Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Beyond Iran - Is West Africa Next?

Most of the people I associate with are riveted by whether or not the Bush Administration is planning to attack Iran, as I am.

However, there’s more going on out there in the name of “GWOT,” the so-called Global War on Terror. For instance, earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the establishment of an African military command – AFRICOM – to spearhead an “oil and terrorism” policy.

The Center for International Policy has recently released a report, Nigeria and the United States: Convergent Interests. The Executive Summary describes what this country is doing as “a risky strategy to arm and train the militaries of oil-producing West African countries under the rationale of pursuing the Global War on Terror.” And, “These policies are deeply flawed because they will serve to undermine America’s energy security even as they breed growing resentment and violence against the U.S. economic and strategic interests.” If you don’t want to be surprised when West Africa becomes the next GWOT target, read the full report available at the link at the end of the Executive Summary.

For those who may not want to read the 23 page Center for International Policy report but want to learn more about the impact of our oil policy on Nigeria, I highly recommend The Curse of Black Gold, a National Geographic “Sight and Sound” show.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Must-Read: Bush's Future Iran War Speech

As an inveterate reader of anything and everything that Tom Engelhardt* has a hand in, the first thing I read when I returned home this morning is this article at Tomdispatch.com, by Michael Klare, author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum (available in paperback).

Using Bush’s recent speeches, Klare has sifted through what he describes as “lies half-hidden in recent public statements…” to put together three “talking points” for the next war __ target Iran.

So many people I talk to are convinced that Bush won’t attack Iran, perhaps as early as this spring or summer. Somehow, I hope this must-read article reaches them.

*See my February 2, 2007 post re Tom Engelhardt

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Off the Grid, Off the Net until Monday

I'm with the three week old twin grandchildren, who live with their mom, dad, and older sister way out in the middle of everywhere (not "nowhere"), off the grid, on the other side of a creek that's currently too high to cross.

I should be back in the blogging business on Monday if the rain slows down and the creek goes down.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Music Speaks Louder Than Words

Thirty years ago today, a wonderful song, Music Speaks Louder Than Words, sung by Candi Staton, was released. The message is that the whole world understands music, and when we sing, people understand.

Now how in the world do I know this? Because I loved Candi’s songs back in the 70’s, and I pulled out my old vinyl records several months ago and started to play them again.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

You Decide

Cheney: UK Troop Withdrawal 'Sign of Success' in Iraq.

Excerpts: Feb. 21. Vice President Cheney tells ABC News that British P.M.Tony Blair's just-announced troop reduction is a sign progress is being made in Iraq….

"In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day who had driven to Baghdad down to Basra, seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved from a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view they had made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore reduce their force levels," Cheney said.

Yesterday afternoon at Informed Comment, Juan Cole posted: "Tony Blair is taking 1600 troops out of Basra in the next few months and will aim to be down to only 3,000 or so (from 7,100 now) by the end of the year. Denmark is also going home....

This is a rout, there should be no mistake. The fractious Shiite militias and tribes of Iraq's South have made it impossible for the British to stay. They already left Sadr-controlled Maysan province, as well as sleepy Muthanna. They moved the British consulate to the airport because they couldn't protect it in Basra. They are taking mortar and rocket fire at their bases every night. Raiding militia HQs has not resulted in any permanent change in the situation. Basra is dominated by 4 paramilitaries, who are fighting turf wars with one another and with the Iraqi government over oil smuggling rights.

Blair is not leaving Basra because the British mission has been accomplished. He is leaving because he has concluded that it cannot be, and that if he tries any further it will completely sink the Labor Party, perhaps for decades to come."

I’m finding the contrast in opinions about why the British are leaving and whether or not they have accomlished anything very interesting. For those who want to follow this, The End of the Alliance, by New York Times op-ed contributor, Bartle Breese Bull, is worth reading. He reports on some good news: Thanks to British oversight and protection, Saddam Hussein’s cruel efforts to drain the country’s southern marshes have been completely reversed. The marshes are now back to about 40 percent of their original size, with parts visibly flourishing. (With 75 percent of the water of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers now siphoned off by neighboring countries before it gets to Iraq, it is unlikely that the marshes will ever recover fully.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Global Warming or Climate Change? And What To Do About It

Nine years ago, while flipping through the January 1998 Atlantic Monthly magzine, I came across a long, breathtaking article, The Great Climate Flip-flop. The fact that I’ve kept it handy on a shelf in my living room attests to the impact it made on me.

