Friday, August 31, 2007

Who will be responsible if the Bush Administration attacks Iran?

On Wednesday I posted What could stop the Bush administration from attacking Iran?, linking to Glenn Greenwald’s post, The president's escalating war rhetoric on Iran. Greenwald’s concludes that there is nothing to stop the administration from starting a war with Iran.

Yesterday, Juan Cole posted Cheney & Iran: Here We Go Again? According to Cole, it appears that Cheney “…plans to roll out a military confrontation with Iran in September.” Cole encourages his readers to check out Post Labor Day Product Rollout - War with Iran, posted at the new group blog, Informed Comment Global Affairs.

Barnett Rubin, author of Post Labor Day Product Rollout, compares Bush’s August 28, 2007 speech making the case for an attack on Iran to Cheney’s August 26, 2002 speech making the case for attacking Iraq: Rubin continues, “Today I received a message from a friend who has excellent connections in Washington and whose information has often been prescient. According to this report, as in 2002, the rollout will start after Labor Day, with a big kickoff on September 11. My friend had spoken to someone in one of the leading neo-conservative institutions. He summarized what he was told this way:

"'They [the source's institution] have ‘instructions’ (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is ‘plenty.’'"

In his post, Cole provides several links to recent similar reporting.
So do I wait until after Labor Day to see if Rubin is right? No. I act now.

I still harbor a hope that the American people will wake up. They did in the 1970’s when they collectively declared “Enough is enough” and put pressure on a Democratically controlled Congress to impeach Nixon when it wasn’t on the table.

On January 11, 2006, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, who was on the House Judiciary Committee when Nixon was President, wrote The Impeachment of George W. Bush. Comparing Bush’s actions the Nixon’s, she states, “In 1973 impeachment was 'not on the table’ for many months while President Nixon's cover-up unraveled, even though Democrats controlled the House and Senate. But when Nixon fired the special prosecutor to avoid making his White House tapes public, the American people were outraged and put impeachment on the table, demanding that Congress act. That can happen again.” [bolding mine]

I think “That can happen again” should happen now. The runup to an attack on Iran should create as much outrage as Nixon's firing of the special prosecutor.

House Resolution 333, sponsored by Representative Dennis Kucinich and co-sponsored by numerous Congressional representatives, calls for impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney.

I’ve called my Congressional representative, Mike Thompson, to find out his position on attacking Iran and impeaching Cheney. His aide told me that Thompson’s position on these issues is “complicated” and that he will get back to me. Thompson will be hearing from me again.

The bottom line for me is that if we citizens are not outraged by the possibility of an attack on Iran and are unwilling to press Congress to put impeachment of Cheney and/or Bush and Cheney on the table, we are responsible for an attack on Iran.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

What could stop the Bush administration from attacking Iran?

On Tuesday of this week, President Bush spoke at the 89th annual national convention of the American Legion in Reno, Nevada. In front of an audience clearly supportive of Bush’s war aims, he really let loose on Iran. The full speech is available in five video clips, available here.

Wednesday, McClatchy headlined its article about Bush’s speech, "Bush sells Iraq troop-surge policy, slams Iran." The article was alarming enough, but Glenn Greenwald's post this morning for, "The president's escalating war rhetoric on Iran," made me feel very fearful that Bush indeed is likely to attack Iran.

Greenwald described Bush’s speech as containing “…more overt war threats than ever before towards Iran,” followed by several excerpts, including, “Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late.” (Applause.)

“Bush also added: ‘I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities.’ To underscore the fact that this is not mere rhetoric, the U.S. military in Iraq, following Bush's speech, arrested and detained eight Iranian energy experts meeting in Baghdad with the Iraqi government -- handcuffing, blindfolding, and interrogating them -- only to then release them when the Iraqi government protested. The path we are on -- with 160,000 of our troops in Iran's neighbor, escalating war-threatening rhetoric, and increasingly provocative acts -- is obviously the path to war.”

Greenwald then asks what could stop the Bush administration from attacking Iran: “Viewed through the prism of presidential jargon, Bush's vow – ‘We will confront this danger before it is too late’ -- is synonymous with a pledge to attack Iran unless our array of demands are met. He is unmistakably proclaiming that unless Iran gives up its nuclear program and fundamentally changes its posture in the Middle East, ‘we will confront this danger.’ What possible scenario could avert this outcome? [italics mine]

Greenwald runs through a number of possibilities: “There are, of course, significant steps that the Congress could take to impose at least some restraints on the Bush administration's ability to attack Iran unilaterally. It could make clear that the existing Iraq AUMF does not include authorization to attack Iran inside Iranian territory. It could enact legislation requiring Congressional approval before an attack on Iran is authorized. It could make clear that no funding will be available for any such attack in the absence of a Resolution authorizing a new war....

