Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More on Maira

On October 20th, I posted Maira Kalman - Once you find her, you won't want to lose her. Thank goodness The New York Times is making it easy for me to keep track of her. This morning there’s a five minute video, a portion of an interview with Maira about her new book, The Principles of Uncertainty.

In the interview, Maira explains that as a young child, she made many, many charts. When she woke up, “check,” got out of bed, “check.” She explained that her early efforts were to “collect and clarify what is happening in this world.” First, she needs to make sense of what is happening, then she needs to make nonsense of it. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re a “dead duck.”

The video is delightful. It, along with this Times' feature, may convince you to buy her book. I’m ordering it today. That way I will never lose Maira Kalman.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why is WellCare wooing me?

Late last week, I noted Ken Silverstein’s post, Alert: A mega-scandal in the making, and quickly glanced at it. Because it involved WellCare, a health care firm I had never heard of before, I decided to read the post later.

On Saturday, I received a brochure in the mail from WellCare Health Plans. The ten-panel brochure (click to enlarge) with cute cartoons urged to me sign up for Part D Medicare (prescription drugs) for “just $19.00.”

Hmmm, now I was curious about the WellCare "mega-scandal" and why it's now wooing me, so I went back to read Silverstein's post.

According to Silverstein, who is the Washington editor for Harper's Magazine, “There’s a new scandal unraveling that has a great cast of characters and sounds like it should be fun to watch unravel." Six bullet points of information follow.

Here’s the first:

"Yesterday, the Feds raided WellCare, a fast-growing Florida health care firm which has a Cayman Islands subsidiary and whose “independent sales agents in Georgia enrolled dead people in Medicare plans.”

And the last:

"In the aftermath of the raid, WellCare’s stock has fallen through the floor. 'Some WellCare insiders managed to escape that crash,' TheStreet.com reports. 'Director Neal Moszkowski executed the most recent transaction, selling more than $1 million worth of stock four days before the raid. Meanwhile, WellCare CEO Todd Farha has been unloading company stock for months. He executed his last big transaction, which generated more than $1 million as well, just two weeks ago.'"

The points in between are fascinating.

Silverstein concludes, “Enjoy–and spend some time on Google, because there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit still to be picked.”

(scanned image of one panel of the WellCare brochure I received)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Action Alert: Help Save Independent Publications

This morning I received the following alert. I'm posting it in its entirety:

Dear Member of the Nation Community,

Tuesday's the big day. That's when Congress will hold a hearing on the outrageous Time Warner-inspired postage rate hike that's saddled The Nation with a half million dollar annual increase in postal costs and brought other small publications to the brink of financial disaster. Now's the moment for champions of independent media to take a stand.

We're joining our friends at Free Press to collect 100,000 signatures, and we want to have phones ringing off the hook on Capitol Hill by Tuesday. Link: Please send a message to Congress, post haste.

Our founding fathers knew that a free press is a cornerstone of democracy. That's why they encouraged small publishers and a broad spectrum of opinions in media by guaranteeing fair postal rates for all.

But mega-magazines have undermined that founding principle. Time Warner and others like them are passing the buck onto smaller independent publishers, threatening to silence the fearless investigative journalism that small media outlets like The Nation are known for.

Now is our chance to restore the founder's vision.


The Nation isn't the only small magazine forced to foot the bill. We're on the same page with small publishers on the opposite side of the aisle, like National Review, who have also been hit hard by the increase.

It's not just the fate of your favorite magazine that rests on the outcome of this hearing. The health of our nation's open public discourse hangs in the balance. Link: Your Congressperson needs to hear from you now. Please let them know you won't stand by quietly while the future of independent publications are at risk.

Thank you in advance for doing your part today -- and thank you for all you've done on this critical issue during the past few months. Without the help of grassroots activists like yourself we wouldn't even be witnessing these important hearings! Your support is amazing and we are truly grateful.

Sincerely,
Teresa Stack
President, The Nation

Joan Brunwasser of OpEdNews.com helps uncover Giuliani

In the spring of 2006, when I was leafing through my Yes! Magazine, I found a review of the documentary, "Invisible Ballots" by Joan Brunwasser, whom I had never heard of before. I e-mailed her, and we’ve been in touch ever since because I, too, am very interested in election integrity. Since December of 2005, Joan has been the Voting Integrity Editor for OpEdNews.com.

As Rudy Giuliani has scrambled to the top of the Republican presidential contenders, I have become very interested in this man. See my posts: September 23rd, Giuliani - A worse president than Bush? and October 13th, Neocons flock to Giuliani's foreign policy team.

Do the citizens of this country know who this man is? Will they learn in time to avoid his becoming our next president? Thank goodness, Joan Brunwasser is using her platform at OpEdNews.com, a popular online source of the news, to expose Giuliani.

On October 23rd, Joan posted her film review, Issues of Accountability and Brave New Films' "The Real Rudy: Radios", linking to this seven minute video by Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films.


Joan opens her article by telling us that she saw the drama/thriller/suspense movie, Michael Clayton, about a fixer for a powerful law firm. Joan writes, “The subtitle at the Michael Clayton website is 'The truth can be adjusted.' This sentiment rings true with New York's fire fighters, who feel that is exactly what Rudy Giuliani has done with 9/11. They are sickened by the spin machine that has skillfully transformed him into a larger-than-life, national hero….Rudy wants to be your president. He's the one who's constantly touting his role on September 11 as proof of his fitness for the job. Let's not take his word for it; let's evaluate his case for ourselves.”

Joan describes the back-story about Motorola, whose radios were defective and Giuliani’s inaction when he received a damning report well in advance of 9/11 about the malfunctioning radios.

Joan reports, “This literally became an issue of life or death on 9/11. 10-15 minutes before the collapse of either of the WTC buildings, police helicopters saw them listing and issued a vacate order, correctly predicting at least a partial collapse of both structures. This order was picked up by police radios, and as a result, not a single member of the NYPD died in the North Tower. The same could not be said for the 121 firefighters who perished there, the message fatally unheard.”

Watch the video. Read Joan’s review. She ends with this P.S. “Since 2001, we have witnessed both Rudy and W co-opt the events of 9/11. For another link between the two, read Ari Berman’s "Rudy Giuliani's Dirty Campaign Money," which appeared in the October issue of The Nation.

My recommendation: Washington Monthly’s "Rudy Awakening," in this November's issue.

(OpEdNews logo: OpEdNews.com)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Community emergency response training to be a good team member


At our last training session before we get to practice what we’ve learned at a simulated disaster scenario next Thursday, we covered CERT organization and disaster psychology.