The results for me of reading this article can be summarized as follows:

1. The North Atlantic Current, which is described as a long “salt conveyor” current has kept Europe’s climate mild enough to grown crops and sustain a large population. As icebergs melt and dilute the oceans, the salt conveyor loop could abruptly stop. The author, William H. Calvin, states, “I hope to never see a failure of the northernmost loop of the North Atlantic Current, because the result would be a population crash [in Europe] that would take much of civilization with it, all within a decade.”

2. Because “global warming” will also cause global cooling in some places, I decided it's better to describe the results of spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as “climate change.” Those who doubt that we humans have a significant impact on our earth’s environment seize on such examples as the recent severe snowstorms on the East Coast and chortle, “What global warming?” Describing what is happening as "climate change" is harder to refute.

In addition to our choice of words to describe the ominous changes that are taking place on Mother Earth, what can we do? Here’s two ideas, one old, one new:

1. Reduce your energy needs as much as you can. I solved this problem in the 70’s by choosing to live in a small town, working at home and walking or biking to do my errands. I know I'm fortunate to have had this opportunity, which is not available to everyone.

2. Organize or attend a climate change rally. According to the Spring 2007 YES! Magazine, to date the largest street protest related to climate change has consisted of only 1,000 people. Bill McKibben is organizing Step It Up 2007 rallies in local communities (no commute!) that will be united by a common message: reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. According to the Step It Up 2007 website: This April 14th, tens of thousands of Americans will gather all across the country at meaningful, iconic places to call for action on climate change. We will hike, bike, climb, walk, swim, kayak, canoe, or simply sit or stand with banners of our call to action. So far 700 of these events are scheduled across the country.

My current plan is to work with my friend and environmental ally, Tod Brilliant, and plan something creative (he’s the guy that can help with that) here in our community. While you may not have a Tod to help you, I encourage you to do the same thing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Dynamic Duo Takes On Climate Change

I’ve never met Lester R. Brown, who is a famous award-winning environmental analyst and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute.

I have met Tod Brilliant, who is not quite as famous as Lester but is probably the most interesting person who lives in Healdsburg, the small town in Northern California where I’ve lived for 40 years.

I describe Lester and Tod as a “dynamic duo” in their joint effort to halt greenhouse gas-induced climate change.

What brought them together was Plan B, Version 2.0 - Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. In fact, in August of last year Tod flew to the East Coast to meet with Lester. Out of that meeting came the plan for Tod to work with the Earth Policy Institute to seek individuals and organizations who will collectively donate 100,000 copies of “Plan B 2.0” to a highly targeted initial audience.

What I find particularly engaging about this project is that the Earth Policy Institute has made “Plan B, 2.0” available online as a free download. What I like about Plan B is that it not only addresses climate change; it also addresses population stabilization and world poverty.

I know Lester and Tod welcome your involvement in their effort.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Petitions and Puppies

Today's post is by Janie Sheppard (see my entry about Janie on February 16)

Collecting signatures, I stood in front of Ukiah Natural Foods.

"Could I interest you in signing a petition to the Board of Supervisors asking them to pass a resolution in favor of impeaching Dick Cheney?"

"What about impeaching Bush?"

"Well, the one person who would make a worse president than Bush is Cheney."

"You’ve got a point there."

"I figure that if we could get Cheney out of the way, we could impeach Bush."

"Why the Board of Supervisors?"

"Right now Congress isn’t listening to individuals who are asking for impeachment proceedings. But if Congress heard from fellow elected officials I believe our representatives in Congress would take notice."

"So how would that work?"

"This petition calls on our supervisors to pass a resolution directed to the House of Representatives, asking them to investigate whether Dick Cheney has committed High Crimes and Misdemeanors and, if so, to impeach him."

"Sure, I’ll sign."

That was a typical exchange. But in Ukiah not all exchanges are typical.

"Hi, I’m Spiderman. Have you heard my program on Air America?"

