Monday, April 30, 2007

Part Two: The U.S. missile defense system: does it work?

Last Friday, I posted Part One: The U.S. missile defense system: "blowback" about Russia’s decision to suspend its pact with NATO, apparently as a result of the U.S. proposal for a new missile defense system in Europe and the Bush administration’s unilateral pull-out from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972.

A logical follow-up question to Bush’s insistence that we have a missile defense system despite the reaction of Russia and other countries is: Does it work?

Hmmm, not an easy question to answer. Depends on what you read. According to a April 27 CBS News report, U.S. missile defense test is successful, “The U.S. military's sea-based missile defense system on Thursday showed it could intercept two targets simultaneously when it destroyed a cruise missile and a short-range ballistic missile during a test off the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The test marked eight out of 10 times the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy's Aegis ballistic missile defense system successfully intercepted targets. But it was the first time the system knocked out two targets at the same time.”

A comment posted in response to the article: “Will missiles intercept atmospheric nuclear explosions? LOL,” linking to an article at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). I receive e-mail alerts from NTI and trust this source of information.

As recently as last August, the Washington Post reported Rumsfeld Unsure of Ability to Intercept Korean Missiles: “After his first look inside the nerve center [at Fort Greeley, Alaska] of the U.S. missile defense system, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Sunday sounded a note of caution about expectations that interceptors poised in 10 underground silos here would work in the event of a missile attack by North Korea.

Asked at a news conference whether he believed the missile shield was ready for use against a North Korean missile like the one test-fired unsuccessfully on July 4, Rumsfeld said he would not be fully convinced until the multibillion-dollar defense system has undergone more complete and realistic testing.

‘A full end-to-end’ demonstration is needed, Rumsfeld said, ‘where we actually put all the pieces’ of the highly complex and far-flung missile defense system together and see whether it would succeed in destroying a warhead in flight.”

Short range? Long range” I’m certainly not an expert in missile defense systems, but I note that there’s a significant difference in the distance between the island of Kauai where the missile target was launched and offshore Kauai where it was intercepted, and Fort Greeley, Alaska and North Korea.

The bottom line for me is to continue to pay attention to this issue.

(photo - DefenseIndustryDaily.com)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

My vegetable garden

It was planted yesterday. The primary designer and implementer is my friend, Dan Ashby (blue shirt), who is a co-founder of ElectionDefenseAlliance.org (EDA), the election integrity organization I’m involved with. This is the third year Dan has come to Healdsburg to help me with my garden.

Suggested action items:

1. Plant a garden if you have the space and available water. If you need help, a great source of information is Master Gardeners.

2. Check out the EDA website. There’s a lot of valuable information about voting issues, including the “Halt Holt” (H.R. 811) effort. I urge you to sign up for e-mail alerts. The 2008 election isn’t that far away!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

More "blowback": State Department reports 30% rise in terrorist attacks

Yesterday’s post described Russia’s reaction to the plan to install a new U.S. missile defense system in Europe, a consequence I describe as "blowback."

This morning, I read a McClatchy Newspapers article, Annual terrorism report will show 29% rise in attacks. Due to be released next week by the State Department despite Condi Rice’s efforts to delay it, the report will show a nearly 30 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide in 2006 to more than 14,000, “almost all of the boost due to growing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan….the figures for Iraq and elsewhere are limited to attacks on noncombatants and don’t include strikes against U.S. troops."

And, "The report can be expected to be used as ammunition for both sides in the domestic battle over the Iraq war. President Bush and his aides routinely call Iraq the 'central front' in Bush's war on terrorism and likely will say that the preponderance of attacks there and in Afghanistan prove their point. But critics say the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq have worsened the terrorist threat.”

You decide.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Part One: The U.S. missile defense system: "blowback"

This morning, the New York Times reported Putin to Suspend Pact with NATO in his annual address to Parliament. Apparently Putin’s announcement that “Russia would suspend its compliance with a treaty on conventional arms in Europe” was in retaliation for the U.S. proposal for a new missile defense system in Europe. And, “Although Mr. Putin did not mention it on Thursday, Russia is angry that in 2001 the Bush administration unilaterally pulled out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972.”

The first word that came to mind when I read this was “blowback.” According to Chalmers Johnson in his prescient pre 9/11 book, Blowback, on page 8, the “term ‘blowback’….refers to the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people.” I’ve expanded the definition of “blowback” to include the consequences of our policies, whether secret or not, that occur when other countries respond to U.S. global militarism.

The authors of the New York Times article opined, “ Though the step by Mr. Putin was incremental, it was highly symbolic and reminiscent of brinkmanship in the cold war.”

So here we go, I thought. Who started this “brinkmanship”? I think the US did. The following articles delivered a mixed message: 1) According to the Spiegel Online International April 26 article, the Missile Shield Row Heats Up: “Condoleezza Rice, meanwhile, has blasted Moscow's fears as being ‘ludicrous’"; 2)Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, who, according to the Taipei Times April 26, article, Threat to Russia? “said that the US is willing to allay Russian fears over the missile shield."

I don’t know about you, but I trust Chalmers Johnson a whole lot more than I trust Rice or Gates. In his most recent book, Nemesis, the third in his “blowback” trilogy, Johnson describes what America has done to help bring on “the last days of the American Republic.” While Johnson focuses on our global empire of military bases, he also discusses the folly of the ramping up of our missile defense system, which included President Bush’s withdrawal of the US from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty.

Part Two – The U.S. missile defense system: “Does it work?” will be posted in a day or two.

(photo - the Kremlin - Ghettodriveby.com)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Janie's fifteen minutes with David Halberstam

Yesterday’s post, David Halberstam, the best and the brightest, was not only about honoring the recently deceased Halberstam but also about the sorry state of the media in this country. For more about the failure of the media to tell us the truth during the run up to the war in Iraq, I urge you to watch Bill Moyers’ “Buying the War,” which can be viewed here.

The report below, by my friend Janie Sheppard (who has written two articles for this post and been the subject of one, with links to all three of these articles available here), is her personal story of a significant interaction she had with Halberstam in 1964. This little story tells us so much about what kind of person David Halberstam was.

Janie's fifteen minutes with David Halberstam

I have a little David Halberstam story. My father, a foreign service officer, was stationed in Saigon in the early 1960's just as the war was ramping up and David Halberstam was reporting on it. I was an impressionable high school and then college student who was mightily impressed by Halberstam and other members of the press corps, Malcolm Browne and Neil Sheehan.

Whenever I accompanied my parents to a Saigon cocktail party where Halberstam, Brown and/or Sheehan were present I tried to think up witty conversational gambits to gain their attention. Mostly I failed in this endeavor, or so I thought.

My moment of notoriety, approximately 15 minutes of it, arrived after my family had left Saigon and my father was stationed in Washington, D.C., attending the National War College. That would be 1964. In December 1964 I was arrested in the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. When I called my parents from jail, they were none too happy. Evidently my father viewed my activism as a potential set-back to his career, which he hoped would be advanced by his attending the National War College.

When I went home to Washington, D.C. for Christmas, my father let his unhappiness be known. He grumbled. But then David Halberstam called, asking if I had been part of the Free Speech Movement (FSM), and, if so, could he come over to interview me. He told my father that he figured I would have been arrested as “my father’s daughter.” Imagine my delight.

Halberstam asked me all about the FSM, Mario Savio, going to jail, free speech, and life as a Berkeley student. I loved it. My father sat quietly, listening to my every word. When Halberstam left my father apologized for his grumbling, gave me a big hug and said he was glad I had been arrested for such a noble cause. He said he was proud me.

Thank you, David Halberstam!