1. CERT organization = teamwork and working with the professionals at the Healdsburg Fire Department. This is hugely important. We’ll get to practice our skills as team members next Thursday.

2. Disaster psychology: John Bray (photo) of the American Red Cross took us through the psychological symptoms (chart below) that typically occur in rescuers and how to deal with them. We were also given pointers on how to deal with survivors’ trauma. Here's a short video clip of John explaining the emotional phases that survivors go through following a disaster:

The primary reason I signed up for CERT training is so I will be useful, not useless, in a disaster. I admit I don’t think well under pressure, so I spent yesterday organizing my CERT pack and going over what we do when we show up to help in a disaster:



Our simulated disaster next Thursday evening should be exciting. I’ll let you know how it went.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Is Venezuela such a serious threat to the US that we need bunker buster bombs to protect us?

"Clearly, we need a new penetrating bomber with the range, payload, survivability and lethality to project our nation’s power.” - Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Michael Moseley, regarding the $88 million item tucked into the $196 billion emergency funding request for the wars in Iran and Iraq. The funds will be used to modify the B-2 stealth bomber so they can carry a 30,000 pound bomb, described as a super "bunker buster."


This must have to do with Iran. On October 24th, ABC News reported White House Bomber Request Leaves Some Wondering if U.S. is Preparing Action in Iran: “Tucked inside the White House's $196 billion emergency funding request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is an item that has some people wondering whether the administration is preparing for military action against Iran.

“The item: $88 million to modify B-2 stealth bombers so they can carry a newly developed 30,000-pound bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator, or, in military-speak, the MOP. The MOP is the the military's largest conventional bomb, a super 'bunker-buster' capable of destroying hardened targets deep underground. The one-line explanation for the request said it is in response to an ‘urgent operational need from theater commanders.’”

Wait a minute! The threat now appears to be Venezuela, according to The Nuclear Threat Initiative. In an article posted on October 24th, Growing Venezuelan Threat Justifies New U.S. Strategic Bomber, Air Force Officials Testify: “The Air Force has set 2018 as a target to complete the new aircraft, which could complement the current fleet of B-2 stealth bombers while replacing older B-52 and B-1 aircraft…. [scroll down the link to the article]

“The new design would continue to fill the role of a nuclear weapon-delivery vehicle that long-range bombers have served since the start of the Cold War, a Northrop Grumman official said last year (see GSN, Dec. 8, 2006).

I can’t tell if the B-2 stealth bombers are being modified to carry 30,000 pound conventional bombs or are going to be used “nuclear weapon-delivery vehicles.” Maybe both.

“Lest anyone think this reality is a long way off either in physical or temporal terms, Venezuela’s leaders have embarked that country on a path that might deny us access to that country or its neighbors in the near future,” they [Wynne and Moseley] said, referring to reports that Caracas has struck a deal to purchase surface-to-air missiles from Russia. 'Clearly, we need a new penetrating bomber with the range, payload, survivability and lethality to project our nation’s power.'"
[all emphases mine]

(photo: SSFireworks.com

Friday, October 26, 2007

"The Collapse Has Begun"

A couple of days ago, I received a news item via e-mail from former Congressman Dan Hamburg (1st Dist., CA). Dan scours the news and comes up with so much worthwhile stuff that I try to look at all of it. This one was titled "The Collapse Has Begun." I thought it might be by Noam Chomsky, but no, it was written by Jon Spitz for the Mendocino County Observer. Amazing! The Observer is the weekly newspaper in Laytonville, California, a town of 1,301 residents that straddles U.S. 101 one hundred and sixty miles north of San Francisco.

The article is a carefully researched and written analysis of the factors that leads to the inevitable conclusion that the U.S. economy is heading for a serious recession. I highly recommend you read the whole thing. Spitz concludes, “It looks to me like the post ‘Peak Oil’ socio-economic system being constructed by Bush is going to be like a feudal system of serfs and lords. The multi-billionaires who now own most of America will use their unprecedented levels of accumulated national wealth to buy the allegiance of mercenaries who will be used to keep all the rest of us under control.”

I was so intrigued by who this Jon Spitz is that called him. By the end of our conversation, I decided that along with the redwood trees that grow in Mendocino County, Jon is a national treasure.
Jon amid the redwood trees

Jon told me that he’s writing from a “lonely outpost,” publishing an article every other week or so for the Mendocino County Observer, a “mom and pop” operation run by Jim and Susan Shields, who do everything with a little help from their daughter, Jama, and Jim’s mother, Lois.

Jon writes on a wide variety of subjects, e.g., election fraud and Scooter Libby, and is grateful that the Shields give him a forum for his opinions on issues that aren’t typically covered in a small town newspaper.

I’m looking forward to featuring Jon’s articles in future posts.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"On the Eve of Destruction"

On the “eve of destruction,” I recommend you watch “Video Postcards from Iran”:
Then look at these photos, which I found linked at Juan Cole’s blog, Informed Comment.

Recommended: Have your sound on for both the video postcards and the photos.

Next, I recommend that you read Scott Ritter’s "On the Eve of Destruction," posted at Truthdig on October 22nd.

Read about the “Hadley Rules,” promulgated by National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley: “Hadley is a long-established neoconservative thinker who has for the most part operated ‘in the shadows’ when it comes to the formulation of Iran policy in the Bush administration. In 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Hadley (then the deputy national security adviser) instituted what has been referred to as the “Hadley Rules,” a corollary of which is that no move will be made which alters the ideological positioning of Iran as a mortal enemy of the United States. These ‘rules’ shut down every effort undertaken by Iran to seek a moderation of relations between it and the United States, and prohibited American policymakers from responding favorably to Iranian offers to assist with the fight against al-Qaida; they also blocked the grand offer of May 2003 in which Iran outlined a dramatic diplomatic initiative, including a normalization of relations with Israel. The Hadley Rules are at play today, in an even more nefarious manner, with the National Security Council becoming involved in the muzzling of former Bush administration officials who are speaking out on the issue of Iran….” [emphasis mine]

Ritter goes on to describe Hadley as the …[B]ureaucratic ‘grease’ to ease policy formulated elsewhere down the gullet of a national security infrastructure…” and concludes that …”[P]olicy formulation is more and more concentrated in the person of Vice President Cheney…”

Moving on to the president, Ritter discussed Bush’s relationship with God: “The president himself has stated that “God speaks through me” (he acknowledged this before a group of Amish in Pennsylvania in the summer of 2004)….According to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, President Bush told him and others that ‘God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.'” I wonder what message God is whispering in Bush's ear about Iran.