"No, I haven’t."

"I want everyone to have one acre of land. Would you like to read my philosophy?"

"I’d like to, but right now I’m busy getting signatures for my petition to get the supervisors behind a resolution to impeach the vice president. Excuse me, I’m going to see if I can get another signature."


Another signature on the petition. A lull in the people traffic in front of Ukiah Natural Foods.

"Could you help me draft a petition to get everyone an acre of land?"

"Not just now. I need to get some more signatures. I don’t have much time."


A few more signatures and another break in the traffic.

"At three this afternoon there will be a lot of people at Alex Thomas Plaza. You could get a lot of signatures there."

"Thanks. That’s a good idea."

Running out of steam and beginning to garble my message, it’s time to quit. A young man with a huge backpack and an adorable puppy catches my attention. Eager for a diversion I walk over to chat. He says he’s visiting California for the first time, and while visiting a friend in Arcata, met up with the puppy, Roxie. The friend, or someone else, was trying to take care of her, but not doing a good job. The young man couldn’t leave Roxie in that situation even though taking on her care meant bottle feeding for two weeks, night and day. Now, having done that, she was ready to be adopted, he said. Roxie, it turns out, is part Lab and part Rhodesian ridgeback with a bit of Pit bull. She’s going to be a big girl.

I tell him about my two rescued Jack Russells at home, thinking, "that gets me off the hook."

He too has Jack Russells at home, he says.

I wish him well, pet Roxie’s soft fur, tell her she’s beautiful, and leave to do my grocery shopping.

About 30 minutes later, groceries in hand, I emerge from the store.

Spiderman, on his bicycle with Roxie poking her head out from a backpack, stops.

"I’ve adopted a puppy. My wife said it would be good to have a puppy for our baby and I know she’ll love this one."

I smile. How Ukiah. An adorable rescued puppy finds a home with Spiderman. I wish every story had a happy ending.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Indifference to the Suffering of Others

In November of 2003, while attending Camp Wellstone for citizen activism training, I stayed at a downtown Detroit hotel, which was hosting the annual Democratic Socialists of America convention. Cornel West, professor of the philosophy of religion at Harvard, was speaking the evening I attended. I will never forget his statement: "We live in a time when it’s fashionable to be indifferent to other people’s suffering." In fact, I have this quote pasted below my bathroom mirror.

This morning I read a horrific article in the New York Times online by Nicholas Kristof, Torture by Worms, (subscription required) which reminded me of West’s statement, which is always fresh in my mind because I see it every day.

The article describes former President Jimmy Carter’s trip to Ghana, where he visited the Carter Center's project to wipe out the Guinea worm, a horrendous two-foot-long parasite in grows in the body and finally pops out, causing excruciating pain (photo). Carter proved himself strong enough to weep along with the victims of this torture by worms.

After vivid descriptions of the worms leaving the bodies of adults and children, it goes on to describe Carter as having led the way in waging the battle against the Guinea worm for the past two decades. It is expected to be eradicated worldwide within the next five years.

While Carter is one of many private citizens in this country who is doing his utmost to alleviate the physical suffering of others, our nation doesn’t have a very good record. In fact, according to The Center for Global Development, the U.S. ranks 19th out of 21 rich countries for how much money it gives in aid to the rest of the suffering world.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Pigeon on the Bridge is Shot

I recently signed up for e-mail alerts from the Middle East Research and Information Project, and this intriguing title appeared yesterday: A Pigeon on the Bridge is Shot.

The article was introduced as follows: The late Armenian Turkish journalist and writer Hrant Dink devoted his professional life to publicizing the discrimination suffered by minorities in Turkey, and helping Armenians and Turks come to terms with the horrors of the past. His assassination by a Turkish nationalist youth in January underlined the lengths to which some will go to prevent Turkey from becoming the country that Dink envisioned -- a place where citizenship is a guarantee of rights, and not an instrument of assimilation with "Turkishness."

What I know about the Armenian genocide in the early 1900’s is that most of the world ignored it. Robert Fisk’s The Great War for Civilisation – The Conquest of the Middle East describes in some detail this first major genocide of the 20th century.

What I find odd is that most of the world, which rightly condemns Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust, ignores the Armenian Holocaust.