(photo -Janie on her bike last summer)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

David Halberstam - The best and the brightest

I was saddened to see that David Halberstam, 73, recently died in an auto accident. He’s not that much older than I am. I have two of his books sitting on my desk, The Powers That Be, published in 1979, and War in the Time of Peace, published in 2001. A prolific author, he wrote many noteworthy books. More than that, he was a journalist in the best sense of the word.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the media’s role in where we as a country are now. I urge you to read Gary Kamiya’s April 10 article in Salon.com, Iraq - Why the Media Failed, describing ”one of the greatest collapses in the history of the American media.”

Halberstam’s death has catapulted into the public arena a comparison of his reporting with that of today’s journalists, This morning, Halberstam on Journalism appeared in the editorial section of the New York Times. According to the article, Halberstam gave the following advice to journalists at Columbia University: “It’s not about the fame. By and large, the more famous you are, the less of a journalist you are.” (Think: Judith Miller).

Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com has done the best job of capturing Halberstam’s views on the proper role of journalism and how far away that is from what today’s “media stars” in his April 24 post, David Halberstam on today's American press. In this post, Greenwald includes excerpts from what he thinks are among the best essays and interviews from Halberstam over the past several years. I hope you take time to read what Greenwald has assembled about our best and brightest journalist, who will be missed.

(photo of David Halberstam: mfh.org)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stamp out postal rate hikes to save small and independent publishers

A few days ago, when I went online to read The Nation, I saw the “stamp” (photo) and responded to the request for action by logging onto Stamp Out the Rate Hikes and added my name to the letter to save small and independent publishers like The Nation.

I agree with Studs Terkel, who in 1994 said, "During these bleak moments when the spirit takes a dip, The Nation acts as a tonic, a bracer, a pick-me-up. And it's non- alcoholic, too." If we experienced “bleak moments” in 1994, they are much bleaker now. We really need The Nation and it needs our help with keeping its mailing costs down.

According to the Stamp Out the Rate Hike website, “Postal regulators have accepted a proposal from media giant Time Warner that would stifle small and independent publishers in America. The plan unfairly burdens smaller publishers with higher postage rates while locking in special privileges for bigger media companies.”

The clincher for me about taking action is that John Nichols*, Washington Correspondent for The Nation, is also on the Board of Directors of FreePress, the organization behind the Stamp Out the Rate Hike.

*John Nichols is The Nation’s Washington correspondent and editorial page editor of the Capital Times in Madison, Wis. He is the author of Against the Beast, Jews for Buchanan and Dick: The Man Who Is President and co-author, with Robert McChesney, of It’s the Media, Stupid, Our Media, Not Theirs, and, most recently, Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections and Destroy Democracy. My son and I met John on The Nation Cruise in November, 2005. My son and I met John on The Nation cruise in November, 2005.

Monday, April 23, 2007

African Children's Choir - On "American Idol" and coming to Northern California this week


I’ve never watched “American Idol” on television, but I’m going to watch it this week because the African Children’s Choir will be singing. Described as American Idol Gives Back, there will be a two-night special to benefit children and young people in need in American and Africa. The show airs Tuesday, April 24 (8:00-9:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed) and the expanded results show airs Wednesday, April 25 (8:00-10:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX.

Even better than seeing the African Children’s Choir on TV is the opportunity to see them live in Santa Rosa, California, on April 27. Tickets are still available at HeiferMusicForLife.org, or you can buy them at the door.

I’ll be at the concert. After the concert, several of us who volunteer for Heifer International will greet the children as they arrive at Cloverleaf Ranch, where they will spend the night.

(photo from African Children's Choir website)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Additional reading: Just Politics? Or Politics Plus the Federalist Society?

  1. Yesterday's guest blogger, Janie Sheppard, (photo*) has assembled additional reading for anyone who is as interested as we are in how politics has entered and corrupted the prosecutorial process. Thanks, Janie!
    =========
    Experts say ruling hits prosecutor’s credibility, article from Wisconsin State Journal, April 9.

    The Political Corruption of the Prosecutorial Function, by Scott Horton, Harper’s.

    Hunting the President, book excerpt, by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons (describes how we came to learn about Clinton’s misbehavior through Federalist Society lawyers networking.

    The Federalist Society and the Challenge to a Democratic Jurisprudence, address by past president of the American Bar Association.

    Bush putting innocent people behind bars to keep GOP in power!, by Michael Leon

    News release from the U.S. Department of Justice on the indictment of Georgia Thompson by a federal grand jury.

    Court tells why it freed Thompson, an article on the opinion of the Court of Appeals.

    Decision of the Court of Appeals (issued Friday, April 20)

*Photo of Janie in a triathlon she, another friend, and I participated in last August.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Just Politics? Or Politics Plus the Federalist Society?

My friend, Janie Sheppard, who posted here in February and was posted about here in March, is today’s guest blogger. We both see the issue of which US Attorneys were fired and which ones weren’t as hugely important. Here Janie, an attorney, focuses on US Attorney, Steve Biskupic, who has remained in office and the devastating consequences to a career civil servant, Georgia Thompson (photo).

As a companion piece to Janie’s article, I highly recommend Scott Horton’s The Political Corruption of the Prosecutorial Function.

Just Politics? Or Politics Plus the Federalist Society?

Steve Biskupic, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, is the guy who prosecuted a career civil servant in Wisconsin without having any evidence of wrongdoing. How could that be?

Georgia Thompson, a career civil servant, was indicted and convicted for bid-rigging in what must have been a terrifyingly Kafkaesque trial. The evidence was manufactured out of her role in evaluating contract proposals submitted by travel agencies to provide travel services to state employees. She was convicted in a jury trial and sentenced to 18 months in federal prison by Federal District Court Chief Judge Rudolph T. Randa.

Judge Randa refused her request to remain free on bail pending an appeal, a very unusual move. In his order refusing bail, he explained that because she had not raised “a substantial question of law likely to result in a reversal” there was no basis for granting the request. Never mind the missing facts. She was ordered to prison.

Go to prison she did. She had served 4 of her 18 months when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard her appeal. At the hearing, one of the three judges on the appellate panel ridiculed Biskupic’s theory of the case as “beyond thin.” Not amused, the Appeals Court ordered Randa to reverse the conviction and acquit.

The Court of Appeals also ordered Thompson released from prison before the close of business that very day.

Judge Randa has the worst record for reversals of all the federal judges in Wisconsin. Between 2000-2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed 50 percent of his cases. Other circuit court judges’ decisions were reversed 15 to 33 percent of the time.

Biskupic was appointed to his position by the present President Bush, Judge Randa by the first President Bush. Although Biskupic’s name appeared for a while on the list of U.S. Attorneys to be fired, in the end he wasn’t.

Maybe he wasn’t fired because he agreed to prosecute Thompson during the run-up to the November election where Democratic Governor Doyle faced a stiff challenge from a Republican candidate. Inquiring minds would like to know. Both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have asked for the documents in connection with the case.

And then again, maybe Biskupic managed to hang on to his job because he is a member of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. Or both.

Judge Randa is also a member of the Federalist Society. And maybe that’s why he bought Biskupic’s theory, “beyond thin” though it was. Federalist Society you ask, what does that have to do with this?

The Federalist Society describes itself as "dedicated to reforming the current legal order." Indeed, under the old order a U.S. Attorney would not have prosecuted this case, totally lacking in evidence as it was.

According to the entry on the Wikipedia website the Federalist Society hopes to transform the American legal system by developing and promoting conservative positions and influencing who will become judges, top government officials, and decision-makers.

Indeed, when the prosecutor and the trial judge are members, the Federalist Society bond may be stronger than ethics, a quaint idea from the old order.