You may want to go back and look at the video postcards and photos of Iran because these scenes may not be around much longer.

(Video post cards from Elegant Bay – photos from Lucas Gray)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A nose for the news - The Iran war roll-out: one cartoon and four articles

The October 23rd Tom Toles cartoon says it all, but the following articles fill in the details.

1. On October 23rd Amy Goodman interviews Middle East Analyst & Historian Juan Cole on U.S. War Plans Against Iran.

2. On October 22nd, Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin posts "Cheney Beats the Drums of War."

3. On October 22nd, Scott Horton posts "The Roll-Out Presses On."

4. On October 22nd, Barnett Rubin at the group blog, Informed Comment Global Affairs posts "The War Rollout Keeps Rolling Along."

(Photo from my friend, Pat Denino, who blogs at Wandering Wonderings)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Consequences of Failing to Impeach: By guest blogger, Jim Stoops

Last Saturday, I ran into my friend, Jim Stoops, (photo) at the rally in favor of impeachment and of getting out of Iraq. As we talked, he mentioned he had written an article about the consequences of failing to impeach and agreed to send it to me to post.

On April 7, Jim was my guest blogger, posting
Foreign Policy Fantasy Insanity, subtitled “Why the Bush Administration will invade Iran, or déjà vu all over again.”

Given the recent speeches by Bush and Cheney threatening Iran, Jim comments last April may very well be prescient. Here Jim offers his careful research and analysis of the consequences of failing to impeach. It will be a small consolation if impeachment doesn’t occur and Jim is right… again.


The Consequences of Failing to Impeach
by Jim Stoops

The clear intention of the framers of the Constitution was to use impeachment as the method of preventing, restricting or punishing a president for abuses of power. Impeachment is listed in Article 1, sections 2 and 3, and in Article 2, section 4, six times in all. Impeachment is not an after thought! It is not just a right of Congress; it is the duty of Congress to control a runaway president or other civil officer, especially in the Executive Branch in order to maintain the Balance of Power essential to our democracy.

We are in a constitutional crisis that only impeachment can remedy. What Congress is saying is, "You have harmed the republic, but we won't hold you accountable." The rule of law is lost and the downfall of the republic must surely follow. Whether or not one thinks impeachment does not have the needed votes; to not make the attempt is a tragic betrayal of the public trust and an abuse of the Constitution.

What message does this inaction send to the American people? That a variety of heinous and violent crimes have been committed with no attempt at justice. What are we to think? That crime pays? That Congress chooses to ignore the intention of the Founding Fathers?
Following is a list of the consequences of failing to impeach the culprits that should start with Dick Cheney and the passing of H.R. 333.
1. The continued evisceration of the heart of the Constitution, (the Bill of Rights), especially amendments 1, 4, 5, 6, and 8 by the Patriot Act.
2. The continued illegal wiretapping of Americans without a warrant.
3. The continued suspension of habeas corpus protection via the Military Commissions Act and the loss of 800 years of jurisprudence.
4. The continued erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act and Insurrection Act that prevented the use of military force against the American people.
5. The continued erosion of the Separation of Powers by challenging the validity of Congressional legislation via presidential "signing statements", (over 800 times so far), more than all other presidents combined.
6. The continued blurring of the line between church and state, violating the 1st amendment.
7. The continued illegal and immoral preemptive attacks on sovereign nations of no threat to us on the basis of lies and deceptions and will lead to an air attack on Iran that will further destabilize the Middle East and create a global military disaster.
8. The continued killing, maiming and psychological damaging of large numbers of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and American troops.
9. The continued torture, detention and extraordinary rendition (kidnapping and shipping suspected terrorists to states known to torture).
10. The continued violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the inevitable escalation of nuclear weapons that will follow.
11. The continued failure to repair the damage to people and property caused by Hurricane Katrina.
12. The continued serious damage to our economy and the health, education and welfare of our people in order to support illegal wars and unnecessarily burdening our descendants for decades to come.
13. The continued attacks on science and the ignoring of scientific principles, especially regarding global warming, climate change and stem cell research.
14. The continued use of illegal weapons such as cluster bombs, depleted uranium, white phosphorus, land mines and a new form of napalm.
15. The continued willingness to violate the law to punish those who would expose their lies and deceptions as in the case of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson.
16. The continued politicization and corruption of the federal judicial system.
17. The continued incompetence and ignoring of warnings in failing to prevent the World Trade Center disaster of 9-11-01 or to investigate afterward.
18. The continued expansion of presidential power using economic force via Executive Orders 13364 and 13438, blocking property of citizens who threaten efforts in Iraq and any person committing an act threatening the peace or stability of Iraq.
19. The continued development of draconian measures like National Security Presidential Directive 51 (Continuity of Federal Government) that prescribes continuity of the current administration giving the president more power to declare martial law and the incentive to do so prior to a presidential election, which can be postponed indefinitely.
20. The continued increase in terrorists, terrorism and anti-American sentiment and hatred around the world, increasing the likelihood of another catastrophic 9/11-type event.
21. The continued violations of International Laws, including the Geneva Convention, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, UN Security Council Resolutions, the Nuremberg Principles, the Kyoto Protocols and the Montreal Accords.

(photo of Jim from Jim)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Briefly noted: My older son, Jeff Jonas, is quoted in a front page article in today's Washington Post

My older son, Jeff Jonas, is one of several people interviewed in ”From Casinos to Counterrorism - Las Vegas Surveillance, U.S. Security Efforts Involve Similar Tactics,” published today in the Washington Post:

“A 43-year-old technology visionary and high-school dropout, Jonas … realized that his system could …identify employees colluding with gamblers, say, by discovering that they share a home address. He calls his program NORA -- for Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness….

“The idea was so powerful that the CIA's private investment arm, In-Q-Tel, poured more than $1 million into NORA to help root out corruption in federal agencies. Then, after the Sept. 11 attacks, it became clear that link analysis could be useful in tracking terrorist networks.

"In 2002, Jonas shared his technology with Pentagon officials, who were researching a more controversial technique called pattern-based data mining. Their aim was to identify terror networks from patterns of behavior, by plowing through vast beds of data such as hotel, flight and rental-car reservations. Jonas, now an IBM chief scientist, said narrowly focused link analysis is less invasive because it starts with a known suspect rather than casting about in the general population.”