The final paragraph in the article is very moving: Hrant Dink lived his life like a pigeon on a bridge connecting the feelings and thoughts of Armenians in Turkey with those outside, as well as with Turks. He was a pigeon on a mission to make such bridges more than symbolic. He was shot by trench diggers, who remain powerful opponents of his mission. On the day of his funeral, however, Hrant Dink’s bridge was flooded by thousands who wanted to guard it in his name. He would have loved the sight.

Friday, February 16, 2007

To Dick Cheney: Watch out! Janie Sheppard is after you

My friend and political ally, Janie Sheppard, an attorney in Ukiah, California, is focusing her laser-like energy on the impeachment of Vice President Richard Cheney.

Janie is formidable because of her commitment to worthwhile projects, and she uses her verbal and writing skills to bring others on board. A past success was the drafting and passing of an ordinance prohibiting the growing of genetically modified crops in Mendocino County.

Within the past week, Janie has drafted a resolution to submit to the board of supervisors and a petition to circulate in support of the resolution. Both are available as downloads at ElectionReformNow.org. They can be modified for use in your county.

And Janie is not alone; there’s a nationwide effort (photo) to impeach Cheney first. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Having Trouble Keeping Up On The Facts Regarding Iran?

If you are struggling to figure out who is saying what and whether or not what is being said by the Bush administration about Iran is accurate, the best one-stop place to go is Informed Comment.

I describe Informed Comment’s author, Juan Cole, as “my” Middle Eastern expert, and have checked his website most mornings for the past several years.

Juan R. I. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the History Department of the University of Michigan. A bibliography of his writings may be found here. He has written extensively about modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia. He has given numerous media and press interviews on the War on Terrorism since September 11, 2001, as well as concerning the Iraq War in 2003. He’s fluent in and reads Arabic, Persian, and Urdu.

Here is his full bio.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


words have been used up

chewed up like gum

by lovely young mouths

have been turned into white balloons bubbles

diminished by politicians

they're used for whitening


and for the rinsing out

of mouths

in my childhood

words could be

applied to a wound

could be given

to the one you loved



wrapped in newspaper

they still contaminate still reek

they still hurt

hidden in heads

hidden in hearts

hidden under the gowns

of young women

hidden in holy books

they burst out

they kill

by Tadeusz Rozewicz (photo) translated from Polish by Bill Johnston

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ahmadinejad Has More Confidence in Our Leaders Than I Do

Yesterday in his interview by Diane Sawyer, President Ahmadinejad brushed off the possibility of a military strike by the United States against Iran. “There are wise people in the U.S. that would stop such illegal actions,” he said.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Keep Your Fingers Crossed - Update on North Korea

Posted online at 5:40 pm ET this evening by the New York Times: Draft Accord Reached in North Korea Nuclear Talks

This sentence stood out: “The United States and North Korea, after meeting privately on Sunday, held another meeting on Monday.”

What North Korea Really Wants

Shortly after 9/11, when the description “blowback” was raised as a possible reason for the targeting of the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, I picked up a book by that name written by Chalmers Johnson in 2000. By the time I finished the book, I understood for the first time how the U.S.’s midguided policies planted the seeds of future disaster, including the 9/11 attacks.

Knowing next to nothing about North Korea, I read Blowback’s Chapter 5, “North Korea: Endgame of the Cold War. Johnson described North Korea as a “proud and desperate nation at the end of its tether,” not a “rogue state” with a mad leader.

After Bush took office, earlier efforts to work with the North Koreans were dropped in place of the stated goal of “regime change.” And the U.S. reneged on its agreement to supply fuel oil in exchange for the North Korean’s agreement to stop its nuclear program as provided for in the 1994 Agreed Framework.

How did this happen? In 2003, I picked up a small paperback by John Feffer, North Korea South Korea – U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis, and by the time I finished it, I had a much clearer picture of why both North Korea and the U.S. find each other such a threat and what each country has done to create so much distrust.