We know that the Federalist Society figures in the present US Attorney scandal. On the spreadsheet Kyle Sampson prepared there is a special column to indicate whether any given US Attorney is a member of the Federalist Society. We know that the interim replacement for Carol Lam (she who prosecuted Duke Cunningham) is a member. We know that Karl Rove is a member. In fact, Justices Thomas, Kennedy, Alito and Scalia are members. To keep track of the new order, People for the American Way has a partial list of members in important positions, including the courts. A Washington Monthly article paints a picture of the new order. Another member, Senator Orrin Hatch, was the gatekeeper for all nominations to the federal bench.

Now that the new order has arrived, it’s just a mop-up operation to get rid of the remaining old order prosecutors and judges.

(photo: Wisconsin State Journal)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Western States Water Shortage Hits Home

This week, our local newspaper, the Healdsburg Tribune, ran a front-page article, Water Conservation Urged. I recall the ’76-’77 drought that hit Northern California, and despite a severe shortage of water in this area, no effort was made by our city officials to conserve water or urge city residents to cut back.*

So things have changed. Back then, there was no talk of an “arid West.” Now it’s a mainstream news item, described at length in the New York Times on April 4, 2007, An Arid West No Longer Waits for Water. The article initially focuses on water from the Colorado River: “The scramble for water is driven by the realities of population growth, political pressure and the hard truth that the Colorado River, a 1,400-mile-long silver thread of snowmelt and a lifeline for more than 20 million people in seven states, is providing much less water than it had”

Closer to home, here in California, the Times article reports “The water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack has reached the lowest level in about two decades, state hydrologists have reported, putting additional pressure on the nation’s most populous state to find and store more water.

Scientists say that global warming will eliminate 25 percent of our snowpack by the half of this century,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said recently in Fresno, Calif., 'which will mean less snow stored in the mountains, which will mean more flooding in the winter and less drinking water in the summer.'”

Here in Sonoma County, we don’t use water from the Colorado River or the Sierra Nevada snowpack. We primarily rely on the Russian River. According to the Healdsburg Tribune article, our county water agency is asking us to we’re being asked to voluntarily cut our water usage or face mandatory water restrictions. Lake Mendocino, which stores Russian River water, is the lowest it’s ever been, despite “a normal rain year.”

It looks like we human beings are going to be competing with the fish in the Russian River: “We could lose an entire generation of chinook salmon if they do not have a successful migration and spawning period,” said the agency's senior environmental specialist Sean White. “Unfortunately this time period is exactly the same we have projected the lake to be at its lowest.”

I was very involved in water issues back in the 70’s. What I’ve seen in this county since then: increased urbanization, lack of studies of groundwater, and an indifferent attitude toward water conservation. I have no idea what effect global warming has on our strange weather pattern, including the lack of spring rains.

Our county water agency recommends that we check our water meters to see if there are any leaks, sweeping debris away from your driveway or decks instead of using a hose, delaying new planting projects and irrigating in two short cycles rather than one long one to decrease run-off. These are all worthwhile efforts, but I suspect they are not enough.

*The can of emergency drinking water was given to me as an “award” by the Healdsburg City Council back in 1977. It was a “tongue-in-cheek” award since the city had ignored my request at a public hearing that it stop wasting water during the drought by such acts as washing off city trucks with huge hoses, water splattering everywhere. When the city ignored me, I drove to Sacramento and reported it to the state Department of Water Resources, which launched an investigation of the city’s use of water. It had to tighten up. The can of water, given to me several months later, was a tacit admission that I had been right.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More on "wrong place, wrong time"

In response to yesterday’s post about the lack of attention to the deaths caused by an illegal and unjust war in contrast to those of the students at Virginia Tech, I received an e-mail from my friend, Susan Lamont, who is very active with the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County. She sent the following letter to the editor and expressed doubts that it would be published in our “newspaper of record," the Press Democrat. Here’s her letter:

Editor:

My daughter Ellen, a Ph.D. student at NYU, called after the killings at Virginia Tech. A teaching assistant for a class on social movements, she had shown her students a documentary on the Vietnam War. The film crystallized her disbelief that there is anyone who lived through that war who can’t see the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq – that our wants do not supersede those of the citizens of other countries.

Ellen observed that daily we read of “56 killed in bombings across Iraq”, “ 32 killed in violence in Baghdad” and that most respond with a “ho-hum, I’m too busy.” Even if we care, we’re “not political.”

The backdrop of our lives is bloodshed. In most movies, for our entertainment, someone dies violently. When a young man suffers a psychotic break, we pump him full of bullets. We bomb, massacre, and torture to fuel our SUV’s.

And a young man in Virginia learned the U.S. lesson well. Just like George Bush, he knew that force is the answer. The beat poet, Diane di Prima, astutely observed, “This death culture cannot imagine solutions that do not bleed.”

But alternatives do exist. It’s time to start imagining them. It’s urgent.

Susan C. Lamont


Yesterday’s post included a link to a Washington Post article, Va. Killings Widely Seen as Reflecting a Violent Society. Scott Horton, an attorney active in human rights, president of the International League for Human Rights, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, has a terrific blog, No Comment.

In his post this morning, The Tragedy at Virginia Tech Viewed from Abroad, Scott summarizes comments from newspapers in Spain, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. From these comments, Scott concludes, “Around the world, America is being portrayed as a land of wanton violence, obsessed with firearms—as the locus of a bizarre death cult. The grounds for this are not simply what happened at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School, but the way the American public has reacted to these tragedies.”

(photo of dead Iraqi child - ChuckCurrieblogs.com)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"At the wrong place, at the wrong time"

Yesterday, as I drove home after spending 24 hours helping care for my ten week-old twin grandchildren, I listened to snippets of speeches from the convocation in memory of the students who were killed at Virginia Tech on Monday. What I remember most vividly is Bush saying that the victims were “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” This is so true. They were hapless victims of a random killer, and we mourn their deaths and injuries.

My problem is that we in this country don’t appear to mourn the deaths of others across the world “in the wrong place at the wrong time ” like the Iraqi child in the photo.

I’m not alone. My favorite bloggers, Juan Cole of Informed Comment and Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch.com feel the same way.

Yesterday Juan wrote Iraq has two Virginia Techs every day: “The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. …[by] next Tuesday I will…report to you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg. We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without. But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?"

In his post yesterday, Juan linked to what he wrote On February 26: “A suicide bomber with a bomb belt got into the lobby of the School of Administration and Economy of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and managed to set it off despite being spotted at the last minute by university security guards. The blast killed 41 and wounded a similar number according to late reports, with body parts everywhere and big pools of blood in the foyer as students were shredded by the high explosives.”

My question: How many of us paid attention to this “incident,” so similar to what happened at Virginia Tech?

In Tom Engelhardt’s excellent post, Words to Die For, published the same day as the Virginia killings, he states: “…. this Monday -- the "early" tallies showed 6 GIs and 69 Iraqis killed and 39 wounded (and we're only talking about immediately reported bodies here); while on the previous day, 5 GIs, 2 Britons, and 109 Iraqis died (with 173 were wounded), and on the day before that, 164 Iraqis were killed, 345 injured, and 26 kidnapped. In terms only of the recorded dead of those three "normal" days of "stability and security" under the President's "surge" plan, we're talking, in terms of the dead, about the equivalent of more than 12 Virginia-Tech-style massacres.”

This evening, as I checked the online news, I read an Associated Press story, Four bombs kill at least 178 in Baghdad, …”the deadliest day in the city since the start of the U.S.-Iraqi campaign to pacify the capital two months ago.