(photo of Jeff from his blog)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Standing up for impeachment and ending the occupation in Iraq

Yesterday my friend Phil and I hopped on the county transit bus* and an hour later joined several hundred people who had gathered at the "Stand Up Sonoma County: Impeach Now & End the Occupation of Iraq" rally at Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square.

There were many inspiring speakers, including Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey; Peter Phillips of Project Censored; Linus Lancaster (who teaches at the high school in my town) on behalf of Veterans for Peace; Norman Solomon, founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, a national consortium of policy researchers and analysts, on behalf of Progressive Democrats of America; and my kayaking buddy, Miles Everett, of The Alliance for Democracy.

This morning, our county’s newspaper of record, the Press Democrat, reported "Hundreds protest war at SR rally". Excerpts: “Speakers included Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who blasted Bush's priorities by contrasting his war spending with his recent veto of a popular children's health care bill….

”Norman Solomon, a nationally syndicated columnist and author, spoke at the rally on behalf of the Progressive Democrats of America. Solomon, who recently completed a film called ‘War Made Easy,’ echoed Woolsey's comments.

”Solomon, a West Marin County resident, said later that North Coast residents are ‘paying for war in terms of a lack of health care, education, housing and rapid transit.’”

Here’s a short clip from Miles Everett’s heartfelt speech:


Today I talked with Anna Givens, one of the organizers of the event. I asked her if she was happy with the rally. She responded that she was and that there were actually many more people there than the 200 reported by the Press Democrat if we add those that flowed through the square, stopping at the tables where they, too, wrote letters and signed petitions before moving on. This was an "action rally," according to Anna, where those who attended did more than listen to speeches; they got involved.

All of us can make our voices heard on impeachment and ending the occupation in Iraq by going to Congress.org and entering your zip code. You'll be directed to how to contact your representatives by phone, fax, mail, or e-mail.

*Sidebar: We rode the bus because we don’t want to contribute to global warming. It was fun, and we were joined by Anna Lisa Wiley, who doesn’t own a car. She's involved with Car Free Sonoma County. Check out the website: It’s great!

(photo of the rally)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Community Emergency Response Team training - light search and rescue

Our fifth training session involved light search and rescue, building on the previous sessions, which I've described here. My goal has been to share with those who have not taken the training what I’ve learned in the hopes that you will:

1. Find or instigate CERT training in your community;
2. Alert you to a few rudimentary skills that will come in handy if there’s a disaster in your community.

Light search and rescue involves coming up with a safe action plan, locating victims and documenting their location, and learning the procedures and methods required to extricate the victims.

I found the following diagram extremely helpful (click to enlarge).
Upon entering a building, CERT volunteers draw a diagonal mark next to the door. After performing rescue operations and upon exiting the building, another diagonal to make an “X,” then fill in the quadrants as shown. One of the trainees mentioned that using this method of recording which buildings had been searched was helpful in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

If rescue involves extricating a victim from debris that needs to be moved, we learned about leveraging and cribbing. The leveraging is accomplished by wedging a lever under the object that needs to be moved. Any long strong pole will do.

Here’s box cribbing, which is used to hold the debris up while the lever is repositioned (click to enlarge).
And here’s what our leveraging and cribbing practice under the supervision of Bill Albers of the Healdsburg Fire Department.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single front and more dangerous than Iraq: Is anyone listening?

Today at Informed Comment Global Affairs, Barnett Rubin, a highly regarded expert on Afghanistan and Director of Studies and Senior Fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, posted Karachi Bombing: Afghanistan and Pakistan Are a Single Front:

“The bombing of Benazir Bhutto's motorcade in Karachi signals a new level of integration of the political arena of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If, as now seems likely, the attack is traced back to the 'Pakistani' Taliban of South Waziristan and al-Qaida, it will constitute a strike at the center of the Pakistani political process by groups based on the frontier who are part of both the transnational Afghan-Pakistani Taliban movement and the transnational global al-Qaida movement.”


Rubin quotes Lord Paddy Ashdown, former United Nations high representative and European Union special representative for Bosnia and Herzegovin, who warned in a recent Reuters interview that failure by the NATO-led force in Aghanistan would have far wider repercussions than any losses in Iraq:

"I think we are losing in Afghanistan now, we have lost I think and success is now unlikely.

"I believe losing in Afghanistan is worse than losing in Iraq. It will mean that Pakistan will fall and it will have serious implications internally for the security of our own countries and will instigate a wider Shiite, Sunni regional war on a grand scale.

"Some people refer to the First and Second World Wars as European civil wars and I think a similar regional civil war could be initiated by this (failure) to match this magnitude."

Rubin concludes, “Those who tried to kill Benazir Bhutto clearly perceive that a democratic Pakistan is the greatest threat their movement has faced in the region….Paddy Ashdown correctly warns that this situation is more dangerous than Iraq. Is anyone listening?"

(map of Pakistan: Desi Chat)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is a country that hasn't launched a war in 222 years likely to start World War III?

“President Bush Bush issued a stark warning on Iran on Wednesday, suggesting that if the country obtained nuclear arms, it could lead to ‘World War III’,” as reported by The New York Times this morning.

“We got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel,” Mr. Bush said at a White House news conference, referring to a remark by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that Israel “will disappear soon.” Mr. Bush said he had “told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” [emphasis mine]

Is it obtaining nuclear arms or having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon that's going to trigger World War III?

Is Iran a threat? According to Juan Cole, who posted The Iran Hawks on October 17th, “Iran has not launched an aggressive war against a neighbor since 1785 and does not have a history of military expansionism. Its population is a third that of the United States and its military is small and weak. Aside from the Republican Party's long history of fear-mongering as a way to get power, throw public money to their corporate clients, and scare Americans into giving up their civil liberties, what is driving this obsession with Tehran?”

Cole adds, "...His [President Ahmadinejad] expressed wish that the 'occupation regime over Jerusalem' (i.e., the Israeli government) eventually vanish has been mistranslated.”

Juan Cole speaks and reads Persian, so I suspect he’s right.

(photo of President Bush by Stephen Crowley for The New York Times)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Recommended reading - Legacy of Ashes

On July 26, 2007, the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) I briefly posted about it and linked to an excellent review of Legacy of Ashes - The History of the CIA, by Tim Weiner (photo) a reporter for The New York Times and Pulitzer Price winner for his work on secret national security programs.
The review, posted on July 24th at TomDispatch.com (my favorite blogger), is by Chalmers Johnson, (one of my favorite authors) who was an outside consultant for the CIA from 1967 to 1973.

I read the review. I bought the book. It’s a page-turner.