Feffer’s book is densely packed with an explanation of why the current U.S. government’s pursuit of keeping the Korean peninsula divided between north and south is such a disaster. He states: “…the current policy on North Korea was incubating in the conservative policy circles during the 1990’s. Once in power, the Bush administration has used various means to pursue its ultimate goal: regime change in Pyongyang.” This includes refusing to engage in bilateral talks with North Korea since Bush makes it clear that we don’t talk to our "enemies. "

Recently, despite the focus on the war in Iraq and the possibility of an attack on Iran, North Korea is showing up in the news.

The January 27, Washington Post article, What North Korea Really Wants, attempts to answer that question: ”Above all, it wants, and has pursued steadily since 1991, a long-term, strategic relationship with the United States. This has nothing to do with ideology or political philosophy….The North Koreans believe in their gut that they must buffer the heavy influence their neighbors already have, or could soon gain, over their small, weak country….

And that is why the North so doggedly seeks bilateral talks with Washington. It desires not "drive-by" encounters, not a meeting here and there, but serious, sustained talks in which ideas can be explored and solutions, at last, patiently developed.”

This morning, the New York Times reported that Nuclear Talks on North Korea Hit Roadblock, a major disappointment based on the recent reports of the possibility that it would be willing to give up its nuclear weapons program. It appears that North Korea’s demand for fuel oil has increased from the 500,000 tons (promised but only partially delivered under the Agreed Framework) to two million tons. The article goes on to state: “…Furthermore, the proposed agreement sets no dates on nuclear action beyond shutting down the nuclear plant at Yongbyon and allowing inspectors in within 60 days; it leaves unresolved what the North would get in return. The summary was given to The New York Times by a person trying to explain the timing and vagueness of the deal’s elements.”

Perhaps the North Koreans have quadrupled its request for fuel oil since it didn’t receive what it was promised in the earlier agreement. And I wonder what Bush would lose if he agreed to bilateral talks with the North Koreans.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worth Considering

From Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, pp. 37-37:

Well-being of speech is like a lute without strings. Even without strings, the musical instrument proclaims itself. This is an image of our speech being settled. It doesn’t mean that we’re controlling, uptight, trying hard not to say the wrong thing. It means our speech is straightforward and disciplined.

We don’t start blurting out words just because no one else is talking and we’re nervous. We don’t chatter away like magpies and crows. We’ve heard it all; we’ve been insulted and we’ve been praised. We know what it is to be in situations where everyone is angry. Where everyone is peaceful.

We’re at home in the world because we’re at home with ourselves, so we don’t feel that out of nervousness, out of habitual pattern, we have to run at the mouth. Our speech is tamed, and when we speak, it communicates. We don’t waste the gift of speech in expressing our neurosis.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Think the 9/11 Commission Answered All the Questions About 9/11? Think Again.

I purchased the authorized edition of the The 9/11 Commission Report as soon as it showed up in my local bookstore in August, 2004. At the same time, I picked up Cover Up, by Peter Lance, a five-time Emmy-winning investigative reporter. In his book, Lance offers an unofficial “minority report” on the 9/11 Commission, critiquing its official report as highly politicized and the potential conflicts of interest among the commissioners.

I confess that I didn’t read the 9/11 Commission Report in its entirety, but I read Cover Up from cover to cover. Hmmm, something didn’t quite sound right.

Then my October 2004 issue of Harper’s Magazine arrived, and Whitewash as Public Service was a shocker about how the 9/11 Commission didn’t tell us the truth, especially about Bush’s lying. An excerpt from this excellent article:

There's little mystery about why the Commission is tongue-tied. It can't call a liar a liar.

The most momentous subject before the 9/11 Commission was: What did President Bush know about the Al Qaeda threat to the United States, when did he know it, and if he knew little, why so? The Commission reports that on several occasions in the spring and summer of 2001 the President had “asked his briefers whether any of the threats pointed to the United States.” The Commission further reports the President saying that “if his advisers had told him there was a [terrorist] cell in the United States, they would have moved to take care of it.” Facing his questioners in April 2004, the President said he had not been informed that terrorists were in this country....
Conceivably it was at or near the moment when Bush took this position that the members of the Commission who heard him grasped that casting useful light on the relation between official conduct and national unpreparedness would be impossible. The reason? The President's claim was untrue. It was a lie, and the Commissioners realized they couldn't allow it to be seen as a lie….