“But all of that is exceedingly unlikely. The Bush administration is obviously aware of how weak the Congress is. Even the most mild of those measures -- an amendment which would merely have required Congressional authorization before the administration attacks Iran -- was meekly withdrawn by Democratic House leaders back in May because, as The Hill reported, Israeli-centric Congressmen and AIPAC itself ‘lobbied heavily to remove the Iran provision in the supplemental.'
"Last month, the Senate unanimously passed a Lieberman-sponsored resolution gratuitously accusing Iran of acts of war against the U.S. -- a resolution with no purpose other than to strengthen the case for war against Iran. Clearly, Congress can (or at least will) do nothing to restrain the White House."

Greenwald points out that “The two most extremist factions when it comes to the Middle East -- Israel-centric neoconservatives and Christian evangelicals -- have long been telling the President that stopping Iran is his most important mission, the ultimate challenge that history will use to judge his strength, character and conviction. And it is beyond question that those are the groups who continue to hold the greatest sway over the decision-making process of the Commander-in-Chief himself."

There’s so much more in Greenwald’s post; I urge you to read the whole thing.

(photo of President Bush speaking to the American Legion on August 28, from the American Legion website)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ken Silverstein posts about Henry Siegman's article on Israel and the peace process

Yesterday, Ken Silverstein, who blogs for Harper's Magazine at Washington Babylon, posted Siegman on Israel, linking to the same article I did in my most recent post.

(frog from banner at Silverstein's blog)

Placing the peace process and Palestinian statehood in "formaldehyde."

On August 16, the London Review of Books published a thoughtful article by Henry Siegman, who is the director of the US/Middle East Project, having served as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations from 1994 to 2006, and as head of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994.

The article, "The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam," is well worth reading. Siegman briefly discusses previous peace initiatives and dismisses the likelihood of their success because, “…all previous peace initiatives have got nowhere for a reason that neither Bush nor the EU has had the political courage to acknowledge. That reason is the consensus reached long ago by Israel’s decision-making elites that Israel will never allow the emergence of a Palestinian state which denies it [Israel] effective military and economic control of the West Bank.”

According to Siegman, in Bush’s view, “…all previous peace initiatives have failed largely, if not exclusively, because Palestinians were not ready for a state of their own.” At the meeting scheduled for this fall, the focus will be on “Palestinian institution-building and reform, under the tutelage of Tony Blair, the Quartet's newly appointed envoy."

In Siegman’s opinion, “The Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history. Since the failed Camp David summit of 2000, and actually well before it, Israel’s interest in a peace process – other than for the purpose of obtaining Palestinian and international acceptance of the status quo – has been a fiction that has served primarily to provide cover for its systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and an occupation whose goal, according to the former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, is ‘to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people’….

“Israel’s disingenuous commitment to a peace process and a two-state solution is precisely what has made possible its open-ended occupation and dismemberment of Palestinian territory. And the Quartet – with the EU, the UN secretary general and Russia obediently following Washington’s lead – has collaborated with and provided cover for this deception by accepting Israel’s claim that it has been unable to find a deserving Palestinian peace partner….

“In an interview in Ha'aretz in 2004, Dov Weissglas, chef de cabinet to the then prime minister, Ariel Sharon, described the strategic goal of Sharon’s diplomacy as being to secure the support of the White House and Congress for Israeli measures that would place the peace process and Palestinian statehood in ‘formaldehyde’. It is a fiendishly appropriate metaphor: formaldehyde uniquely prevents the deterioration of dead bodies, and sometimes creates the illusion that they are still alive… "[bolding mine]

Siegman proceeds with his suggestions for a breakthrough. It will be well worth your time to read the entire article.

(photo of a Palestinian boy crying in the rubble of his family home after Israeli army bulldozers demolished it in the West Bank village of Deir Razeh -

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Defend-the-Surge" campaign about to be launched

I’m glad Jim Lobe is back from his vacation. On August 24, he posted AEI sets launch for all-or-nothing campaign. The American Enterprise Foundation is described by Lobe as the neo-conservative organization “…[W]hich contributed so much to the propaganda and planning for the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation….”

The AEI “…[A]ppears set to launch its ‘Defend-the-Surge’ campaign in the run-up to the presentation of and Congressional debate over the Petraeus-Crocker report on Thursday, September 6, with an afternoon forum whose title, ‘No Middle Way’ in Iraq.”

Lobe describes the speakers at the forum, adding, “...[A] a partial preview of the upcoming forum and AEI’s arguments in favor of sustaining the Surge is available in an analysis in Kristol’s ‘Weekly Standard’ posted today in which Fred Kagan gives his take on Thursday’s NIE…”

The NIE referred to above was described in The New York Times on August 23: Report offers grim few of Iraqi leaders: “A stark assessment released Thursday by the nation’s intelligence agencies depicts a paralyzed Iraqi government unable to take advantage of the security gains achieved by the thousands of extra American troops dispatched to the country this year.” [see my post yesterday, Is the surge working?]