In the deadliest of the attacks, a parked car bomb detonated in a crowd of workers at the Sadriyah market in central Baghdad, killing at least 122 people and wounding 148, said Raad Muhsin, an official at Al-Kindi Hospital where the victims were taken.”

Certainly those who were killed in Baghdad were also “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

How does the world view the Virginia killings? According to this morning’s Washington Post article, Va. Killings Widely Seen as Reflecting a Violent Society, “Officials, newspaper columnists and citizens around the world Tuesday described the Virginia Tech massacre as the tragic reflection of an America that fosters violence at home and abroad, even as it attempts to dictate behavior to the rest of the world.”

It’s time to take stock of who we are and what we believe about the value of all human lives.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Preview of a review - IT CAN HAPPEN HERE

On March 5, I posted IT CAN HAPPEN HERE -By Joe Conason - My first book review and I'd like your help, and about ten people responded that they would be interested in reading the book and contributing their comments to my review of the book.

My initial impression of the book:

1. In "Acknowledgments," Joe listed 92 people whose writing “informed the book” That’s impressive. I could spend a great deal of time finding out more about all of these people. I recognize about half the names and respect these writers, except for George Will (conservative Washington Post opinion writer).

2. Each chapter stands alone, i.e., you can select any chapter and read it without reading the other chapters at the same time. This is a real plus for those of us who don't have time to sit down and read a book from cover to cover.

3. The book appeals to people who haven’t spent a lot of time keeping up on the “authoritarian peril in the age of Bush,” as well as those of us who read everything we can about the risks to our democracy as long as Bush remains in office.

June, my first-cousin-twice-removed and almost 87 years old (see my February 9 post), sent me her comments. If you’ve read the book, I hope you will send me your comments to “inform the book review,” Gail@GailJonas.com. Because each chapter stands alone, you can send comments limited to one chapter. My plan is to have the review ready to post the first week of May.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Keep Your Eye on Petraeus - Part Three

Last January, as Lt. General David Petraeus headed for Iraq to command the U.S. troops, I posted Keep Your Eye on Petraeus. Despite the apparent inconsistency between what Petraeus set out to do in Iraq and what he recommended be done when fighting terrorists in the “counterinsurgency” field manual, FM3-24, which had just been released, I wanted him to succeed so our troops could come home and the Iraqis could get on with their lives.

On March 20, I posted Part Two, in which I quoted Juan Cole of Informed Comment, who gave Petraeus credit for having the courage to say that if he couldn’t see a genuine improvement in the security situation by June, he would have an obligation to his own troops to say so.

Now, almost a month later, Robert Fisk* wrote a stunning article on April 11 in the UK Independent, Divide and Rule - American's Plan for Baghdad.

The opening sentence: “Revealed: a new counter-insurgency strategy to carve up the city into sealed areas. The tactic failed in Vietnam. So what chance does it have in Iraq?"

The article goes on to describe how vast areas of the city will be sealed off, “enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter.”

According to Fisk, “The latest security plan…was concocted by General David Petraeus, the current US commander in Baghdad....A former US officer in Vietnam who has a deep knowledge of General Petraeus's plans is skeptical of the possible results.”

Fisk also mentions counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24: “While not specifically advocating the 'gated communities' campaign, one of its principles is the unification of civilian and military activities, citing …the 'provincial reconstruction teams' in Afghanistan - a project widely condemned for linking military co-operation and humanitarian aid.”

Equally alarming: “But the campaign has far wider military ambitions than the pacification of Baghdad. It now appears that the US military intends to place as many as five mechanised brigades - comprising about 40,000 men - south and east of Baghdad, at least three of them positioned between the capital and the Iranian border. This would present Iran with a powerful - and potentially aggressive - American military force close to its border in the event of a US or Israeli military strike against its nuclear facilities later this year.”

I feel sorry for General Petraeus because he works for the Commander in Chief, George W. Bush. According to General John Sheehan of the Marine Corps, who wrote an op-ed in this morning’s Washington Post, Why I Declined to Serve (as “White House implementation manager” over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), “What I found in discussions with current and former members of this administration is that there is no agreed-upon strategic view of the Iraq problem or the region. In my view, there are essentially three strategies in play simultaneously.

The first I call ‘the Woody Hayes basic ground attack,’ which is basically gaining one yard -- or one city block -- at a time. Given unconstrained time and resources, one could control the outcome in Iraq and provide the necessary security to move on to the next stage of development.”

It’s obvious that General Sheehan doesn’t think much of this strategy. However, it sounds to me that General Petraeus may well be stuck with it, at least in Baghdad. And it sounds like Petraeus is implementing Bush's plans for a potential attack on Iran.

*I admire Fisk very much, having read two of his books, The Great War for Civilisation – The Conquest of the Middle East and Pity the Nation. He reports “from the ground” in the Middle East. I’m amazed he’s still alive.

(photo – voanews.com)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Ubiquitous Plastic Bag

Typically, when I paddle my kayak down a river, no matter where it is located, there are plastic bags clinging to the branches of the adjacent trees. This occurs even when the rivers have long stretches without road access.

This morning, the New York Times editorial, Bagging Eternal Plastics, explained why plastic bags are so ubiquitous:“Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags every year, mountains of plastic that can last for 1,000 years, give or take a few centuries. And when they are not properly thrown away, they litter the countryside, killing birds or choking creatures like sea turtles. The bags now flap from so many bushes and trees that some South Africans started calling them their national flower.”

According to the WorldWatch Institute, 4 trillion to 5 trillion nondegradable plastic bags are used worldwide annually as last reported in 2002.

Is anything being done about “the world’s polyethylene mountain range,” as described in the New York Times editorial?

The answer is yes, though other countries, like Ireland, appear to be well ahead of the United States. However, on March 28, San Francisco was the first U.S. city to ban plastic shopping bags. Supermarkets and chain pharmacies will have to use recyclable or compostable sacks.

Here in Healdsburg, a tourist mecca 75 miles north of San Francisco, my friend Tod Brilliant is launching an effort to “ban the bag.” I like Tod’s approach, which is to appeal to the merchants, convincing them this is a great idea.

For those of us who don’t want to wait for our election officials to take action:
1) take cloth bags with you when you shop
2) check out BringYourBag.org, a blog that is reporting on what’s happening around the world as individuals, communities, cities, states, and countries grapple with the ubiquitous plastic bag. You’ll know you’re not alone.

(photos: tree and stork: Planetark.com; turtle: TheAge.Com; under water: John's Marine and Environmental Blog)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Paul Wolfowitz must go

A couple of weeks ago, in the April 9 issue of New Yorker magazine, I read a long and mostly favorable article about Paul Wolfowitz, The Next Crusade. There were only a couple of paragraphs about his companion, Shaha Ali Riza.

However, these comments by the author of the article, John Cassidy, provided a clue about what has now become a political bombshell:
“ The incident that prompted the most comment internally involved Shaha Ali Riza. When Wolfowitz was nominated to the bank presidency, he disclosed his relationship with Riza, who was working in the bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) department. Under the bank’s regulations, spouses or partners are prohibited from supervising one another or from working in the same cone of authority. As president, Wolfowitz oversees a cone of authority encompassing nearly all the bank’s employees, including those in MENA. The board of directors’ ethics committee took the view that Riza should be transferred to a position outside his supervision. Wolfowitz asked that she be allowed to maintain her job at MENA and to work with him as necessary, offering to recuse himself from any decisions concerning her pay and work conditions. 'It really gave a bad impression, especially for somebody who was making a big issue of good governance,' a former senior official at the bank said. 'The president is supposed to set an example to everybody, and yet here he wanted to have his girlfriend working with him, which is flatly prohibited under bank rules.'