Nevertheless the chief executive, seated before the Commission, declared: Nobody told me. And challenging the chief executive as a liar entailed an unthinkable cost—the possible rending of the nation's social and political fabric.

The 9/11 Commission issued its report shortly before the 2004 Presidential election. What would have happened if it had told the truth about Bush’s lying? How could he have run on his platform of being the best candidate to continue to so-called “war on terror?” Our national social and political fabric has been torn to shreds by Bush.

You might wonder why I’m bringing this up now. Because of a currently circulating article posted at AlterNet, From Afghanistan to Iraq: Connecting the Dots With Oil, by Richard Behan, who appears to have done his homework.

Those potential conflicts of interest among Commission members addressed by Peter Lance in Cover Up? Behan describes them as follows:
Many of the 10 commissioners, moreover, were burdened with stunning conflicts of interest -- Mr. Ben Veniste, for example -- mostly by their connections to the oil and defense industries. The Carlyle Group contributed to Commissioner Tim Roemer's political campaigns. Commission Chairman Thomas Kean was a Director of Amerada Hess, which had formed a partnership with Delta Oil, the Arabian company of Khalid bin Mahfouz, and that company was teamed with Unocal in the Afghan pipeline project. Vice-Chairman Lee Hamilton serves on the board of Stonebridge International consulting group, which is advising Gulfsands Petroleum and Devon Energy Corporation about Iraqi oil opportunities.

The breathtaking exemptions accorded President Bush and Vice President Cheney in the inquiry rendered the entire enterprise a farce: They were "interviewed" together, no transcription of the conversation was allowed, and they were not under oath. The Commission report finally places the blame on “faulty intelligence."

Friday, February 09, 2007

My cousin June and Lt. Watada

June, my first cousin, twice-removed, lives in suburban Seattle, is 86 years old, and grows all her own vegetables. She participates in virtually every peace march in the Puget Sound area and was featured in a front page article in the Seattle Times a few months ago for keeping count of U.S. military deaths since the war on Iraq started.

This fall, June joined a parade in support of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada’s courageous refusal to be deployed to Iraq. As she marched along, a nice looking young man came up to her and engaged her in a conversation. It was Lt. Watada! It’s amazing he even saw her since she’s only 4’ 9” tall.

Last Monday, when the court-marital of Lt. Watada started at Ft. Lewis, Washington, June joined over 1,000 anti-war activists to support him. In her words:

On Monday five of our group took a chartered bus to Tacoma to give support during the trial. Space in the courtroom was very limited, so none of us made it in. I would judge about a thousand attended the rally, people of all ages. Many workers and students had taken the day off to attend. There seemed to be many from out of state too. I met a man from Minnesota who had come especially to give his support to Lt. Watada, others from Florida, Canada, and many from Oregon.

All day there was constant bannering over the I-5 freeway. Near the entrance to Ft. Lewis were speeches by returned Iraqi Vets in support of Lt. Watada; two had spent time in prison as conscientious objectors. Family members of others still in Iraq told their sad stories. The afternoon program ended with street theater planned by young activists.

F.O.R. [Friends for Reconciliation] has planned an event in support of Lt. Watada at the entrance to Ft. Lewis for tomorrow, and I plan to attend.

Yesterday a mistrial was declared in Lt. Watada’s court-martial. June recommends that we watch www.thankyoult.org both for details re next steps for supporters and more news coverage of the case.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Pulverizing of Another Middle Eastern Country

The increase in articles about the likelihood that Bush will attack Iran is alarming. This article in the March 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq, by Craig Unger, is the most alarming of all.

In the article, Philip Giraldi, a former C.I.A. counterterrorism specialist, finds the run-up to the war on Iraq and the bad rap Iran is now subject to “…absolutely parallel. They are using the same dance steps – demonize the bad guys, the pretext of diplomacy, keep out of negotiations, use proxies. It is Iraq redux.”
And Unger, referencing Salon as his source, stated that Bush described the recently released Iraq Study Group report, which recommended talking with the Iranian leaders, “a flaming turd.”

It’s clear to all those who see a parallel between the attack on Iraq and a pending attack on Iran is that there will be one significant difference __ the absence of ground troops since there aren’t any available.