Here’s an item that interested me: On page 60, Weiner describes an ill-fated mission (as virtually all covert CIA missions were), which dropped a four-man Chinese guerrilla team into Manchuria in 1952. They were captured and four months later radioed for help. Two young CIA officers and a pilot were sent to rescue them. The plane was shot down, the pilot killed, and the officers, Dick Fecteau and Jack Downey spent 19 and 20 years, respectively, in prison in China. “Beijing later broadcast a scorecard for Manchuria: the CIA dropped 212 foreign agents in; 101 were killed and 111 were captured.” This was typical of the CIA’s covert operations in the first few years.

I Googled “Dick Fecteau,” and came up with a report on him at the Prisoners of War Network, also interesting reading.

I urge you to read Johnson’s review. I’m convinced that if you do, you, too, will want to read Legacy of Ashes

(photo of book: Random House; photo of Weiner – The New York Times)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pulling up the Stone - Patriots at Work

Pulling up stones is hard work! It sounds like what the early settlers needed to do in New Hampshire, clearing the fields so they could be planted with the crops they needed in order to survive.

Why do we need to “pull stone” now? Watch this five minute slideshow, put together by Nancy Tobi (photo), who happens to live in New Hampshire and is active in Democracy for New Hampshire and as Coordinator of the Legislation Working Group of the nationwide Election Defense Alliance (EDA).


I hope you’ll become a “patriot at work “ if you aren’t already.

(photo of Nancy Tobi: : Op Ed News)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Responding to an emergency - there's more to it than clearing the airway or stopping bleeding

I’m now more than halfway through my CERT training. My previous posts: here, here, and here.

Our focus last Thursday evening was on “Disaster Medical Operations,” which included head-to-toe assessments. I’ve “borrowed” the following video from the Petaluma Neighborhood Emergency Response Team since my camcorder didn’t record properly:

My team member for head-to-assessment was Laura (photo).
While I played the victim, I noticed that Laura not only splinted my broken elbow but also talked to me soothlingly, reassuring me that everything was going to be okay. When she played victim with a broken leg, I noticed that I would say things like, “Oh, no, your leg bone is sticking out through your skin,” not exactly calming.

The important lesson that I learned during this session is that assisting in a disaster means more than opening an airway, stopping bleeding, or treating for shock. It’s crucial that the words we use show that we are calm and that things are under control. Thank you, Laura!

At the end of our session, a young fireman, Jason Boaz, came into the room. (photo).
We started talking and I learned that his sister, Dr. Cynthia Boaz, a professor at the State University of New York at Brockport, was writing articles about the current turmoil in Burma and other subjects. Jason handed me an article his sister had just sent him, Some Thoughts About the True Miracle in The Andes, now published at CommonDreams.org.


As I read the article that evening, I thought, “How timely!” It was about a plane crash in the Andes 35 years ago last Saturday and how Nando Parrado, was able to save 15 other survivors against incredible odds. How did he do it? He brought his spirit to the task of saving lives by walking out for help in street clothes at elevations as high as 17,000 feet in subzero weather for 11 days.

At one point, Nando thought death was inevitable, but he chose to keep walking. Dr. Boaz ends her article with, “Although he didn’t know it at the time, in choosing to continue walking, Nando not only saved his own life and those of 15 other men, but he pulled all of us one step further down the road of human evolution.”

I expect to be in Nando’s shoes, but I know that reading about his courage in the face of such incredible odds adds to my determination not to limit my response in an emergency to a mechanical approach based on a checklist but to bring my courage to the task as well. Thank you, Jason and Cynthia!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Al Gore won the popular vote in Florida in 2000

Now that former Vice President Al Gore is back in the limelight, I want to correct the record about what happened in Florida in the 2000 presidential election.

The October 13th New York Times article, Gore Shares Peace Prize for Climate Change Work stated, “Mr. Gore, who lost the 2000 election to Mr. Bush…” without qualifying this sweeping statement. Countless times I’ve heard people say Gore lost the popular vote in Florida in 2000. Not true.

Unlike Ohio in 2004, where the uncounted ballots were never counted (apparently many of those ballots have been destroyed) the uncounted ballots in Florida were counted after the election.

The Battle for Florida - An Annotated Compendium of Materials from the 2000 Election, by Lance deHaven-Smith, photo, (published by the University Press of Florida in 2005) states on page 8, “In a year-long study paid for by the nation’s most important newspapers, NORC [National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago] carefully examined and evaluated all the 175,010 ballots that had remained uncounted at the end of the dispute.” On page 39, “…”Gore has the most votes when all votes are counted.”

In 2005, deHaven-Smith concluded, …”[M]ost Americans are under the mistaken impression that the true winner of the 2000 presidential election could not be definitively determined….Americans hold this erroneous opinion because they were misled and confused by journalists, political consultants, academics, and others…”

I think most Americans still have a mistaken impression about who won in Florida in 2000.

The Battle for Florida costs $75 (thanks to my good friend Janie Sheppard for buying it), but it’s well worth the purchase price if you really want to know what happened in Florida in 2000.


In 2005, DeHaven-Smith was interviewed, Chat with Lance de-Haven-Smith - Al Gore really did beat George W. Bush in 2000. Six years on, this is still a problem? For those of you who aren’t planning to buy deHaven-Smith’s book, I highly recommend you read the whole interview.

My response to the query, “Six years on, this is still a problem?” is to direct readers to yesterday’s New York Times article, Voting Machines Give Florida a Headache. The hanging chads may have disappeared, but it’s clear that Florida, along with most of the states, has some work to do before the upcoming elections.

Back to Gore: My friend, Tod Brilliant, has posted two very interesting articles, most recently Gore Nobel Win Damages Environmental Movement and earlier this month, Why Al Gore Makes the Perfect Third Party Candidate.

(photo of Gore: James Rexrod – fantastic photos, check it out!
(photo of Lance deHaven Smith from his academic website)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Neocons flock to Giuliani's foreign policy team

On September 23rd, I posted Giuliani - a worse president than Bush? I’m convinced that he would be, even though that is hard to imagine.

Giuliani’s foreign policy is the most frightening to me, especially when I see he’s appointing more neo-cons to his foreign policy team, as reported by Jim Lobe yesterday:

“Republican presidential candidate and current front-runner, Rudi [sic] Giuliani, has named seven more people, including four prominent neo-conservatives, to his already-neocon-dominated foreign policy team. The neo-conservatives include Ruth Wedgwood of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; 'terrorism analyst' and free-lance writer often published in the Weekly Standard and the National Review Online, Thomas Joscelyn; and two 'scholars' at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and protégés of Richard Perle – Michael Rubin and David Frum (with whom Perle wrote the ultra-hawkish An End to Evil in 2004). Combined with such incumbent team members as Norman Podhoretz, Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, and Robert Kasten, the team increasingly resembles the cheer-leading squad for the U.S. section of the international Bibi Netanyahu fan club. [re Netanyahu, see my October 11th post.]