Ultimately, Riza was seconded to the State Department. To compensate her for the disruption of her career at the bank, she was promoted to the managerial level, and she has received two pay raises, bringing her salary to a hundred and ninety-three thousand dollars—more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes. 'The staff are very upset,' Alison Cave, the chairman of the World Bank Staff Group Association, said, explaining that the raises amounted to special treatment that violated established bank guidelines."

As former Deputy Secretary of Defense and one of the architects of the war in Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz was a highly visible public figure before he was appointed president of the World Bank. According to the New Yorker article, "Early in Wolfowitz’s presidency, he announced that his priorities would include...fighting corruption among governments that received bank aid.”

So what did Wolfowitz do? “….a few months after he arrived at the bank he appointed Suzanne Rich Folsom as head of the Department of Institutional Integrity, the bank’s internal-investigations unit, which follows up allegations of fraud in bank projects.

Folsom is a Washington ethics lawyer with strong ties to the Republican Party. (Her husband, George Folsom, a foreign-policy specialist, worked for the Administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.) Before Wolfowitz’s arrival, the bank had enlisted the help of an executive-search firm, which, out of a large pool of candidates, identified nine finalists. After reviewing these names, Wolfowitz rejected them all and selected Folsom.... According to one of Wolfowitz’s aides, he regarded Folsom as eminently qualfied for the job, and he was also impressed by her performance at the investigations department. Others at the bank saw things differently. ‘Paul turned around to the world and said that she was appointed following an international search,’ one senior official who has now left the bank said to me. ‘That was technically true. There was an international search. But she was not part of that search. He shredded the list and then brought in a loyalist from the Republican Party.’”

In the past few days, the news has been focusing on what appears to be Wolfowitz’s inappropriate actions involving securing his companion a job with an annual salary that tops Condi Rice’s.

But that isn’t all. On April 13, the New York Times article, Wolfowitz Fight has Subplot began, "When President Bush appointed Paul D. Wolfowitz as the president of the World Bank two years ago, the White House had to put down an insurrection among European nations that viewed the administration’s best-known neoconservative as a symbol of American unilateralism and arrogance.... it is clear that the chorus of calls in recent days for Mr. Wolfowitz’s ouster is only partly about his involvement in setting up a comfortable job, with a big pay raise, for a bank officer who is Mr. Wolfowitz’s companion."

Enter Steve Clemons* of The Washington Note, whose online article published on April 13, Express Your Views on Why Wolfowitz Must Resign includes his letter to a World Bank official about why Wolfowitz should resign, 42 e-mail addresses for World Bank officials, and special instructions for writing to Robert Kimmit, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, who, according to Clemons, “holds many of the cards on whether Wolfowitz goes or stays.”

Leave it to my friend, Janie Sheppard, to take Clemons’ advice to heart. You may recall that I wrote about Janie on March 25, Steven Griles admits to lying - exclusive report from former employee. Here’s her letter:
========================================
Dear Mr. Kimmitt:

As an important player in any decision of whether Mr. Wolfowitz stays or goes, I urge you to advocate for his resignation, or, failing that, his firing.

Having read numerous accounts of his wrongdoing, which is especially offensive in light of his campaign against corruption, I am sure that he cannot be an effective leader for the World Bank.

This morning I was struck by the lack of foresight on the part of Mr. Wolfowitz and his companion. They should have known that her move to a higher-paying position in order to avoid the nepotism rules of the World Bank was wrong. Instead, they seem to feel that the higher paying job was due her for "any inconvenience". And apparently, in their view, that made it acceptable to ignore the rules of common sense.

Anyone who couldn't have the sense to avoid the appearance of corruption while leading a campaign against it should not be in an important governmental position.

Is it too much to ask of the government that its appointees display common sense?

I think not and I believe you would agree.

Janie Sheppard
Ukiah, CA

===========================================
You might want to accept Clemons’ invitation to contact World Bank officials and express your views on why Wolfowitz should resign. There appear to be plenty of reasons.

*Clemons ends his April 13 post with the description of an incident he described as "fascinating". On April 14, he posted two more articles regarding Wolfowitz which may provide you with more material for writing that letter.

(Wolfowitz photo- Interet-general.info)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Action du jour - Halt Holt!

It’s time to move from “must-read” to “must-do.”

The action? Faxing or phoning your Congressperson by this Monday, April 16, urging him/her to oppose the Holt bill, H.R. 811, formally known as the “Voter Confidence and Increased Accountability Act of 2007.”

How can this be? MoveOn and Common Cause are supporting it. There are 200 cosponsors of the bill. Why aren’t I and countless other election integrity activists supporting it? Because it’s flawed, too flawed to support. I understand this is an uphill battle.

What do we have on our side?
A. We’ve done our homework. A cursory check of the Election Defense Alliance (EDA) website (link below) will convince you that we aren’t a bunch of lightweights.
B. Election officials are protesting passage of the bill, as revealed in The Hill, Election officials predict chaos, protest reform bill, published April 12, 2007.

Most of you know that I’ve been involved in election integrity since January of 2004. I consider halting Holt as one of the most important tasks for all citizens who care about transparent and accurate elections.

To make it easy for you to get informed and take action, a handful of people at ElectionDefenseAlliance.org have worked incredibly hard to assemble everything you need. If you only have time to go to one page, I recommend Action Alert. Thanks to Dan Ashby, a co-founder of EDA, you’ll find a well-organized page that will describe reasons to oppose H.R. 811 plus links to what you need to send a message by fax, phone or e-mail to your representative.

If you have a little more time, go to Why the Election Assistance Commission Must Be Abolished by the amazing Nanci Tobi of DemocracyforNewHampshire.com. H.R. 811 will give the EAC, whose members are appointed by the White House, permanent control over voting system technologies and standards.

I wish I could ask you to just trust me that the Holt bill is flawed and that your help is needed to stop it. However, since there are so many mighty forces united in support of it, I don’t expect you take my word. I just hope that you care enough that you’ll take a few minutes to get informed and a few more minutes to take action.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A looming shortage - what is being done about it?

This evening while driving home from the pool where I practice rolling my kayak, I listened to WBUR, a National Public Radio station in Boston. With so much unraveling of the Bush Administration in the news, it’s been easy for me to ignore other important stories.

But this one got to me as a member at the older end of the baby boomers: a looming shortage of nurses. You can listen to or download the documentary at InsideOut.org - The Nursing Shortage. According to the report, “America 's nursing shortage has been compared to a perfect storm gathering in intensity. In just over a decade nearly 80 million baby boomers will be in or reaching retirement, their medical needs placing an immense strain on our health care system…the demand for nurses is expected to increase by 40 percent over the next decade while the supply steadily drops.”

I won’t notice the incredible shortage of nurses until I, or someone I care about, ends up in a hospital. However, from now on I’m going to pay attention to how our country plans to deal with this major, but overlooked, problem.

(photo of Florence Nightingale from CottonTimes.co.uk)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hold on to your hat - it's time to Halt Holt!

In my post on March 16, “”Failure to pursue voter fraud is not a plausible reason for purging prosecutors, I linked to a report by ProjectVote.org, the Politics of Voter Fraud.

Here are the key findings of that report:

  • Voter fraud is the “intentional corruption of the electoral process by the voter"
  • Voter fraud is extremely rare
  • The lack of evidence of voter fraud is not because of a failure to codify it
  • Most voter fraud allegations turn out to be something other than voter fraud
  • The more complex are the rules regulating voter registration and voting, the more likely voter mistakes, clerical errors, and the like will be wrongly identified as voter fraud
  • There is a long history in America of elites using voter fraud allegations to restrict and shape the electorate.