In Kagan’s analysis, he states, “Critics of the current strategy can use parts of the NIE to raise concerns about the political process in Iraq. Using those concerns to justify abandoning the current strategy, as the NIE itself clearly states, will jeopardize the enormous progress already made against al Qaeda in Iraq, which remains a potent threat that could reconstitute itself rapidly if we lifted the pressure from it. The fact that we have achieved a great deal without yet achieving all of our objectives is not grounds for abandoning a successful strategy. It is grounds for continuing it.”

Lobe, referring to Kagan’s comment above, “That is certain to be a major theme of the September 6 forum and indeed of the neo-conservative effort to keep the Surge alive.”

If Kagan's position is premised on his and the AEI's position that the surge is working when in fact it isn't, I hope Congress learns this on or before the Petraeus/Crocker hearing on September 6.

(photo of Jim Lobe from

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Is the surge working?

It appears to me that the belief that the surge is working started with the July 30 New York Times op-ed by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, "The War We Might Just Win," O’Hanlon and Pollack sunnily reported: “Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms….”

On August 1st, I posted, Deadliest July yet for U.S. troops...How does that square with "A War We Just Might Win"? I linked to Glenn Greenwald’s post, which exposed O’Hanlon’s and Pollack’s hypocrisy, and well, outright lying, about their previous positions on the war, which surely should have raised a question about their credibility in reporting that the surge is working.

Thanks to Juan Cole of Informed Comment, I know that the surge isn’t working. In my August 1st post, I linked to Cole’s post, Deadliest July Yet for US Troops; 23% Rise in Iraqi Deaths in July.

Here we are, almost a month later. And what appears to be the consensus regarding the success of the surge? That the military surge is working. On Friday, The New York Times published Report Offers Grim View of Iraqi Leaders, stating, “A stark assessment released Thursday by the nation’s intelligence agencies depicts a paralyzed Iraqi government unable to take advantage of the security gains achieved by the thousands of extra American troops dispatched to the country this year.”

In Cole's post this morning, Surge in Deaths...:

Deaths per day from political violence in 2007 – 62
Deaths per day from political violence in 2006 - 33

Cole’s concluding paragraph: “The guerrillas have dealt with the surge by a doubling of violence in Iraq as a whole, and the US has only succeeded in wrestling the problem in Baghdad back down to where it was in summer of 2006.”

Cole’s conclusion is supported by a US soldier in Iraq, blogging at Army of Dude, who posted on August 18 regarding the surge, "…The increase of troops in Baghdad pushed the insurgents to rural areas (like Diyala), hence our move here in March. The surge was nothing more than a thorn in the side of nomadic fighters having to move thirty five miles while the generals watched Baghdad with stubborn eyes.”

(photo of US soldiers in Iraq:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Recommended reading: Tony Karon's "Asking the wrong questions on Iran"

I confess, I’m quite anxious about whether or not Bush will attack Iran. I’m querying people on the streets in my hometown, asking them what they think, the subject of my previous post.

I’m reading everything on the subject that I can find. One of the best articles I’ve seen so far was posted on August 20 by Tony Karon at his blog, Rootless Cosmopolitan. He’s a senior editor at and has been covering the Middle East, the “war on terror” and international issues ranging from China’s emergence to the Balkans. He blogs on his own time and as a concerned citizen, not on behalf of TIME.

In "Asking the wrong questions on Iran," Karon opens with, “Imagine, for a moment, that U.S. troops invading Iraq had, as they neared Baghdad, been fired on by an artillery unit using shells filled VX nerve gas — an attack that would have lasted minutes before a U.S. aircrew had taken out the battery, and may have brought a horrible death to a handful of American soldiers. Imagine, further, that the conquering troops had later discovered two warehouses full of VX and mustard gas shells. And later, that inspectors in a science lab had discovered a refrigerator full of Botulinum toxin or even anthrax.

“The Administration and its allies in the punditocracy would have 'proved' their case for war, and the media would have hailed President Bush as the kind of Churchillian visionary that he imagines himself to be. And goodness knows what new adventures the Pentagon ideologues would have immediately begun planning.

“Now, ask yourself, had the above scenario unfolded and the 'case for war' (on the terms accepted by the media and the Democrats) been proven, would Iraq look any different today? Would it be any less of a bloodbath; any less of a quagmire for U.S. troops; any less of a geopolitical disaster; any less of a drain on U.S. blood and treasure? Would the U.S. mainland or U.S. interests and allies worldwide be any safer today? In short, would the Iraq invasion seem any less of a catastrophic strategic blunder had the U.S. discovered some caches of unconventional weapons in Iraq?

“The answer to all of those questions is obviously no.”

Karon raises the issue of “...the media’s role in preparing the American public for another disastrous war of choice. The ‘necessity’ in the American public mind to go to war in Iraq was established through the mass media — a failure for which there has been precious little accounting….

“The very idea that there are certain categories of weapons that draw down a red mist over rational discussion of geopolitical options is an exceedingly dangerous one — that should be one of the key lessons drawn from Iraq. And that’s exactly what’s being cooked up over Iran, too. "

"For the record", Karon lists four points:

· First, there is no evidence that Iran is actually building a nuclear weapon; merely that it is building a civilian nuclear energy program with all elements of the fuel cycle permissible under the NPT that would, in fact, put nuclear weapons easily within reach should they opt to build them.