“What is really remarkable about the new choices is their announcement during the same week that the latest edition of Newsweek featured a three-page rundown of Giuliani’s foreign-policy team, entitled ‘Would you Buy a Used Hawk From this Man?’ ‘Neocons can’t help but slink around Washington, D.C.,’ it began…. ‘The Iraq War has given the neoconservatives …something of a bad name, and several of the Republican candidates seem less than eager to hire them as advisers. But Rudi Giuliani apparently never got the memo.’”

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Treacherous Alliance - the Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States

A couple of days ago, Tony Karon featured a guest blogger at Rootless Cosmopolitan: Dr. Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: the Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007).

The post, Iran - The inflatable bogey, was so interesting that I’ve ordered the book.

My five point summary of Parsi’s article:

1. Israel hasn’t always treated Iran as an enemy. In the 1980’s Israel was actually delivering weapons to Iran on behalf of the Reagan Administration.

2. Most Israeli strategists recognize that Iran is not an existential threat to the U.S., Israel, or the Arab regimes.

3. During intelligence assessments of Israel’s security environment in the 1990’s, there was a heated debate within the Israeli government about whether or not Iran posed a risk to Israel’s security. In an unprecedented move, the Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the military’s position that Iran was a risk and adopted the intelligence service’s position that it wasn’t and that Israel should tone down its rhetorical escalation with Iran.

4. When Iran dismissed Israel’s conciliatory signals for nine months, Netanyahu concluded that Iran’s primary objective was to mend fences with the U.S. and didn’t really care about Israel.

5. Because Israel believed that Iran’s rapprochement with the US would lead to its diminished support for Israel, Netahanyu gave up on courting Iran and reverted to vilifying Iran and seeking its international isolation.

My goal with this brief post is to tempt you to read the whole article.

(photo of Dr. Trita Parsi – The Washington Note)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Maira Kalman - Once you discover her, you won't want to lose her

Back when The New York Times charged a fee for its TimeSelect features (which included the best and brightest op-ed columnists like Frank Rich and Paul Krugman), I never expected that it would include the unique art of someone I had never heard of before: Maira Kalman. I loved wading through her work online but regretted that I wasn't supposed to share it with others who weren't TimeSelect subscribers. Recently the Times has made everything available to everyone at no cost.

Kalman is so good I don’t know where to start. She’s typically whimsical but can be serious (click on image below to enlarge):
If you’re curious, go here, where her “Finale” was posted in April of this year. Scroll down and savor each item. If you haven’t had enough, slide your cursor over to “March,” and open up "One Thing Leads to Another". If you’re insatiable, you can work your way back through a year’s worth of art with fascinating comments. Here’s October, 2006: "Collecting Myself."

When I view Kalman’s work, I don't collect myself; I lose myself.

(photo of Maira Kalman -
Yamazakis)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Will he or won't he? And why doesn't Congress have anything to say about it?

I’m amazed at how much time I and others speculate about whether or not Bush will attack Iran. It feels like we citizens have nothing to say about it, and even if we do, Congress lacks the will to stop Bush.

What makes it frightening is this:

Scott Ritter, who declared that Saddam Hussein had no WMD (and wasn't listened to) and wrote Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plan for Regime Change, is insisting that describing Iran as a threat is a big lie. His article, published yesterday at Common Dreams is well worth reading.

It opens with, “Iran has never manifested itself as a serious threat to the national security of the United States, or by extension as a security threat to global security. At the height of Iran’s “exportation of the Islamic Revolution” phase, in the mid-1980’s, the Islamic Republic demonstrated a less-than-impressive ability to project its power beyond the immediate borders of Iran, and even then this projection was limited to war-torn Lebanon.”

The final paragraph: “A careful fact-based assessment of Iran clearly demonstrates that it poses no threat to the legitimate national security interests of the United States. However, if the United States chooses to implement its own unilateral national security objectives concerning regime change in Iran, there will most likely be a reaction from Iran which produces an exceedingly detrimental impact on the national security interests of the United States, including military, political and economic...."

Pat Buchanan, co-founder and editor of The American Conservative, wrote Does "The Decider" Decide on War? on May 17th. He asks, “Has Congress given George Bush a green light to attack Iran?” He answers, “For he is surely behaving as though it is his call alone. And evidence is mounting that we are on a collision course for war.”

Buchanan asks, “If we are going to war, is it not imperative that, this time, we know exactly why we must go to war, what exactly the threat is from Iran, what are the likely consequences of a U.S. attack on a third Islamic country and what are the alternatives to war?”

Buchanan responds in part to his question, …[T]hough Iranians sound bellicose, Iran has not started a single war since the revolution of 1979. Indeed, Iran was the victim of a war launched by Saddam Hussein, whom we secretly supported. Not within living memory has Iran invaded or attacked another country. [emphasis mine]

"But in the last 110 years, peace-loving Americans have fought Spain, Germany twice, Austria-Hungary, Japan, Italy, North Korea, North Vietnam, Iraq twice and Serbia. We have intervened militarily in the Philippines, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Lebanon and Grenada. We bombed Libya...."

Buchanan concludes, “Whether one is pro-war or antiwar, ought we not – if we are going into another war – do it the right way, the constitutional way, with Congress declaring war? Or does the Democratic Congress think that what is best for America is to let 'the decider' decide?

“Because that is what George Bush is doing right now.”

(video courtesy of RJ Eidelson)

Monday, October 08, 2007

First Flush alert! I need to get ready to help

I just received an alert from Don McEnhill of Russian Riverkeeper, who leads the effort to monitor the quality of the water of the streams and creeks in the Russian River watershed immediately after the first rains.

A big storm is due in tomorrow, and that means I need to be ready with my rain gear, detailed field instructions on how to gather water samples, and my camcorder (there aren’t any videos on YouTube about First Flush!).

Our efforts to capture what comes off the land in the “first flush” and ends up in the waterways contributes to the implementation of the federal Clean Water Act of 1977.
If it weren’t for volunteers, there would be no way to know what is ending up in our waterways. I’ve done this twice before, and one year our team found unacceptable levels of dioxin and Escherichia coli in a creek that runs through our town.

If I miss a post the next day or two, you’ll know what I’m doing.