However, take a look at Nick Turse’s recently released America's Secret Air War in Iraq, and it will be clear that an air attack on Iran will be equally devastating.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Coming Full Circle

My citizen activism started in the early 70’s when I became involved in battles (yes, battles) to stop housing developments on prime agricultural land and an Army Corps dam in Sonoma County, California.

After a couple of decades devoted to getting a legal education, starting a solo law practice, and some “side trips” that taught me who I’m not, in 2003 I focused on public funding of campaigns. In 2004, I added problems with vote counting machines to my “to do” list of activities. As our country has continued to head in the wrong direction, in 2006 I added impeachment of Bush and Cheney to the previous two activities.

My premise in getting involved in the political process was that needed reforms, including environmental, would occur if we could just change the decision makers. Obviously, it hasn’t been that easy.

Around two years ago I joined the Green Party since I decided no amount of effort on my part would change the Democratic Party from within. With a few exceptions, the Democrats are as beholden to corporate interests as the Republicans are and show next to no interest in freeing themselves from corporate influence by supporting public funding of campaigns.

For at least the last decade, it's been apparent to me that the biggest threat of all is climate change. I’ve collected all the horror stories, including the Pentagon’s
An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for U.S. National Strategy, published in the fall of 2003.

Because I’ve been so active as a citizen for the past few years, I’ve jeopardized my health. To restore it and to support work on the climate change issue, I’ve started training for a marathon and am using my training and race miles to raise money for climate change projects. At pledges of 5 cents a mile, I’m going to need to run a lot of miles in order to make a difference!

Today I have to thank John Nichols, The Nation magazine’s Washington correspondent, for helping me pull it all together.

First, Nichols' talk in Corte Madera on November 2 of last year, along with his excellent book, "The Genius of Impeachment," have convinced me that we must make an effort to impeach Bush and Cheney.

Second, yesterday Nichols posted Holding Bush to Account for Climate Lies, Neglect. He pointed out that the Green Party is supporting impeachment of Bush for, among other impeachable offenses, tampering with studies on global warming and other scientific research.

I am now perfectly positioned to throw myself into working with the Green Party on climate change in conjunction with impeaching Bush and Cheney. Additionally, I have a wonderful friend here in Healdsburg, Tod Brilliant, who has been working tirelessly on the climate change issue for a long time now. His blog is well worth frequent visits.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


From Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662, French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher:

“I have only made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter.” Lettres Provincales, December 14, 1656, Cassell’s Book of Quotations, London, 1912, p. 718.

We might not write that many letters these days, but millions of us around the world frequently post to our weblogs. The challenge, at least for me, is to take the time “to make it shorter.”

Monday, February 05, 2007

What Is Happening to the Children of Iraq?

I suppose I’m extra-sensitive to issues involving children because of the birth of twin grandchildren this weekend. They arrived perfectly formed, all limbs present and operable.

I typically check Informed Comment each morning, and there, near the top of Juan’s comments for the day was this: The Reuters Headline Says It All - 'Iraq Children Living Without Limbs Lack Support'.

I have the article printed and ready to read, but I’m not sure I’m ready to read it. I do know that most of the children described in the article and the child in the photo arrived just like my grandchildren did, with all limbs accounted for.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Raising Children

With the birth of twin grandchildren this weekend (photo above of Rody, taken within one within an hour of his birth), I’m reflecting on what I think it takes to raise children.

I ask myself, “What is the goal with this child?” My response is “To raise a child so he or she has self-esteem.”

With self-esteem, it seems to be that a child has a better chance to be happy, curious about the world, and able to care about others.

By being happy, curious, and empathetic, a child can grow up to be a “success,” in the widest use of that word that often is limited to measuring material accumulations.

So, in my humble opinion, how does a child get self-esteem? It certainly doesn’t come in the DNA, so it must come from the caregivers of that child.

As a non-expert and only from observations of how people raise children all these years,
I ‘ve come up with this formula: Self-esteem = Knowing that “I matter”. “Mattering” comes from believing that I am worthy of attention, that my thoughts and feelings have value. Knowing I matter doesn’t come from being showered with privileges, tons of stuff, and getting into the kindergarten that guarantees admission to an Ivy League college.