· Second, even if Iran did possess nuclear weapons, the idea that it would use them to initiate a conflict in which Tehran would certainly be destroyed is based on tabloid-style alarmism about the nature of the regime in Tehran — in fact, Iran’s Islamic Republic has long proved to be guided more by unsentimental realpolitik than by revolutionary fervor in the pursuit of its national interests and regional influence.

· Third, Iran is not 'interfering' in Afghanistan and Iraq any more than the U.S. is; it has close ties with the dominant Shiite and Kurdish parties that represent three quarters of Iraqis, for whom its involvement in Iraq is welcome. Thus the recent rebuke to Bush by both Karzai and Maliki on the question of Iran’s role in their countries. Even the Administration’s claims that Iran is targeting U.S. troops in Iraq are largely unproven: In a remarkably shallow treatment of complaints about the New York Times coverage of the issue, its public editor concedes simply that the Times should have told readers of its previous coverage to provide 'context' — there is no serious questioning of the contention that because Iran has been known to supply the know-how to build 'Explosively Formed Projectiles' (EFPs), any time an EFP is used in an attack on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the perpetrators are an Iranian proxy. This is worth dwelling on, because it’s typical of the ignorance on various issues — the extent of President Ahmedinajad’s authority in Iran, for example — propagated by the Times. A simple technical exposition of what an EFP is reveals that the technology is easily copied by anyone with know-how and access to very basic munitions. It’s not an actual weapon; it’s a method of building an improvised explosive device to pierce armor. The idea that the use of EFPs in Iraq is automatically a fingerprint of Iran is ridiculous. Someone ought to tell the Times. And by the way, even if Iranian proxies were attacking U.S. forces in Iraq, that wouldn’t signal intent to undermine the Iraqi government; it would simply be an escalation of the secret war between Washington and Tehran. And that’s a war that this President, his deepest psychological scars laid bare by his failure in Iraq — a wound that the psychotic Dick Cheney will press and press — may be ready to escalate by launching an attack on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Indeed, it is not Iranian 'interference' that Iraq and Afghanistan fear; it is being caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and Iran.

· 1938? Don’t make me laugh. Nazi Germany was the most powerful military nation on earth, and in 1938 it was poised to invade its neighbors. To make the same claim about Iran is just plain ignorant. )

Pointing a finger at the media, Karon states, "...the U.S. media corps that facilitated the Iraq catastrophe ought to be asking the question, can the Bush Administration do any worse than it has already done in plunging the Middle East into bloody chaos and in destroying countless American and Arab lives — and doing irreversible damage to U.S. interests across the planet. The answer, of course, is yes, but only if the U.S. media once again enables it."

There's so much more in this article, I hope you're read the whole thing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Update on whether or not Bush will attack Iran

Scott Horton, who blogs for Harper’s Magazine at No Comment posted "The Next War Draws Near" on August 23, 2007:

Horton says, “I continue to put the prospects for a major military operation targeting Iran down as ‘likely,’ and the time frame drawing nearer. When will Bush give the go ahead? I think late this year or early next would be the most congenial time frame from the perspective of the war party.”

Horton lists six developments that go into his call, including the influence of Fox News, the subject of my earlier post.

Horton’s observation: “The Predictable Role of Fox News. Fox News is intimately intertwined with the Administration’s propaganda machine, as a study of its coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War shows (and similarly, its decision to all but pull the plug on more recent coverage of the dismal situation in Iraq). Producer Robert Greenwald has done a terrific summary of how Fox News continues a propaganda build-up to support military action against Iran which closely parallels what it did for its masters in the run-up to the Iraq War. Catch the video here.

Will Bush attack Iran? You're the decider

Yesterday morning I received an e-mail alert from Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films about Fox News manufacturing consent for war with Iran. The link includes a stunning three minute video clip of how Fox News promoted war with Iraq with how it is now supporting war with Iran. You are encouraged to contact Fox News through the link and register your opposition to how Fox News is repeating the same distortions and fear mongering as it did before the Iraq war.

What is dismaying is that so many people listen to Fox News and accept its version of the news as the truth.

Yesterday evening, I asked several people from the Healdsburg Peace Project, which has held a vigil in my hometown every Thursday evening since October of 2002 to protest the war in Iraq, if they thought Bush would attack Iran. Heidi’s and Robert’s comments, below, convince me that the people in this country will indeed be the deciders if Bush attacks Iran. The problem is that most of them are listening to Fox News, whose motto is "We report. You decide."


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ad-induced fantasy

As I leafed through the August 23 New Yorker magazine, this ad really caught my eye:
Obviously the purpose of the ad is to sell Verizon’s wireless “Razr,” a stereo Bluetooth with over 30 hours of music, but I decided I’d rather have the Razr tattoo (on the model's left shoulder) if it comes with the biceps and abs this guy has.