(photos: Clean Water Act: Of Time and the River and debris in a waterway: Carnegie Museum)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Matt Stoller: A new framework for political strategy

I’ve often wondered why conservatives, who place self-interest first, typically have more influence than liberals, who place community first.

Matt Stoller, a 29 year old political activist, is thinking and writing about political influence and how systemic changes are made through the political system.

Matt is one of three bloggers at Open Left. On its "about" page: “The genuine radical threat at this moment in history is coming from elites who believe that concentrating power, information, and wealth in their hands should be America's priority. The response to this threat is a new era of left-wing activism, promoted by normal Americans, who have innovated with the tools we have.”


I’m intrigued by Stoller’s October 5th post, Emergence Politics and Rush Limbaugh. Stoller observes: “Bush/Cheney controls American foreign policy and pushes for a war with Iran, McConnell controls the Republicans in Congress and pushes against SCHIP, Blue Dogs control the Democrats in Congress….In every case, the leader of the group represents the minority view of the constituent group. Hardliners control small institutions that control larger institutions that control most relevant national instruments of power.

“Breaking through this pattern is vitally necessary to build a progressive economy…. [O]ur strategic understanding of the political system as a two party fight with power passing back and forth between then is inadequate….

“Conservatives see politics as a nonlinear dynamic system, not as a two party system. They take advantage of crisis moments, as Naomi Klein points out in the Shock Doctrine or even foment them, to create positive feedback loops for conservative ideas. Media consolidation under such institutions as GE and the gutting of antitrust create a dishonest media system that allows the country to go to war. War allows companies like GE to make money from selling weapons.”

Stoller uses the term “policy ask” to describe the following tool used by conservatives: “Take the latest episode of Rush Limbaugh and the flame war with VoteVets over the 'phony solder' flap. The RNC sent out an email to its list on Rush Limbaugh, as did the DNC. The DNC had something on the order of twenty times the response rate, and yet, the email from Republican Eric Cantor did something that VoteVets, Moveon, and nearly every Democrat did not. It made a policy ask. Cantor asked RNC recipients to sign a petition to kill any attempt to resurrect the fairness doctrine regulating talk radio. Only Wes Clark on our side made an ask related to the controversy which would change the nature of the system itself: remove Rush Limbaugh from Armed Forces radio. Cantor's request was echoed by every Republican echo chamber, so that a minimally resonant minority view was translated into policy momentum for something promoting right-wing values.”

Stoller concludes, “…[W]e must tie our policy asks to the media moments. Hurting Limbaugh was a media fight….The point is that there are leverage points everywhere in our political system, once you stop seeing the fight as a fight between two teams and begin to consider politics as a dynamic system with regular nonlinear events that can be used for the institutionalization of our values.

“Anyway, I don't have an answer as to why right-wing minorities are controlling larger entities right now, but I think that their capacity to work within an adaptive framework and push for their values consistently, to see the totality of the system instead of barriers they must not cross, is a key part of it.”

(photo of Matt Stoller from MattStoller.com)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

RPM - The acronym to remember in triage

This week our CERT training involved our ability to respond in a disaster to the three “killers,” airway obstruction, bleeding, and shock.

If a disaster hits, the first thing we volunteer emergency responders are being trained to do is to utilize "triage," a system of sorting patients according to need when resources are insufficient for all to be treated. The goal in triage is to quickly assess all the victims to determine who needs immediate care, who can wait, and who is beyond help. We need to spend less than a minute per victim.

Here’s what we practiced:
A. Tilting heads back to unblock the airway.
B. Controlling bleeding, by applying direct pressure, elevating the limb and applying pressure to the brachial or femoral artery. Here's the group practicing:

C. Learning the symptoms of shock, and when they are present, elevating the victim’s feet and keeping him/her warm.

To assist us in determining whether or not a victim is suffering from shock, we learned the acronym “RPM” and were given the handy card below to clip onto our CERT backpacks. The “P” is for “perfusion,” which measures capillary refill. We used the “blanch test,” which involves pinching the nail bed or the palm of the hand, and if it takes longer than 2 seconds to refill, that victim gets an “I” on his/her forehead.

In addition to receiving emergency training, we are being encouraged to gather up what we will need to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours in the event of a serious disaster. In my first CERT post, I included a diagram of a garbage can filled with emergency supplies.

If it feels daunting to begin the process of preparing for a disaster, I highly recommend you use this 16 week list, courtesy of the Healdsburg Lumber Company and endorsed by the Red Cross. Each week is broken out into what to do, what to buy, and useful information.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Why is Ann Coulter allowed to speak at an American university and Bishop Desmond Tutu isn't?

This morning when I read Juan Cole’s post, Tutu Excluded - Double Standard at the University of St. Thomas, I was so upset that I called the university, 651.962.4000, and left a message.

According to Cole, Tutu was uninvited from speaking at the Catholic University of St. Thomas [UST] in Minneapolis for his stance against Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians. Tutu “[H]as stood all his life for nonviolent peace-making and an end to racism....


“And here is the kicker. UST is guilty of a whopper of a double standard. Two years ago, the university allowed Ann Coulter to speak on its campus.

"Ann Coulter once said of Muslims, 'We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.'"

Tony Karon posted My favorite ‘anti-Semite’ about UST’s refusal to let Tutu speak on its campus: “…Having asked sane and rational people to believe that Jimmy Carter is a Holocaust denier simply for pointing out the obvious about the apartheid regime Israel maintains in the occupied territories, the same crew now want us to believe that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an anti-Semite. No jokes!

“That was the reason cited for Tutu being banned from speaking at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. ‘We had heard some things he said that some people judged to be anti-Semitic and against Israeli policy,’ explained university official Doug Hennes.

“’The anti-Semitic’ views Tutu had expressed were in his April 2002 speech “Occupation is Oppression” in which he likened the occupation regime in the West Bank, based on his personal experience of it, to what he had experienced as a black person in South Africa….”

This afternoon I called UST at 651.962.6500, the office of the President of UST, Father Dease, where I left a message. I then Googled Father Dease and found this letter to members of the St. Thomas community regarding the Tutu uninvitation:

“…We became aware of concerns about some of Archbishop Tutu's widely publicized statements that have been hurtful to members of the Jewish community. I spoke with Jews for whom I have great respect. What stung these individuals was not that Archbishop Tutu criticized Israel but how he did so, and the moral equivalencies that they felt he drew between Israel’s policies and those of Nazi Germany, and between Zionism and racism.”

