, really, and went on to a successful career with a large corporation and is now retired and enjoying a life of leisure. Definitely a conservative.

He recently sent me an e-mail titled: “Will the Next Attack Get Our Attention?” with a link to an article by that name in the The American Thinker, which is not all that unreasonable. Yet my friend ended his e-mail with this comment in response to the article: “This struck me as an extraordinarily 'right on' message -- lambasting both political parties for feckless finger-pointing. The real enemy is Islam.”

3. A colleague, a lawyer who was involved in environmental issues with me in the 70’s. Leans toward libertarianism. His e-mailed comment in response to a newspaper article I sent him about the impeachment forum I organized and moderated last week was the capper: “On the other hand, if the aim is impeachment over Iraq, then obviously someone doesn't understand radical Islam.”

Now I’m wondering how many of my friends, colleagues, and even those with whom I am politically involved, harbor a deep-seated fear that their way of life is threatened by “Islam.”

Friday, January 19, 2007

How I Met Betsy de la Vega Before She Became Famous

This evening I am introducing Elizabeth (aka “Betsy”) de la Vega at New College in Santa Rosa. She is presenting the case against the Bush administration for its conspiracy to defraud the U.S., the subject of her book, United States v. Bush, et al.

I’ve posted this for those who are curious about how I got to know Betsy.

In December of 2004, Betsy contacted me in response to my effort to find attorneys from across the country to help with the Ohio Supreme Court case, Moss v. Bush, one of the legal challenges to Bush’s “win” in that state.

Not too long after Betsy’s initial contact, I started seeing articles by her at my favorite blog, Each time I saw an article, I’d shoot Betsy an e-mail letting her know that I had read it.

Then the November 14, 2005 issue of the The Nation magazine cover article “The White House Criminal Conspiracy” by Elizabeth de la Vega convinced me that Betsy had become a major thorn in the Bush administration’s side.

The rest is recent history. This fall, Betsy sent me the press release announcing the release of her new book U.S. v. Bush, et al. I jumped into action, looking for speaking venues for her in the greater Bay Area.

Now Betsy is famous but just as down to earth as ever.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Do you think you're helping the environment by buying wine in screw top bottles?

Photo of cork tree in Alentejo, Portugal
As I leafed through the January – February 2007 Audubon Magazine while I waited at my dentist’s office, I saw what looked like an interesting article titled Cork Screwed.

Not knowing much about where cork comes from, I had assumed that it was better for the environment if I bought wine with a screw top or synthetic stopper.

As I perused the article, I learned that cork is stripped from trees, but the trees live and produce new cork. In fact, if wineries stop using cork stoppers, vast tracts of cork trees could easily be torn down to make way for development or other uses.

From the article: “Because the native cork-oak woodlands around the western Mediterranean were never completely cleared, they still have some of the richest biological diversity in the Mediterranean,” says Jose Tavares, Portugal program manager for the U.K.-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

They’ve been preserved because they provide an invaluable source of income for the farmers who own them. But 70 percent of cork revenues come from the wine industry….

Wine drinkers need to know about the role of the montados [cork oak woodlands]. If they know that cork is sustainable, that it is a natural product, that it supports biodiversity, and so on, they will insist on natural cork.”

The full article is available at the link above and is well worth reading because it takes you right into those Portuguese mantados. It is likely to convince you, too, that these forests and the way of life for the tiradores [cork strippers] are worth saving.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Civil Discourse

The January 15 Press Democrat editorial commented on how people in Sonoma County are expressing their opposition to the war in Iraq. Those who attend “old-fashioned rallies” were favored over the group “demanding the president’s impeachment.”

In the editors’ opinion, all of us who support impeachment deserve the following description: “But don’t expect the zealots to change. Only they are blessed with the true faith.”

In the early 70’s when I was co-chair of the Warm Springs Dam Task Force fighting construction of the Warm Springs Dam, the Press Democrat editors constantly vilified dam opponents.

I had hoped that 30 years later, the editors would have decided to take the lead in civil discourse. I recommend they take ten minutes to watch Professor Richard Dreyfuss give a lesson in civics.

Richard Dreyfuss' message is that we have confused incivility with how public issues are discussed. He describes civics as the learning of the tools of maintaining a republican democracy. He goes on to state that we need to learn to use these tools with reason, logic, clarity, civility, and debate.

Surely the Press Democrat editors could set an example for all of us.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Net Surfer Anonymous Meeting

I recently attended the first meeting of the newly organized Net Surfers Anonymous (hereafter “NSA,” not to be confused with that other NSA).

We made it through Step One: We admitted that we were powerless over our Net surfing and that our lives had become unmanageable.

Then, as we discussed our compulsion to find out what is going on and mentioned specific blogs and news collectors we couldn’t do with out, we excitedly exchanged e-mail addresses so we could share these fantastic sources of information.

The group disbanded and there are no plans for any more NSA meetings.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Data Mining and Privacy - Why I'm not as worried as some people are

In the last few days, I’ve come across these articles:

From the New York Times,

Military Expands Intelligence Role in U.S.

”Jan. 13, 2007. The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.”

And from the Patriot Daily News,

Bush Quietly "Repeals" Major Privacy Law

“Jan 11, 2007. Bush is fed up with hearing how his actions and policies violate our privacy rights. True to Bush’s Orwellian worldview, his answer is to create a privacy board to ostensibly protect our rights. In reality, it is Mr. Decider who controls the privacy board so that his interpretation of laws will determine how and if our rights are actually protected by more than shallow words. It is the implementation of these interpretations which will chip away through the backdoor or repeal/amend our privacy rights under federal law. The chipping has already started.”

Of course, the steady erosion of our rights to privacy does concern me. However, my older son, Jeff, who is a technologist involved in national security, is concerned about our Fourth Amendment rights to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. He’s posted numerous articles about the confluence of data mining and privacy issues on his blog,

I have a lot of faith in him!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is this how plans are made in the Pentagon?

From the New York Times:

Pentagon Sees Move in Somalia as Blueprint

Jan. 12 — Military operations in Somalia by American commandos, and the use of the Ethiopian Army as a surrogate force to root out operatives for Al Qaeda in the country, are a blueprint that Pentagon strategists say they hope to use more frequently in counterterrorism missions around the globe…….

Pentagon officials said it is still not known whether any senior Qaeda suspects or their allies were killed in the airstrike on Sunday, carried out by an AC-130 gunship.

Seems to me the strategists would first determine if their plan worked, i.e., killed the right targets.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Wheel - Something to remember when organizing an event

I recently organized an impeachment forum. It was a success. However, as I started to hear about the problems with the setup, I realized that I created a partial wheel with myself as the hub, found lots of people to be spokes, but forgot to add a rim so all the spokes knew what the other spokes were doing. Talk about a bumpy ride!