Notice: Occasionally I post a “fluffy” item like this because:
1. I still have a law practice;
2. I help at least one day a week with my youngest grandchildren, below;
3. I’m training to do the run portion (26.2 miles) of the Vineman triathlon next August with my older son, Jeff, doing the 110 mile bike ride and his son, Dane, 16, doing the 2.4 mile swim.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hemp - The crop that is maligned but shouldn't be

Until yesterday, the only person I personally know who advocates the use of hemp for many useful and ecologically sound products is my younger son, Rody. He’s an "earth steward" and earns his living installing off grid as well as residential, commercial, and agricultural power systems, harnessing the sun, wind, and water.

Yesterday I just happened to turn on the car radio while Michael Krazny’s Forum was on the air. Krazny and his guests were discussing the hemp bill, Assembly Bill 684, which could legalize the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes in California. Last year Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a nearly identical bill.

Krazny’s guests were:

Chuck Devore, Republican state assemblyman and co-author of A.B. 684

John Lubel, legal counsel for the California Narcotics Officers Association

Mark Leno, Democratic state assemblyman and co-author of A.B. 684

Patrick Goggin, California counsel for the Hemp Industries Association

Listen to the discussion here or here, and download it as a mp3 file here. I learned that hemp plants can be distinguished from marijuana crops because they are much taller, up to 12 feet, and grow closely together (unlike marijuana which ideally requires about a 4 foot space between plants. Additionally, marijuana plants can’t be hidden in hemp fields because the hemp plants “smother” the small marijuana plants, depriving them of needed sunlight. John Lubel who spoke on behalf of the California Narcotics Officers Association, stated that it opposes A.B. 684, but I didn't hear him rebut the statements that the difference between industrial hemp and marajuana plants is not that difficult to discern.

The versatility of hemp is actually staggering. So many products! So ecologically sound! For instance, it makes a lot more sense to use hemp to make substitutes for petroleum-based plastic products than to use corn, which is the current trend.

If you’re interested in industrial hemp, check out Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America. It’s a lengthy scholarly and scientific treatise, copiously footnoted, and made more interesting with numerous photos such as this one of Henry Ford swinging an axe at his 1941 car to demonstrate the toughness of the plastic trunk door made of soybean and hemp.

Finally, if you, like me, think hemp should be grown for industrial purposes, let your California legislative representatives know you support Assembly Bill 684.

(photos: hemp rope:
Henry Ford with axe: Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The greening of a small town

I’ve lived in Healdsburg, California, for 40 years. While other small towns have become swallowed up by becoming bedrooms for nearby large cities, Healdsburg has avoided that. There’s no place I’d rather live.

And last night, when our City Council was asked to consider banning plastic bags, I was heartened by its response and by the turnout of city residents, each with his or her cloth tag bag.

Here’s Heidi, who spoke at the meeting last night:

As interest grows in banning plastic bags, I remind myself that this is just one facet of reducing resource depletion and production of greenhouse gases while creating sustainable communities. That a crowd showed up last night and the city council in my town committed its resources to studying the problem of plastic bags and what to do about them has made me feel more hopeful.

WalMart and Target, both huge retail outlets with stores in cities near Healdsburg, are spending vast sums of money to cut back on packaging.

If I remember to think big but start small, I remain hopeful.

(photo from Obviously.CA)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ordinary people + YouTube = Making a difference

In July, I finally learned how to upload to YouTube and posted here and here about this phenomenal tool that allows people like me to be heard and seen.

This morning I received an e-mail alert from about the results of its recent video contest comparing Dick Nixon to Dick Cheney.

The winner is Jen Datka, a student, activist-musician, and first-time filmmaker. Her awarding winning video is "Nancy calls for impeachment." Here's more about Jen in her own words.

Tonight I’m taking my camcorder to the Healdsburg City Council to film its response to a request that Healdsburg ban the use of plastic bags by its large stores. I posted about the ubiquitous plastic bag here. My friend and politically ally, Tod Brilliant, is spearheading this action.

Tomorrow I plan to post about the plastic bag hearing, complete with imbedded YouTube video clip.

Former Congressman Dan Hamburg rips into Mendocino County Board of Supervisors at August 14 impeachment hearing

On August 16, I posted County supervisors duck bobble and weave to avoid taking a stand on impeaching Cheney. Before the hearing, I interviewed former Congressman Dan Hamburg, which is available here.

I just received an audio clip of Dan’s presentation to the board, a thundering speech that was described to me by a Mendocino County resident as one of Dan’s best speeches. It starts a little before halfway through the clip. However, you might want to listen to the full clip because Allen and Els Cooperrider, active citizens in Mendocino County, also make important points to the board.

(photo of Dan Hamburg from the hearing)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On this day 73 years ago, Hitler was elected Fuhrer by 90% of the electorate- how did this happen?

On August 19, 1934, the vast majority of German voters gave Adolph Hitler sweeping dictatorial powers, electing him as "Fuhrer," or absolute ruler.