I read Tutu’s April 2002 speech “Occupation is Oppression” and found this reference to Hitler: “People are scared in this country [the U.S.] to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful – very powerful. Well, so what? This is God’s world. For goodness sake, this is God’s world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosovic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.” [emphasis mine]

Even though Father Dease’s letter was directed to the St. Thomas community and he ends the letter by welcoming their comments, I hope more people call him, 652.962.6500 (his office) or 651.962.4000 (the main number). According to the university’s website, its mission is to educate “…[S]tudents to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.”

How in the world does Ann Coulter advance the university's mission and Bishop Tutu does not?

(photo of Tutu: Geoconger Files)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What disaster should I be writing about?

I’m off this evening to my third session of seven sessions of training for our local Community Emergency Response Team, which I posted about here and here. The most likely disaster my community faces is an earthquake because I live in Northern California.

However, I see so many disasters out there that I often struggle about what I should be focusing on. Here’s the short list:

1. Approximately 82% of our votes will be counted on secret software (touchscreen and optical scan voting machines) in the 2008 election;
2. We live on a swiftly melting planet.
3. Giuliani is the frontrunning Republican Presidential candidate
4. At attack on Iran feels more likely than not.

I’ll be back on board tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Freedom's Watch is on a roll...out for war on Iran

On August 22nd, Freedom's Watch was launched. Its message: “Victory is America’s Only Choice.” Its first project was a $15 million advertising campaign designed to maintain Congressional support for President Bush’s troop increase in Iraq, which was the focus of my September 13th post.

Now that the surge is safe until next March when the next Congressional review is scheduled, it appears that Freedom's Watch is going to become the propaganda machine for an attack on Iran, yet another privatization of what used to be a governmental function (think Blackwater contractors in Iraq). Apparently the group hopes to raise as much as $200 million by November, 2008.

Freedom's Watch [FW] hasn’t yet rolled out its war-on-Iran-promo, but it’s been given its marching orders, according to Scott Horton (who blogs for Harper’s Magazine) posting on October 1st, “…[I]t seems they’ll be advocating the Next War" Horton quotes from The New York Times September 30th article, "‘Although the group declined to identify the experts [who were invited to a Freedom’s Watch private forum focusing on Iran as a threat], several were invited from the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington research group with close ties to the White House....

“‘If Hitler’s warnings were heeded when he wrote ‘Mein Kampf,’ he could have been stopped,’ said Bradley Blakeman, 49, the president of Freedom’s Watch and a former deputy assistant to Mr. Bush. ‘Ahmadinejad is giving all the same kind of warning signs to us, and the region — he wants the destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel.’”

Jim Lobe, who blogs at LobeLog, posted Freedom's Watch Bears Watching on September 30th: “It seems that last week’s full-page ad by Freedom’s Watch (FW) denouncing Columbia University for hosting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the New York Times was the tip-off to what will clearly be a high-powered, high-priced, and well-orchestrated campaign to rally support behind an attack against Iran. That assessment is bolstered by Sunday’s lengthy article by the Times’ Don Van Natta, Jr., entitled ’Big Coffers and a Rising Voice Lift a New Conservative Group’, “ the same article Scott Horton referenced.

Lobe surmises that FW is going to be ascendant because…"[T]he administration and its dwindling clutch of hawks have lost virtually all of the credibility they enjoyed in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. The hawks within the administration have also lost the control they once exerted over the government’s own formidable propaganda machinery. That is precisely why they must now rely to a much-greater extent than in 2002-03 on a 'private-sector' group making their case and mobilizing behind it. Much like the White House Information Group (WHIG), whose purpose was to sell the Iraq invasion, FW may well become the hub of a new effort to create an ‘echo chamber’ with the usual suspects at AEI…the Weekly Standard, the National Review, Fox News, the [Wall Street] Journal’s editorial page, and sympathetic journalists and columnists for attacking Iran. As evidenced by last week’s vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment last week, it may be able to count on the timidity of Democrats, as well.” [emphases mine]

The Lobe post is well worth reading.

(logo from the FW website)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"The most important story of the day" - an attack on Iran?

I've been posting about the possibility of an attack on Iran since January, and I confess that I’m now having trouble keeping up all the news on this issue. As predicted on August 29 by Barnett Rubin, The Post Labor Day Product Rollout : War with Iran has indeed started.

Last week Barnett Rubin was interviewed by Joshua Micah Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com about Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Rubin, a widely acknowledged expert on Afghanistan, stated that the U.S. can’t have stability there if it attacks Iran and explains why. The 8 minute video is well worth watching:
Then there’s Steve Clemons of The Washington Note, whose Salon.com September 19th article, Why Bush Won't Attack Iran, has been widely commented on in the blogosphere. Today Clemons, along with Pat Buchanan, an analyst, and Rachel Maddow of Air America, were interviewed by MSNBC’s Don Abrams: Clemons was more optimistic than either Buchanan or Maddow. Abrams concludes that the issue of whether or not there's going to be an attack on Iran is "The most important story of the day." You can watch the video here.

The article that is currently the most quoted is Seymour Hersh’s Shifting Targets: The Administration's Plan for Iran, coming out in the October 8th issue of the New Yorker. Hersh was interviewed today by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Listen, watch, or read the interview here.

Finally, here are Scott Horton’s observations, posted yesterday, Beating the Drums for the Next War.

(photo: Seymour Hersh, whose article “Shifting Targets” is in the center of the current “storm” about the likelihood of an attack on Iran: Salon.com's archive of photos)

Monday, October 01, 2007

A thought while babywalking - Why isn't war obsolete?

I’m back home from spending a couple of days helping care for my youngest grandchildren, who are now 8 months old. I don’t “babysit,” I “babywalk,” spending hours pushing their jogger-stroller up and down their 2 ½ mile, hilly, bumpy dirt driveway.

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’s documentary on World War II. Last night I saw Part Five, which included a description of a US soldier taking gold teeth out of a Japanese solder’s mouth before he was dead, slashing his cheeks to get at them.

Because war appears to dehumanize almost everyone including the good guys, I wonder why it isn’t obsolete.

I pondered on this question while pushing the stroller with two beautiful babies up and down the dirt driveway. I don’t want any of my grandchildren to become cannon fodder. I thought of Chris Hedges’s book, War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.

From the back cover of Hedges’s book: By
“[d]rawing on his own experience and on the literature of combat from Homer to Michael Herr, Hedges shows how war seduces not just those in the front lines but entire societies, corrupting politics, destroying culture, and perverting human desires.”

I plan to reread Hedges’s book because I don’t know why war isn’t obsolete.