The only way I know that adult caregivers, whether they are parents, grandparents, nannies or day care providers, can give a child adequate attention is to pay attention to him or her. A fortiori, parents have the best shot at doing that if they aren’t too busy trying to get ahead. Day care givers are least able to, of course, since they have to care for so many children at one time.

However, since “it takes a village to raise a child,” all of us with children in our lives can pitch in.

Friday, February 02, 2007

In Remembrance of My Mother

My mother, Bernadine Gail Temple, always known as “Bernie,” was born on February 3, 1915, and died on March 5, 2002. When I was a child, my mother showed me more love than all of the other people in my life.

My mother’s mother died in the great flu epidemic in 1918. At three, my mother along with her slightly older brother, was left alone with her mother’s body for several days at the farm where they lived. I believe this incredibly traumatic incident colored my mother’s whole attitude toward life; she never felt safe.

My mother passed some of this fear that the world is a scary place on to me, yet she gave me at least two wonderful gifts that help overcome that fear: the love of nature and reading. Both sustain me these days when indeed the world does appear to be a scary place.
This morning twin grandchildren were born. Not only do they share this birthdate with my mother but also with my older son's daughter, who is eighteen today.

Tom Engelhardt, Blogger, Author and Editor

If I were told that I had to give up all sources of news but one, I would pick TomDispatch.com. I discovered this blog early in 2003, and I don’t think I’ve missed a post since.

At TomDispatch, Tom Engelhardt sifts through the news and finds what’s important. His analysis and synthesis saves me an incredible amount of time. He also creates a forum for voices that need to be heard, like Chalmers Johnson, whose recent contribution "Empire v. Democracy", is well worth reading.

Tom has written three books, The End of Victory Culture, The Last Days of Publishing, and Mission Unaccomplished. I recommend every one of them.

And get this, he has edited more than 250 books! My fantasy goal is to read every one of these books, but may run out of time since I’m in my sixties. I recommend the following three to those who may sometimes feel that the current situation is hopeless: Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, The Unconquerable World by Jonathan Schell, and Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild.

A recent TomDispatch project is U.S. v. Bush, et al., by Elizabeth de la Vega. If you need help convincing your family and friends that Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfield and Powell have conspired to defraud the citizens by taking us to war in Iraq, this is a must-read.

Tom has co-created the The American Empire Project, which features books published by Metropolitan Books. In these books, which are short and argument-driven, our leading writers and thinkers mount an immodest challenge to the fateful exercise of empire-building and explore every facet of the developing American imperium, while suggesting alternate ways of thinking about, confronting, and acting in a new American century.

Finally, Tom is a fellow of the Nation Institute and is a teaching fellow at the journalism school at the University of California, Berkeley.

Let’s face it, folks, there aren’t very many heroes out there, but a few like Tom Engelhardt go a long way toward making our world a better place to live.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

What Do Ordinary Iranians and Americans Think?

While Presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad play “chicken” on the highway of life and death, what are the citizens of these two countries saying about themselves and each other?

On January 24, 2007, WorldPublicOpinion.org came out with the results of a poll that should dispel any misconceptions that the Iranians don’t want direct US-Iran talks, want nuclear bombs, and love Osama bin Laden. The poll results also tell us something about how Americans feel about direct US-Iran talks.

Based on the introduction to the full report, available here as a link and well worth reading, the polls were conducted because “For nearly three decades, the United States and Iran have lived in a state of substantial tension. Following the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of an Islamic state in 1979, the United States and Iran have experienced a series of crises and confrontations. Over the last few years these tensions have reached a new fever pitch, prompted by several factors….

“In the context of these tensions, it seemed particularly appropriate to try to bring the voice of the Iranian and American publics into the discourse. Often when government leaders are at loggerheads, giving publics on both sides a greater voice brings new perspectives, provides some insight into the motivations and perceptions on each side, and sometimes even reveals interesting opportunities for finding common ground. “

The results, which are available at this link, are pretty amazing:

1. Despite mutual antagonism, half of Iranians and most Americans want more talks, more exchanges.
2. Iranians want the capacity to enrich uranium but accept the limitations imposed by the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty
3. Iranians, like Americans, overwhelmingly reject Osama bin Laden.