The next day, The New York Times published an article about Hitler’s victory, with a view of the actual newspaper article available here.

I’m not attempting to compare President George W. Bush with Adolph Hitler. I’m interested in what was going on in Germany, in the early 1930's, when it had a democratic parlimentary republic, that prompted 9 out of 10 Germans to cast votes in support of a dictator.

Wikipedia, in the section Hitler's rise to power, states, “The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930…. The new Chancellor, Heinrich BrĂ¼ning of the Roman Catholic Centre Party, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement his measures through the president's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of parties, the exception soon became the rule and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.” [bolding mine]

A national disaster, the Reichstag fire, helped consolidate Hitler’s power. From Hitler's rise to power, “…[O]n 27 February 1933, the Reichstag building was set on fire. Since a Dutch independent communist was found in the building, the fire was blamed on a Communist plot to which the government reacted with the Reichstag Fire Decree of 28 February which suspended basic rights, including habeas corpus….”

I believe that Hitler was elected Fuhrer because of the rise of authoritarianism in Germany in the early 1930’s. I believe the United States is being dragged toward authoritarianism and away from a democratic future.

Two contemporary writers who share my opinion that about the rise of authoritarianism in the U.S. are Joe Conason and Scott Horton.

In Conason’s recently published book, IT CAN HAPPEN HERE - Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush, he quotes Sinclair Lewis, author of the well-known It Can't Happen Here, published in 1935: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.” I highly recommend that you read this book from cover to cover.

Scott Horton, a prolific blogger, posted The Gleichschaltung at Justice on May 1 of this year: “In the final days of the Weimar Republic, the party in power employed a conscious policy for the consolidation of their authority within the state bureaucracy and other social institutions. This policy was simple—it required silencing critics and ensuring that all positions of confidence were in the hands of persons who were true to the line of the party. For historians of the period, this process is known as the ‘Gleichschaltung’ or ‘synchronization.’ Is the process pursued by Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove in the American Justice Department an American sort of Gleichschaltung”? Every day it seems that a stronger case can be made that it is.”

Horton was referring to the purging of US Attorneys by the Department of Justice, which is currently being investigated by Congress. Scott has been dogging this story for months, available at his Harper’s Magazine blog, No Comment.

(photo of Hitler at a Nazi rally in Nuremburg in 1928 - Wikipedia)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Centralia, Washington: Worth visiting

On my recent road trip, I spent a couple of days in Centralia, Washington. If you’re ever in central western Washington, I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to drive from US 5 to visit to this wonderful small town.

My latest discovery is a shop, Hubbub. The owner, Rebecca Staebler, took my friend from Centralia and me on a tour of the shop and the living quarters in the back. Rebecca has done a wonderful job of taking an existing run-down building and creating an aesthetically pleasing environment. Rebecca used to refurbish and paint old tables and chairs, but that has taken a back seat to operating her business.

What I really liked about Rebecca’s shop were the objects made of recycled materials: purses from movie billboards, large baskets from automobile tires, and rugs from shredded plastic milk and pop bottles, made in Thailand by weavers who are working in fair trade conditions.

One of the local artists featured in Hubbub is Amy Downs, a famous hat maker, who moved from New York City to Centralia in 2002. Amy is the subject of a 1990 New York Times article, By Design: Hats Floppy and Flexible. Amy has made hats from plastic bags and even brown paper.

In addition to discovering Hubbub, I’ve always found the history of Centralia interesting:

1. It was founded on January 8, 1875, by a black man, George Washington.
2. In 1919, there was a battle known as "The Wobbly Massacre" (Wobbly is the nickname for the members of the Industrial Workers of the World), Four Legionnaires from the Central Chapter of the American Legion were killed and a Wobbly was lynched.

3. Centralia has statues commemorating both Washington’s founding of the town and the Wobbly massacre.

(photos: Hubbub - the website; George Washington – Washington State Historical Society, I.W.W. whereabouts poster:

Friday, August 17, 2007

What do you think would happen if.....

Troy Seman* sent me the following this morning:
“I wonder if anyone would notice if someone were to go to the
U.S. National Archives and replace the U.S. Constitution with an oldish-looking piece of parchment which read: ‘This page intentionally left blank.’”

*I met Troy in January of 2005 when five of us from California flew to Columbus, Ohio to help the election integrity activists there reorganize after the 04 election. I saw Troy again this June when I went to Columbus to visit friends.

(photo of Troy and his sister Tammy, a refreshing scene during these dog days of summer)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

County supervisors duck, bobble, and weave to avoid taking a stand on impeaching Cheney

Last Tuesday, August 14, I cut short my two-week road trip to attend a hearing before the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors on a resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney.

In February, my friend and political ally, Janie Sheppard, decided to focus on impeaching Cheney. Janie and many others gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions to present along with the resolution. Janie’s posted about her petition gathering
here. The resolution was drafted and submitted by Supervisor J. David Colfax.