Since January of 2004, I’ve been dogging voting issues, jeopardizing my health in the process. I've been keeping my eye on the Elections Assistance Commission, whose commissioners are appointed by the White House. It’s responsible for implementing the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which was supposed to correct the voting problems that occurred in the 2000 election and has actually made them worse.

This morning, when I saw the online article at the New York Times, Panel Said to Alter Findings on Voter Fraud, I wasn’t as surprised as some people. The opening paragraphs of the article: “A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by the New York Times. Instead, the panel, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.”

Ha! So if this didn’t surprise me, I’ll tell you what does: Both MoveOn and Common Cause are supporting legislation, the Holt Bill, H.R. 811, which would increase the powers of the Elections Assistance Commission. If this bill passes, the Elections Assistance Commission would be given permanent power and control over all voting equipment. Do we want an appointive body which alters reports to be given more power?

Why do you need to hold on to your hat? Because there's a whirlwind of action regarding halting Holt. Go to ElectionDefenseAlliance.org, (EDA) to find out how you can help. To learn more about why H.R. 811 should be stopped in its tracks, go to H.R. 811 Unsafe for Democracy - Halt Holt! Link here to learn more about Why the Election Assistance Commission Must Be Abolished.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reminder: African Children's Choir coming to northern California on April 27


If this post looks familiar, it’s because it’s an update of my January 27 post, My End Run Around Government. Same photo, same message, except that the concert is now only a couple of weeks away.

If you haven’t yet purchased a ticket, go to HeiferMusicForLife.org. I hope to see you at the concert.

After the concert, I and four of my friends will be greeting the children when they arrive at Cloverleaf Ranch, where they will spend the night.

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

Monday, April 09, 2007

The imperial presidency is not a disease; it is a symptom

It’s easy to think that our problems started when George W. Bush was appointed president by the United States Supreme Court in 2000. However, according to Andrew Bacevich, (photo) Professor of International Relations at Boston University, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, “The imperial presidency [of the Bush Administration] is not a disease; it is a symptom.”

In a must-read article, The Semiwarriors, Bacevich takes us back to post-World War II when James Forrestal, the First Secretary of Defense, coined the term “’semiwar’…to promote permanent quasi mobilization as the essential response to permanent global crisis.” He concludes, “From Forrestal’s day to the present, semiwarriors have viewed democratic politics as problematic. Debate means delay.”

For those of us who hope that the election of a Democratic president plus a Democratic-controlled Congress will make a difference, Bacevich dashes these hopes: “Will the errors and excesses of the Bush Administration spell the demise of the imperial presidence? Don’t count on it….none of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of checks and balances….The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them.”

Bacevich ends his article, “In an age of the citzen as consumer-spectator, Americans care enough to complain, but not nearly enough to act. Long live the emperor.”

I first heard about Andrew Bacevich at Tomdispatch.com. Tom interviews Bacevich
here (Part I, The Delusions of Global Hegemony) and here (Part II, Drifting Down the Path to Perdition). I respect this man, but I hope I live long enough to prove Bacevich wrong, i.e., that Americans care enough to act.

(photo from Google Image: American Academy)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Move over, George Packer

I’ve been examining my need to visit quite a few blogs each day. What is going on? Are there others out there who are spending an inordinate amount of time reading blogs?

Then I remembered that several years ago, George Packer, author of the best-selling book, Assassins’ Gate and a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, admitted that he was addicted to blogs.

Packer's confession appeared in the May-June 2004 issue of Mother Jones magazine, The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged: “ I hate blogs. I'm also addicted to them. Hours dissolve into nothing when I suit up and dematerialize into the political blogosphere, first visiting one of the larger, nearer online opinion diaries … then beaming myself outward along rays of pixelated light to dozens of satellites and lesser stars, …each one radiant with links to other galaxies — online newspapers and magazines with deep, deep archives, think-tank websites, hundred-page electronic reports in PDF — until I'm light-years from the point of departure and can rescue myself only by summoning the will to disconnect from the whole artificial universe. With a jolt, I land in front of my computer. Before long I'll venture forth again to see what's new out there — because the blogosphere changes from instant to instant.”

That sounds so familiar. What I’ve been able to discern about my blog reading:

1. It started about five years ago by checking TalkingPointsMemo every afternoon. This was my first experience reading commentary on the news, i.e., someone to search through the news, analyze it, and render an opinion about what it means.

2. I now read 5-10 blogs a day; several are linked at my blog.

3. The best bloggers provide an invaluable service. For instance, yesterday Juan Cole, Informed Comment, linked to his article in The Nation, How to Get Out of Iraq. If I hadn’t read his article, this morning's Washington Post article, Politics Collide with Iraq Realities - Commanders Seek Longer-Term Focus might have been persuasive.

George Packer opens The Revolution Will Not Be Blogged with this statement: “To see beyond their own little world and get a sense of what’s really going on, journalists and readers need to get out of their pajamas.”

Ah, George, I agree with you, but I need the best bloggers to help me make sense of the world, i.e., to figure out what’s “really going on.” Then I can get out of my pajamas and take on the world in my own small way.

(Cartoon from Loiclemeur.com)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

FOREIGN POLICY FANTASY INSANITY

On January 25, I posted, Whither Iran? in which I wrote, “Who thinks the Bush Administration is planning to attack Iran? For starters, there’s Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh.”

Joining this well-respected and informed duo is my friend, Jim Stoops,* (photo) who has written the post below. Thank you, Jim, for doing such a thorough job.

Why the Bush Administration will invade Iran, or déjà vu all over again


Motivations
1. Iran has lots of oil
2. Iran is located in easy missile striking distance of Israel
3. Iran is a Muslim nation
4. The neocon Bushites fear nations with nuclear capability
5. It’s what the neocon Bushites want and no one will stop them
6. Imperial powers are not beholden to morality, ethics or laws