Before the hearing started, I interviewed former CA 1st District Congressman Dan Hamburg. On August 9, the New York Times published a half-page ad created by Dan, "Let's put Bush and Cheney where they belong..."

Here’s Dan:

What happened at the hearing? Janie describes it best: “The Constitution lost today as the Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 1 to table the motion to consider the resolution in favor of impeaching Vice President Cheney. We have one courageous Supervisor, Colfax, who understands the connection between Cheney’s impeachable acts and the unmet needs of the county. We have four supervisors who care not a wit for the Constitution, their oaths of office to defend the Constitution, or the expressed wishes of their constituents. Those supervisors are Wattenburger, Pinches, Smith and Delbar.

“All the speakers were passionate. Dan Hamburg held up the printed oath of office that included defending the Constitution, reminding the Supervisors that they had solemnly promised to do just that. He referred to his experiences as both a Supervisor and Congressman. Els Cooperrider, an immigrant, spoke of the importance of the US Constitution to the immigrants of this country. I spoke of history: the failure of Congress to impeach Nixon and the consequent licensing of the idea of the Imperial Presidency as well as the role resolutions could play in influencing the positions of our representatives on a national level. [Read Janie's testimony.] Mike Thompson, our Congressman, so far has refused the requests of his constituents to sign on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 333, a resolution to impeach Dick Cheney.

“By tabling the motion to consider the resolution, the County decided to stick its head in the sand. Supervisor Pinches went so far as to say that he did not follow national politics and didn’t care. Supervisor Delbar did not say one word. Supervisor Wattenburger slumped in chair, trying to make the whole episode vanish via his motion to table. Supervisor Smith would tend to local issues, which in her view, do not include taking a position on impeachment. The Supervisors, however, do not speak for us, the impassioned citizens who understand what is happening in our country and want to change it.”

Here’s Janie after the hearing:

On August 15, the Ukiah Daily Journal reported on the hearing, “No action taken on Cheney resolution.”

What isn’t being reported is that those of us who are committed to the impeachment of Cheney and Bush are regrouping and aren’t giving up.

(Photo of Janie Sheppard and Jim Houle with the sign he waved in the hearing while the supervisors "ducked.")

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lawyers and psychologists take on the Bush Administration

Many years ago, I decided that the American Bar Association [ABA] wasn’t worth belonging to since it didn’t take stands on legal issues that I consider important. I let my membership lapse, but I’m considering joining again because the ABA is standing up to the Bush administration.

In July of 2006, the ABA created a task force, which determined that President Bush's signing statements undermine the separation of powers.

And now, as reported today by Scott Horton in The Professions Strike Back, “The Bush Administration has finally achieved something unprecedented. The organized bar–with a vote just one short of unanimity–has declared one of Bush’s executive orders illegal and vowed to seek Congressional action to override it.”

The ABA found the Executive Order issued by President Bush on July 21 illegal because it “… gave cover to a series of brutal interrogation and detention practices to be used by the Central Intelligence Agency at black sites.” The ABA, which is the nation's organized bar, is saying “no” and directing its members not to comply with the order.

Jane Mayer’s recent article in the New Yorker furnishes an excellent description of the tactics at the bottom of this controversy.

As reported by Horton, “Yesterday [August 14] meeting in San Francisco, the organized legal profession in the United States—the American Bar Association—took a firm stand on the president’s order, denouncing it as unlawful and calling upon Congress to override it. Of the more than five hundred delegates present and voting, one single delegate sided with the administration [bolding mine] —the most devastating defeat ever suffered by any U.S. administration on what was essentially a vote of condemnation. Even the ABA committees that represent government lawyers involved in national security organizations and retired military officers led the charge in assailing the Bush order’s legality. ”

The other profession that is taking a stand is the American Psychological Association [APA], which is also telling its members not to comply with the interrogation and detention order.

I’m pleased that the organized bar has determined that one of Bush’s executive orders is illegal. However, I’m wondering why the organized bar doesn’t publicly support impeachment, which is the Constitutional remedy for illegal acts by the Executive Branch. If the ABA supported impeaching Bush and Cheney, I would join immediately.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'm off for a two week road trip: suggested reading while I'm away

Earlier today I posted a book review of IT CAN HAPPEN HERE, by Joe Conason. Before I leave for a two-week road trip, I want to make sure you have plenty to read while I’m away. Just in case you’ve already read Conason’s most recent book or are a fast reader, please read on.

I can’t think of a better place to send you than the American Empire Project, which has been developed by Tom Engelhardt ( and Steve Fraser, two editors with long and distinguished careers in publishing.

It’s obvious I’m a Tom Engelhardt fan, having posted about him on February 2nd. He’s my favorite blogger, has written three books and has edited well over 250. My lifetime goal is to read all of them.

If you’re not quite ready to join me in my ambitious project of reading everything Tom has written and edited, start small by going to the American Empire Project booklist. That ought to keep you busy for the next couple of weeks.

And with that, I bid you adieu:

"Can it happen here? You be the decider."

Recently the news has been full of reports of the executive branch of our federal government expanding its activities, legally or illegally. The end result, if the citizens remain uninformed and inactive, is authoritarianism.

Why am I not surprised? Because I read Joe Conason’s IT CAN HAPPEN HERE several months ago. I decided to do a book review of this important book, posting about my plan to do a “group” book review on March 5, 2007. On April 17, I posted a couple of comments about the book and again invited people to read the book and send me their comments.

I don’t think group book reviews have caught on yet, but my 87 year-old first-cousin-twice removed, June, sent me a great review. Her opening paragraph: “Joe Conason has hit the nail on the head. It Can Happen Here is well-written and well- documented. Can it happen here? You be the decider.”

In several paragraphs, June succinctly describes the significant factors that lead her to believe that this country has reason to doubt the future of democracy. She ends her review with, “Can it happen here? It's up to we the people to save our democracy as we knew it.”

If June’s review doesn’t persuade you to read Joe Conason’s most recent book, I suggest you read Daily Kos diarist SusanG's book review, posted February 25, available here. Susan opens her review with, “Telling the political story of the creeping unitary executive has been a challenge for both observant traditionalists and progressives. Resorting to Hitler comparisons when discussing the nation’s constitutional plight with the underinformed brings easy dismissal on the grounds of exaggeration. Drawing parallels between the rise of European fascism invites discussions of minute and often unimportant distinctions about whether uniforms are worn or trains run on time. Delving back further to comparisons with the Roman Empire rely heavily on a knowledge base that is often lacking in modern discussions.

"But Joe Conason has hit upon an elegant solution on which to hang a very American narrative by reviving interest in Sinclair Lewis’ disturbingly prescient It Can’t Happen Here, written in 1935 as a response to Lewis’ concern about the rise of Italian fascism.”

Susan notes that one of the most widely cited quotations of late comes from Joe Conason: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.”

What is authoritarianism? In the introduction to the book, Conason describes it as follows: “The most obvious symptoms can be observed in a regime’s style, which features an almost casual contempt for democratic and lawful norms; an expanding appetite for executive control at the expense of constitutional balances; a reckless impulse to corrupt national institutions with partisan idealogy; and the ugly tendency to spear dissent as disloyalty.”
Can it happen here? You be the decider. Do you think it has already happened?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Update on “The War We Just Might Win”

Check today’s post at Michael Schwartz, Benchmarking Iraq for Disaster.

Deadliest July yet for U.S. troops. 23% Rise in Iraqi Deaths in July. How does that square with “A War We Might Just Win"?

Yesterday I posted about the July 30th New York Times op-ed, A War We Might Just Win, by Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, and Glenn Greenwald’s post exposing the hypocrisy of O’Hanlon as he presents himself as a consistent opponent of the war in Iraq. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the liberal think tank, the Brookings Institution.

Glenn Greenwald is still hopping mad about the press’s unquestioning promoting of O’Hanlon and Pollack and their message of hope about the likelihood of success in Iraq. Please take a few minutes to read Greenwald’s July 31 post, A new low of mindlessness for our media - Returning to marvel once again at the deceitful Brookings Institution media spectacle.

My expert on Iraq is Juan Cole, (photo) who blogs at Informed Comment and at the group blog, Informed Comment Global Affairs. Posted this morning at Informed Comment: Deadliest July Yet for US Troops; 23% Rise in Iraqi Deaths in July. Also, according to Juan, June saw the highest number of over-all attacks since the war began.

Cole adds, “I saw Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings on CNN Sunday saying he thought that the violence was less now. (O'Hanlon and Ken Pollack also gave us that uh, optimistic, op-ed about 'a war we could win' in the NYT.) I'd be interested in knowing how he is measuring this supposed fall in violence. If it is the deadliest July ever for US troops in Iraq; if there is a 23% increase in Iraqi deaths over June; if there were more attacks in June than any time since April 2003-- how is that a decrease in violence? Somebody explain that to me.”

You might want to keep your eye on George Packer’s blog. On July 30, he posted that O’Hanlon and Pollack’s op-ed raised more questions than it answered. He promised to get back to us with the answers to these questions about their recent trip to Iraq:

“Who organized their schedule?

"How much time did they spend in each place they visited (Baghdad, Ramadi, Mosul, Tal Afar)?

"How many Iraqis did they speak with, and whom? Did they meet Iraqis without American officers present?

"What could and couldn’t they independently confirm from their briefings by military sources? For example, how do they know that, in Mosul and Tal Afar, ‘the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi Army troops cover the countryside’?”

"Finally, what do they mean when they declare at the end, “There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008”? As of a few weeks ago, O’Hanlon advocated a partition of Iraq and Pollack was talking about containing the civil war within Iraq’s borders. Neither of them had much faith that the Administration’s strategy could succeed. Have they changed their minds? If so, what’s their political strategy for sustaining the surge into 2008?"

(photo of Juan Cole from Informed Comment)