The evidence of increased U.S. hostilities toward Iran
1. Two aircraft carrier groups, each accompanied by destroyers, cruisers, submarines, cruise missile ships, and 80 combat aircraft capable of more than 150 strikes a day.
2. Recent U.S. acquisition of anti-missile bases in the Czech Republic and Poland and the activation of three new Air Force bases in Bulgaria and Romania.
3. The replacement of Army general Abizaid with Navy Admiral Fallon as head of Central Command. An attack on Iran requires naval operations.
4. A package of onerous sanctions on Iran, pushed by the Bush Administration and endorsed by the UN Security Council.
5. A January 10 speech by Bush threatening Iran and Syria, accusing them of supporting the Iraqi insurgency, essentially blaming the Iran government for his lack of success in Iraq.
6. Bush and Defense Dept spokesmen Snow and Whitman both deny that the US is thinking of a military attack and that the administration is committed to a diplomacy, in spite of Bush's consistent refusal to talk with Iran.
7. The Kuwaiti-based Arab Times daily reported a US military strike on Iran before the end of April that would target oil installations and nuclear facilities from US ships. The report was circulated News and China Daily.
8. The Guardian (UK) reports Pentagon plans to strike more than 10,000 targets in of a war that Central Command has been planning for over a year.
9. The positioning of new US refueling sites for Stealth Bombers was reported by Bulgaria news.
10. In March 3,000 military personnel will arrive at US bases in Bulgaria. Up to 2,000 troops will be stationed in Romania.
11. Chalmers Johnson's "The Sorrows of Empire" says Iran is the only serious block to US military domination of the whole region.
12. On January 14, 2007 Bush National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley refused to rule out the possibility of an attack on Iran.
13. Seymour Hersh revealed in The New Yorker last year that American bombers have been flying simulated nuclear weapons delivery missions since last summer.
14. In 2004 the Nuclear Security Presidential Directive 35 authorized the deployment of "tactical" nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
15. The Arab Times of Kuwait reports that General Leonid Ivashov, former Joint Chief of Staff of the Russian Army and a leading military strategist, says the US will use nuclear munitions delivered by cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean. He said also that the Iraq war was just one element in a series of steps toward regional destabilization.
16. The World Economic Forum on January 24, 2007 opened with a discussion of Bush's planned attack on Iran. The Secretary General of the League of Arab States plus bankers and businessmen from US allies such as Bahrain and United Arab Emirates all warned of the coming attack and its catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and the world.
17. Two additional Carrier Task Force Groups are scheduled to arrive in the Persian Gulf
in April, ostensibly to "replace" the USS Eisenhower and USS Stennis that arrived in January. This will mean the presence of four carrier groups, each with the capacity, listed in evidence #1, i.e., over 320 planes capable of 600 strikes per day. This represents a massive and unprecedented amount of naval firepower assembled in one location.
18. This air assault has been in the planning since before November, 2003 when US Strategic Command near Omaha completed its preparations for waging preemptivestrikes against Iran and North Korea. This was reported in the Washington Post May 15, 2005 under the name CONPLAN 8022 to be carried out by StratCom.
19. Recently, three US military officials accused the Iranian government of arming Iraqi insurgents with roadside bombs, based on markings on the bombs, including dates of manufacture. General Peter Pace, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said there is noevidence of Iranian government involvement. As it turns out a US dating system was used, not and Iranian one.
20. The Democrats abandoned the Iran War Amendment preventing the use of the $100 billion appropriation for a war on Iran, giving Bush carte blanche.
21. Bush ignored the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group and went with the recommendations of the neocon American Enterprise Institute.
22. When asked about a possible attack on Iran, Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards all said we have to keep all options on the table.
23. When asked about a Senate Resolution to stop the surge of 20,000 troops to Iraq, Dick Cheney said, "It won't stop us"

The evidence of lack of a basis for attacking Iran
1. Iran is strongly opposed to Al Queda, condemned the 911 attacks and supported the US in Afghanistan.
2. The Iran government is not engaged in the cross-border supply of weapons to Iraq that they are accused of. According to the CIA, NY Times, L.A. Times, Senior British Military Officials and General Peter Pace, Chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, nosuch evidence exists.
3. Iran produces no nuclear weapons and has never threatened to build one.
4. The CIA estimates that even with the political will, Iran is incapable of building a nuclear weapon before 2017 at the earliest.
5. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has never cited Iran for diverting its nuclear program to military use.
6. The IAEA inspectors have had free reign to inspect the nuclear installations at Isfahan and Natanz as recently as January 10 and 12, 2007 and were to return on February 2
and 6.
7. Mohamad El Baradei (Head of IAEA) has said that an attack on Iran will be catastrophic and only encourage them to become a nuclear power.
8. Unlike the US, Iran has attacked no other countries, has a history of obeying International Law, occupies no other territory and has abided by the rules of the NuclearNon-Proliferation Treaty.
9. It should be noted that US presidents have a habit of lying to get us into wars, none more frequently and blatantly than George W. Bush.

Sources
1. The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh, "The Next Act" 11-20-06
2. The Sunday Times UK, S. Baxter & U. Mahnaioni, "Israel Plans Nuclear Strike on Iran" 1-12-07
3. Guardian UK, Dan Plesch, "Next Target Iran" 1-15-07
4. Workers World, Sara Flounders, "Bush Gang Surges Toward War on Iran" 1-18-07
5. Global Network, Gabriel Ronay, "US Poised to Strike Iran's Nuclear Sites From Bulgaria and Romania" 1-30-07
6. Consortium News, Common Dreams, "Iran Clock is Ticking" 1-31-07
7. Ichblog.eu, Paul Craig Roberts, "Bush is About to Attack Iran" 1-27-07
8. Truthout, Steve Hammons, "Will Bush, Cheney Attack Iran?" 2-2-07
9. Global Network, John Pilger, "Iran: A War is Coming" 2-3-07
10. Democracy Now!/Vanity Fair, Craig Unger, "The Neocons Are Pushing For an Attack on Iran" & Harper's, Rick MacArthur, "Iraq Getting Weapons From Iran?"
2-13-07
11. Global Network, The American Conservative, Philip Giraldi and Washington Post, William Arkin, (no titles) 2-16-07
12. Bloomberg.com, Andy Critchlow, "USS Stennis Carrier Group in Gulf Region"
2-20-07
13. Le Figaro, Renaud Girard, "The US Can’t Launch a Military Offensive against Iran Today" 2-23-07
14. Associated Press/ABC News, Chris Brummit, "Pace Questions Iranian Government Giving Arms to Iran" 2-23-07
15. The Telegraph UK, Con Coughlin, "Israel Seeks All Clear For Iran Air Strikes" 2-24-07
16. The Arab Times Kuwait, Editor Ahmed al-Jarallah, 1-14-07 17. The Nation, Editorial, "Saber Rattling Over Iran" 5-22-06

*Jim is a long-time environmental and political activist. He worked in research chemistry for Stauffer Chemical, Chevron's Ortho Division, and Honeywell's Research Center. He has been a member of a intentional community, Emerald Earth Sanctuary, located north of Boonville, California, for 15 years. The community focuses on learning and teaching others how to live sustainably with natural buildings, composting toilets, permaculture techniques, etc. Jim helped with the passage of a countywide ordinance prohibiting the importation or growing of genetically modified foods within Mendocino County.

Jim and I share a common interest in election integrity and we both participate in the California Election Protection Network.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Our tax dollars at work


It’s that time of year when I become acutely uncomfortable with where my tax dollars are going. The New Yorker astutely sends this message on its April 9, 2007 cover.*

How much of the “tax pie” includes military spending? There’s a pie chart at Ben Cohen’s (the “Ben” of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream) SensiblePriorities.org.

According to Ben, “About three-fifths of the federal budget covers expenses that are written into law, including payment on the national debt, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. This is usually called “mandatory” or “entitlement” spending.

The part of the budget that the President and Congress create each year is called the discretionary budget. In the just-concluded fiscal year, more than half of the discretionary budget for a total amount of $463 billion was spent by the Pentagon. These dollars don't include funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , nor do they include most homeland security programs, which are paid for in other areas of the budget.”

And what about our tax dollars funding the war in Iraq? SensiblePriorities.org has a link to a 2 ½ minute video clip from a CNN January, 2007 news report that compares what is being spent in Iraq with what that money could do for the infrastructure in this country.

I have a ‘pie chart” pin that Ben distributed when he came to Santa Rosa with Representative Lynn Woolsey last year. You can order it and pens with pull-out strips showing how much we spend for defense in contrast to other countries at this link.

As if knowing most of our tax dollars are being used for destruction, not construction, is not enough bad news, an April 5 article in the Washington Post, IRS Found Lax in Protecting Taxpayer Data reported, “Thousands of taxpayers could be at risk of identity theft or other financial fraud because the Internal Revenue Service has failed to adequately protect information on its 52,000 laptop computers and other storage systems, a new government report concludes.”

*”T-Day, by Christopher Niemann

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Discarded

Within the past week, three things happened that made me painfully aware of how easily the homeless are discarded in this country:



1. An article: I read TomDispatch.com's April 1st post by Chip Ward, recently retired assistant director at the Salt Lake City Public Library System, The Public Library as an Asylum for the Homeless. This is an incredibly moving article, and the reader will undoubtedly feel sorry not only for the homeless who use the library for shelter but also for the librarians and the well-housed and well-fed members of the public who come to the library and are bothered by how noisy and smell these homeless people are.

2. A movie: The Pursuit of Happyness (watch the trailer) about a down-and-out father and his five year old son and how precarious their lives were until the father, unusually tenacious and lucky, moved from rags to riches.

3. A friend: “W,” has been working for me for about seven years. He shows up in my backyard nearly every day, and if I don’t have an odd job for him, he reads. He walks to and from his “camp” outside of town where he sleeps year round, his only company a feral cat that he has tamed, along with occasional curious raccoons and deer.

W is one of those people who fall through the cracks in our society: probably not mentally or physically ill enough to get SSI, but not mentally well enough to hold down a job. He’s tried, but he can’t.

Until about a month ago, W remained in good health. Then he fell and injured his knee. He would limp into town, try to do a few chores, then limp back to his camp. He stopped showing up on a regular basis. A week ago, he stopped by while I wasn’t here to get a few dollars. Then he didn’t show up for over a week.

A couple of nights ago, I became concerned that he couldn’t walk and was stuck in his camp with no food or water, i.e., that he could die out there and no one would know. I had no idea where his camp was, but a friend knew its location within a quarter mile or so. I decided someone needed to go find W. My friend’s brother, D, volunteered. At the same time D parked his car in my driveway, W showed up. I burst into tears out of relief that he was okay.

My personal friendship with a homeless person, who is bright, truthful, loyal, yet unable to make it in the work world, has convinced me that there are many, many people out there like W. These people need help.

Quoting Chip Ward, “America is proud of its hyper-individualism, our liberation from the bonds of tribe and the social constraints of traditional societies. We glorify the accomplishments of inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, pioneers, and artists. But while some individuals thrive and the cutting edge of our technology is wondrous, the plight of the chronically homeless tells me that our communities are also fragmented and disintegrating. We may have gained the world and lost each other.”

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

News alert: Iran to release 15 Britons held since March 23

Announced this morning in a New York Times alert, “Iran said today it would immediately release 15 British sailors and marines who have been held captive in Iran since March 23. In the announcement of the release, President Ahmadinejad* “also criticized Britain for its involvement in the war in Iraq. ‘We are sorry that British troops remain in Iraq and their sailors and being arrested in Iran.’”

Juan Cole, who blogs at Informed Comment and writes a column for Salon.com, thinks that the motive behind seizing the 15 British sailors and marines is an effort to rally anti-Western sentiment and force the Brits from Iraq, as set forth in his column yesterday, Iran's Hostage Crisis, well worth reading.

*photo of Grand Ayatollah Khameni and the Iranian President

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Recommended reading: Weed Garden and Thoughts from Kansas


There are millions of bloggers around the world. I’m discovering that there are countless “ordinary people,” meaning those who aren’t famous, who are writing about diverse and interesting things.

Here are two webblogs that I have on my desktop, and a brief explanation of why I’ve chosen to single them out:

Weed Garden, where Bonnie Allen has been posting since August 12, 2005. I’ve known Bonnie for many years because we’ve worked together on public funding of campaigns. Bonnie has been the North Bay (California) leader for the California Clean Money Campaign for several years. Her March 31 post, “The car you drive is a moral issue” is excellent. All of her posts are worth reading. I don’t have a photo of Bonnie, but the weedy field will do.

Thoughts from Kansas, where Joshua Rosenau (photo), a graduate student at the University of Kansas in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has been posting since August 10, 2004.

I had never heard of Thoughts from Kansas until last Saturday night when I was Googling the Pacific Legal Foundation to find out more about it since it’s been in the news related to the leaked report of proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act. After hours of checking each link and at about page 27 in Google, I came across this post dated March 30: Gutting the Endangered Species Act, or how a law becomes policy. What I really liked about it is that it linked me to a document that provided details of the proposed changes and compared them to current Act. I included this link in my April 2 post, “How damaging are the proposed revisions to the Endangered Species Act? – Decide for yourself."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Good news alert! Court Rebukes Administration in Global Warming Case

The New York Times alert: The Supreme Court ordered the federal government on Monday to take a fresh look at regulating carbon dioxide emissions from cars, a rebuke to Bush administration policy on global warming.

In a 5-4 decision, the court said the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars.

Connecticut and 11 other states, along with 13 environmental groups, sued the EPA over the issue.

How damaging are the proposed revisions to the Endangered Species Act? - Decide for yourself

This morning, the New York Times editorial described the Endangered Species Act as A Law Not to Be Trifled With. “…Democrats in the House jumped all over one of his assistant secretaries in the wake of a report that the department was secretly rewriting important regulations governing the Endangered Species Act with an eye to weakening it.”

The editorial goes on, “But the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, leaked to an environmental group, deserve special attention. One reason is that this administration has long wanted to narrow the scope of the act, which for years has been a target of property-rights groups, timber interests and developers, mostly in the West…. A bill containing some of these same changes failed in Congress last year….several of them [the changes] go to the very heart of the law — weakening federal oversight, undercutting the authority of agency scientists, making it more difficult to remove obstacles like dams and roads that threaten a species’ recovery and restricting the department’s ability to classify a species as threatened or endangered."

How serious are these changes? You can decide for yourself by going to Comparison of Existing and Draft Bush Administration Endangered Species Act Regulations, released on March, 2007, by the Center for Biological Diversity and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The differences are clearly described in easy-to-read chart form.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

'Voter Fraud': Watching our language, again, still

Today’s post is by guest blogger, John Burik (photo).* This article and others by John are posted at Democracy for America’s “Blog for America,” John Burik's Posts.

The term voter fraud has again crept into the public conversation with questions about the firing of US Attorneys. The alleged failure of certain attorneys to aggressively pursue "voter fraud" led to some of the attorneys' termination. Who wouldn't oppose voter fraud? We want clean elections as much as want clean air.

Voter fraud, however, refers to individual voters who improperly seek to register or vote. While it does occur and no one fighting for democracy supports it, fraudulent votes--resulting from individual voter behavior--are largely a myth. There were four (4) actual cases of voter fraud prosecuted in Ohio in 2004, and as state Senator Teresa Fedor put it last year, "Minnie Mouse didn't vote." Waldman and Levitt put the attorney firings and voter fraud in context in a Washington Post
piece.

Like terrorism the term is used to elicit fear and justify overly stringent identification requirements which have the effect of decreasing voter registration and turnout, de facto disenfranchisement of young, poor or minority voters. Hmm. Who would want to do that?

Unfortunately, the term voter fraud is again being conflated with the larger and real problem of election fraud which includes voter intimidation, misinformation, defective software, and provisional and absentee ballots improperly discarded.


So watch your language and insist speakers and writers get honest--and accurate--on the issue. The US Attorneys "failing" to pursue voter fraud means they refused to be complicit in disenfranchsing likely Democratic voters.

*John Burik, Cincinnati, active in CASE-Ohio (Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections). Back in November of 2004, when I decided that what was going on with the Presidential election in Ohio was “the epicenter of the world,” (Jesse Jackson used these words as he talked to plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the election of Bush), I put all of my energy into finding recount observers and attorneys from all over the country to go to Ohio to challenge the election results. As I worked on finding free airfare and lodging for the volunteers, I was put in contact with John. He sent out a request to the CASE-Ohio members, and within hours, I had seven families scattered across Ohio who volunteered to house out-of-state volunteers.

John and I have stayed in touch. He helps me understand what is going on in Ohio. Above and beyond the call of duty, John edits the attorney profiles that I write for my county bar association quarterly magazine. What more could a person ask for from a friend?